WSSU’s Pheng Pickett lands $5,000 motorsports scholarship from Dr. Pepper, 23XI Racing
Pheng Pickett grew up around motorsports. As a kid he had a passion for anything with a motor that went fast.
But as he grew older, he was drawn toward politics, and when came time for college, the Lexington native headed off to Wake Forest University.
Just over three years later, though, he finds himself immersed in motorsports again, this time in the Winston-Salem State University Motorsports Management Program. Recently he was named the winner of a $5,000 scholarship from the Dr. Pepper Tuition Program which is designed to support students seeking to work in a variety of fields in motorsports. Pickett is one of 23 college students across the nation who were awarded the Dr. Pepper scholarships.
Dr. Pepper and 23XI Racing are collaborating on the project. The owners of the 23XI NASCAR Cup team are legendary basketball star Michael Jordan and NASCAR Cup driver Denny Hamlin, who has won 46 Cup races, including three Daytona 500s. The team’s driver is Bubba Wallace, who recently became only the second Black driver to win a race at NASCAR’s highest level.
“I feel like this was divine, very spiritual,” said Pickett, who submitted the application as part of a class project of WSSU motorsports instructor Clay Harshaw. “I’m very grateful for it. This has definitely motivated me to get outside of my comfort zone and search for more (scholarships).”
Pickett is also in the running for one of two internships at 23XI Racing which will be awarded to scholarship winners.
“We will be getting more information about the intern program, but we will go through a process of elimination and by the summer two of us will have been selected for an internship.”
Pickett spent the past three years at Wake Forest as an international politics major but felt something was missing.
“I was down the road at Wake, and I was very involved, but I wasn’t extremely passionate on that path. It left me wanting something different, something that could bring me a little more job security,” said Pickett.
He started looking at other academic tracks and other colleges. He took the short drive to WSSU and left impressed.
“I took a trip to Winston-Salem State, and everyone was extremely helpful and transparent with me,” recalled Pickett. “It kind of started revolving around motorsports. I’ve always had a passion for cars and NASCAR, so I enrolled.”
That made perfect sense.
“I was around racing a lot as a child. I grew up in Lexington. My elementary school in Welcome was right across the street from the Richard Childress Racing Museum,” said Pickett. “I come from a long line of NASCAR fans. It would be apparent if you came into our home … you might see a Dale Earnhardt blanket in the living room or an Earnhardt hat.”
Pickett isn’t exactly sure which path he will take in the motorsports program but suggests it will probably be in public relations or marketing.
“I’ve always been somewhat fascinated with the industry. I’ve gained a different perspective of people I’ve run across in this industry. It’s more of a family environment,” said Pickett. “I would like to gain my own understanding of the industry and find my own spot.
“At the root of who I am is a passion for communicating with people and finding the things that make them happy. I hope to find something to fit my skill set.”
He also said he wasn’t planning to let his time at Wake Forest go to waste. He’s contemplating a double major that will allow the transfer of the credits he earned at Wake.