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Switching gears

Kris Rincon, '06 Foothill League hoops player of the year, has seen his life take a different turn

Posted: February 17, 2009 1:37 a.m.
Updated: February 17, 2009 4:56 a.m.

Canyon High graduate Kris Rincon poses with the award he won for outstanding performance in the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program.

 
Kris Rincon faced the realization that so many big-time high school athletes face once they reach college.

There are other big-time athletes and even more bigger-time athletes.

So the 2006 Canyon High graduate and former Foothill League boys basketball Player of the Year didn't even try out for the University of Arizona basketball team.

Instead, he used the drive that made him one of the Santa Clarita Valley's top basketball players to take him not to the hardwood, but to Daytona, Fla.

He's used to the sound by now - the screeching of tires, rumble of engines and roar of a crowd - having been to other NASCAR events.

But Sunday's Daytona 500 had its differences.

"They say it's the biggest race in NASCAR," says Rincon, now a junior business and marketing major at the University of Arizona. "It was crazy to be there for the drop of the green flag."

"The stands are packed on Sunday. Pit road is busier. Everything's just that much more exciting. The star power is there."

Rincon watched the race from just behind Mark Martin's pit.

The 6-foot-6-inch former Canyon High forward, the same one with the medium-range jump-shot and ability to score and rebound in the post, still plays basketball - but it's on intramural teams.

He understood that at some point, one dream has to die in order for another, more realistic one to take shape.

Rincon was a tweener.

Too small to play the forward position and not skilled enough to play guard at the NCAA Division I level.

"I contacted coaches (at Arizona) pretty much every year I've been here, but they never had an open tryout," Rincon says. It's Arizona. They're always fully loaded."

So the same dedication and energy Rincon put into basketball as a high school student, he's put into academics and building a foundation for the future.

Last year, Rincon saw an internship opportunity for minorities with NASCAR.

His father, Jorge, raised him on the sport, much like Jorge's father had.

"When we moved to Canyon Country in 1964, the whole area was called Saugus and Newhall, my father took us right away to Saugus Speedway," Jorge says. "We used to go every Saturday night."

Being part Colombian, Rincon applied for the competitive internship and was selected.

Rincon joined the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program in the summer of 2008 and worked for Brand Sense - Goodyear's marketing agency in Los Angeles.

The 20-year-old helped by maintaining relationships with NASCAR and the media, logging information and leading inner-city high school students in tours of major tracks.

Over the past year, Rincon has been to NASCAR events at Fontana, Phoenix and Charlotte, N.C.

On Wednesday, he was one of two interns in the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program honored for performance and leadership skills in academics and in the program.

He was flown to Daytona for the ceremony and spent the weekend there.

He brought his father along.

"The whole weekend was a fabulous experience," Jorge says. "We had passes that gave us access to the garage area, racers, people I've followed over the years, but only followed over TV and the papers. It was incredible."

Rincon was only able to watch 20 laps of the actual race.

His marketing teacher wouldn't excuse him from an absence Monday, so he arrived back in Arizona at 2:30 a.m., seven hours before the scheduled test.

It seems that Rincon still has a future in athletics.

Just not what he thought it would be.

According to Marcus Jadotte, Managing Director Public Affairs for NASCAR, interns that participate in this program have a bright future.

"The NASCAR Diversity Internship Program has been highly successful in providing students with a variety of opportunities in the motorsports industry," he says. "Since its inception there have been several interns who have gained full-time employment opportunities within the NASCAR industry."

Rincon says he has already met some important people in the industry.

Strangely, the result of his hard work is somehow connected to basketball.

"I always wondered how working hard would lead me to future success, Rincon says. "In business now, it's connecting. I'm meeting people that allow me to travel to Daytona and Charlotte. I'm using the same kind of work ethic and passion that I used for basketball."


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