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NASCAR helps an NMSU student rev up for life after school

Driving nearly 200 miles an hour on a racetrack takes a lot of guts, but so does getting your degree at the age of 48. That is what New Mexico State University student Stella Lucero is doing. She is a student in NMSU's School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management and is confident the experience she gained during a recent internship with NASCAR will help her land a job once she is through with school.

New Mexico State University student Stella Lucero stands in front of a racecar during her internship with NASCAR. Lucero is a student in NMSU's School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. (Submitted photo)

"I was thrilled. I've been a race fan for four years now," said Lucero, one of 14 people chosen from 340 applicants across the country to intern for the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program. She was assigned to the NASCAR SpeedPark, in St. Louis. Lucero said she is proud to be the oldest ever picked for the internship, and the first picked from NMSU.

Lucero is a retired middle school office manager who said she always wanted to get her degree.

"I was always too busy being a mom to go to college," she said. "Now, I'll be the first in my family to have a degree. My mother, who passed away last year, was my biggest fan and inspiration, always supporting my efforts at school."

At the NASCAR SpeedPark Lucero worked to write proposals for businesses looking to use the park for corporate outings. She also assisted with several marketing and sales strategies for the SpeedPark. Lucero said her work resulted in increased revenue for the park.

"We put together proposals for companies like Boeing, Xerox and Blue Cross and Blue Shield," she said. "Our biggest accomplishment was writing the proposal for SBS. During their 2008 conference, 500 of their employees will visit the park."

One of Lucero's favorite projects was to help coordinate an appearance to the park for Elliot Sadler, a popular NASCAR driver.

"We did all the footwork for the visit," she said. "Later I got to ride in the limo to meet him and bring him to the park."

During the internship, Lucero also participated in a three-day NASCAR orientation in Charlotte, N.C. While there she and other interns toured Hendrick Motor Sports and Lowe's Motor Speedway, attended a truck race and learned about the Car of Tomorrow Research and Development Center. Later in the program, NASCAR flew her and other interns to Daytona, Fla., for the Pepsi 400 race. They each received "pit passes" to go into the garages and watch crews work on the cars.

"I feel very lucky to have been picked for this internship. Meeting new people and learning how to network are so important in this business," she said.

Lucero will graduate in May 2008. She would like to continue in the sports marketing industry or something involving ecotourism.