Live Sessions Dion "Rocko" Williams - Credit Abbie Knights for The Hype Magazine

Published on June 26th, 2022 | by Abbie Knights


The Race to Change with NASCAR Veteran Dion “Rocko” Williams

Juneteenth was the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed. June 19, 1865, known in short as “Juneteenth”, is a profoundly meaningful date symbolizing freedom. As we continue to evolve with the progression that comes with this new millennial era, nearly nine decades later, “Juneteenth” finally becomes a historical day federally recognized as a day of observance. In light of this national independence day, I felt it was imperative to bring recognition to an individual that stands for heritage, change, and opportunity in a widely overlooked field. Although we as a nation have made some progress, there is much work to be done when speaking about true equality and what that means in today’s society. There are so many powerful, intelligent, groundbreaking men and women of color, who all too often, fall short of receiving the recognition they deserve, especially in underserved communities.

Dion “Rocko” Williams a German native, is a Korean and African American man, who has paved a path of opportunity for many generations to come, in a traditional sport widely known for its fiercely competitive nature, where only the world’s most elite athletes are selected to lead the charge on a track full of left turns. Dion began his journey as a football athlete in high school in the Atlanta metro area, where he became one of the top recruits. By his senior year, he received All-Conference, All Dekalb County, Dekalb County Defensive player of the year, and team MVP honors. His performance as a linebacker was so prolific, that he earned full scholarships from 15 BCS division-level teams from schools like the University of Michigan. He played in two Bowl games (the 2000 Aloha Bowl and 2002 Seattle Bowl) and received the ACC Player of the week award for accruing 12 tackles in 2003. He was recruited by Jim Caldwell, the head coach at Wake Forest and the former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl Baltimore Ravens, and head coach of the Detroit Lions. Rocko went on to graduate from Wake with a BA Degree in communications in 2004. Considering his history of concussions (9 in total) it made the decision not to pursue a career in the NFL a grueling one, however, this decision would later lead him towards a life-changing opportunity, where he would influence great change as a trailblazer.  A friend from the Wake Forest resources center contacted Dion, also known as Rocko,  about an opportunity as an athlete in the sport of NASCAR. He went on to become the first black man to ever put on a uniform by Hendrick’s Motorsports, becoming one of the best in the sport, changing tires for champions like Jeff Gordon. Dion has 11 sprint cup wins with Jeff Gordon and 16 wins overall. He was the first African American pit crew member and Race shop mechanic at Hendrick Motorsports and for Jeff Gordon.

Dion is currently retired from the pit crew and has become the National Recruiter for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program and broadcast host for the Motor Racing Network’s show “Crew Call.” He is also the manager for New York Racing, the first all-black ownership team, owned by John Cohen. “I always loved the idea of having black ownership in racing. John is doing it solely on his own. He hired me to manage his team, we have black mechanics and black management, and even though we’re understaffed in a small team, the fact that we lean on our experience and our relationships in this sport to make it to races [speaks to who we are]. The proudest moment I had thus far this year was being part of the New York Racing Team and being able to have Grambling State University in NASCAR on a racecar, in the cup series, at the Daytona 500. 18 years in this sport, I would never see HBCUs in NASCAR or thought they would even have any interest in this sport, a lot has changed. To make it to the Daytona 500 with an HBCU represented on your car, was a culmination of all the hard work, the grind we’ve been doing, with a smaller team to make these races, which is a challenge in itself to pull that off.” Dion “Rocko” Williams is paving a clear path to change and bridging the gap in a sport that’s been around for nearly a century, by creating opportunities and giving back in ways that help elevate and empower the community. Dion is making history and leaving a lasting mark that will continue to inspire many generations to come.

Angela Simmons with NY Racing Team attending NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Watch the full interview:

Connect with Dion “Rocko” Williams

Instagram: @rockoslaw

Photo and video credit: Abbie Knights for The Hype Magazine

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About the Author

has worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years. Currently, she is also the host of her radio show "The Abbie Knights Show" with over 100,000 listeners per show, available on FM Radio, iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, YouTube and Spotify.

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