Sunday, March 28, 2004

A quick chat with ... Derek Strong

Good Sports

By Colleen Kane
The Cincinnati Enquirer

After 10 years in the NBA and a recent stint in the NBDL, former Xavier basketball player Derek Strong decided it was time to try a career in another sport he loves - auto racing.

He took some driving classes through and began racing late-model stock cars in the SARA series in Florida. Two years ago, he placed fifth and eighth in two local racetracks' series. Next month, Strong begins racing stock cars again, with the ultimate goal of driving all the way to the top. But first, he has to get some companies to notice him.

Q: How'd you get into racing?

A: When I was a young kid (7 or 8), I was involved in racing - me and my uncle. He'd build go-karts. ... And we'd get with all the neighborhood kids and race in the parking lot. We'd set up a racetrack - we'd use trash cans and old tires for the track. It was a good time ... but now I've been racing stock cars, and I took some classes for that.

Q: What races have you been in?

A: I've been racing local tracks in the Florida area in the SARA series. I'm trying to step up to another level, maybe race in some Hooters Pro Cup races. Hopefully from that, I can get into the ARCA/Re-max level. But I've got to get some sponsorship. ... My e-mail address is if any companies up in Cincinnati remember me and want to help.

Q: What's your ultimate goal?

A: To race in the Busch league - and hopefully if I can get to that level, with God's blessing, the Nextel Cup.

Q: Biggest accomplishment?

A: My actual first race down here, I got the hard-charger award because I passed more cars than anyone else on the track. So that's probably it.

Q: You're 6 feet 9. Do you have trouble fitting into the cars?

A: I don't. Everybody's cars have been modified for their height specifically, so that's what they did for me.

Q: What kind of car do you drive?

A: Chevy Monte Carlo.

Q: Your first job was in a Firestone Tire store; did that have any influence on your career?

A: No, I've always been involved in racing. But it helped me to know about tire pressures and know how to change tires now. But I was already influenced.

Q: Why'd you leave the NBDL?

A: I felt they weren't really looking at me as a player, but more as a players' coach. Then I got injured (Achilles), and they had to release me. But after I got better, I didn't want to go back.

Q: Best moment in your NBA career?

A: Making it to the postseason.

Q: Favorite driver?

A: DEI is my favorite team, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. I wouldn't mind having a DEI car someday.

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