Davis Sampere, a three-year captain and starting faceoff specialist at High Point who graduated with an MBA this spring, is a rookie tire carrier for Stewart-Haas Racing.

High Point Faceoff Specialist on Fast Track with NASCAR Pit Crew

In NASCAR, nicknames are as ubiquitous as burnt rubber and exotic paint schemes.

At Stewart-Haas Racing, everyone gets a handle. Not just decorated drivers like Kevin “Happy” Harvick or “The Cuban Missile” Aric Almirola, but also pit crew members.

It didn’t take long to create a moniker for Davis Sampere. He arrived at practice one day this summer to find the sobriquet scrawled on a piece of tape attached to his helmet.  

“They gave me the nickname of Slacks, but S-L-A-X,” said Sampere, who also works in the front office doing partnership outreach. “They’re like, ‘Well, you play lacrosse and when you go to the marketing department, you wear slacks.’ So they all call me Slax.”

Sampere, a three-year captain and starting faceoff specialist at High Point who graduated with an MBA this spring, has discovered another use for his quick hands, firm grip and ability to exit scrums in a matter of seconds. A rookie tire carrier in the developmental pit crew for Stewart-Haas Racing, Sampere was called up to the NASCAR Cup Series on Aug. 22 in Michigan and this past Sunday in Daytona as a hired hand for Rick Ware Racing’s No. 53 Chevrolet Camaro driven by Garrett Smithley.

“The amount of fans that were there — I know lacrosse is still growing, but it trumps any game that I’ve ever played in,” Sampere said.

For decades, NASCAR pit crews typically were made up of mechanics. Nowadays, they recruit elite athletes from other sports to perform the task of jacking up a 3,500-pound race car, changing all four tires and refueling in 12 to 15 seconds.

Sampere fit the mold.

“I think the reason that pit crew teams are so attracted to athletes is because we’re used to high-pressure situations,” said Sampere, whose college career included a 22-for-27 performance and a program-record 18 ground balls in High Point’s thrilling 15-14 win over Southern Conference rival Richmond in 2019. “It definitely correlates.”

“Teams have former college football players, baseball players and wrestlers. The way the sport’s going, it’s all about speed.”

— Greg Honeychuck, athletic director for SHR

Not that he ever envisioned doing this. Sampere swept floors, prepped tires and filmed pit stops as an intern at Richard Childress Racing in the spring. It was just something to build his resume and occupy his afternoons in between morning lacrosse practices, lifts and evening MBA classes. When he tried out for SHR’s developmental crew in late May — an opportunity facilitated by High Point women’s lacrosse coach Lyndsey Boswell, whose brother, Richard, is the crew chief for Riley Herbst’s No. 98 Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Xfinity Series — it was his first-ever live pit stop.

Sampere, 23, vaulted over the wall with two 70-pound tires, one in each hand as the car came careening across the jump line and into the pit stall. Naturally, he swerved wide, squandering precious milliseconds to deliver the front tire to the jackman and hang the rear tire for the changer.

“You’ve got to run straight,” the coaches told Sampere. “You’re wasting so much time.”

“My mom told me never to run out in front of a car,” he replied.

They all cracked up laughing.

But then a funny thing happened. Sampere nailed the next pit stop.

“He works his ass off, that’s what’s helped him. He’s always watching film, asking questions,” said Greg Honeychuck, athletic director for Stewart-Haas Racing. “He’s very coachable.”

Coming off a lacrosse season for which he lost 30 pounds in response to the NCAA’s new standing-neutral grip faceoff rules, Sampere also was in peak physical condition. He excelled in a series of workouts — “Like the NFL Combine, but the NASCAR version,” he said — testing his strength, speed, flexibility and vertical leap. There’s even something called a lug-nut shuttle.

“A lot of teams we’re competing against have former college football players, baseball players and wrestlers,” said Honeychuck, who was previously a strength and conditioning coach at Davidson and South Florida. “The way the sport’s going, it’s all about speed.”

Sampere grew up in NASCAR country, but he had never attended a race before this summer. His auto-mechanic experience amounted to installing lift kits on his friends’ trucks for fun. His father, Jeff, occasionally put NASCAR on TV, but it mostly served as white noise until he told Davis about the time he went to a race in college and described it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Who would have ever thought that I would be in the industry?” said Sampere, who starred in lacrosse at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Soon after his tryout, Sampere signed his contract at Stewart-Haas Racing’s headquarters in nearby Kannapolis. He hasn’t stopped smiling since.

“He’s always happy, and he’s not afraid to work,” said Jacob Budd, Sampere’s teammate and third-year jackman for Stewart-Haas Racing. “You’ll meet some people who are hardheaded — too good to do this or that. Davis, he’s not afraid to jump right into it, even cleaning wheels after practice that have glue on them from gluing lug nuts. He’s a good worker. That’s a big thing in this sport, too.”

Sampere’s reputation preceded him. As an intern at Richard Childress Racing, where former High Point basketball player and current Joe Gibbs Racing pit crew member Derrell Edwards made his bones as a tire carrier and jackman, Sampere took it upon himself to stock the refrigerator before he left at night after noticing the drivers were drinking warm water in the morning. At High Point, he embraced the arrival of assistant coach Ken Broschart after a disappointing freshman season, improving from 37 percent in 2017 to 53.7 percent in 2018 and 59.4 percent in 2019.

“This is a guy who has set the gold standard for our program. He just wills his way into doing things,” said Jon Torpey, the Panthers’ 10th-year head coach. “He had this ability to connect with every single guy on the team because he was so approachable, so humble, so down to earth, and everything was about what he could do to make your experience better. When the game is on the line, he is the guy you want in your corner.”

Lyndsey Boswell got the same impression. She met with Sampere in May before passing him along to her brother. Their father, Dickie, successfully campaigned a late model stock car out of their hometown of Friendship, Maryland, competing in 57 then-NASCAR Busch Series races spread over six seasons in the 1980s.

“NASCAR comes with a lot of really amazing people and just some good ol’ boys. It’s cliché but it’s true. They’re just down to earth and good, humble people,” Boswell said. “I found that in Davis pretty much right away. As soon as he left, I called my brother.”


On July 18, Sampere traveled to New Hampshire to shadow the pit crew for Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Mustang in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, part of the NASCAR Cup Series’ 36-race season. It was his first time at a track. As darkness set in at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., Almirola sprung to life late and raced to a surprising victory, his first Cup Series win in nearly three years.

Sean Cotten, Almirola’s jackman and pit coach for Stewaart-Haas Racing, insisted that Sampere join them to celebrate in victory lane.

“You’re good luck,” Cotten shouted. “You’ve got to come to every race now.”

But Honeychuck had different plans for Sampere, who did a 12.9-second stop in practice and responded well to his new regimen. Sampere said he missed having coaches yell at him. The pit crew practices Tuesday-Thursday from 6-9 a.m., then lifts for an hour. Whereas Sampere’s workouts at High Point focused on injury prevention and mobility, he’s now motivated to add muscle and get closer to his pre-SNG weight of 200 pounds.

“I feel a lot more confident carrying out the tires,” he said.

Honeychuck noticed, adding Sampere to the roster of pit crew members that Stewart-Haas Racing leases to smaller companies. “He’s definitely on the fast track,” Honeychuck said. Pit stops will only get faster next year when NASCAR introduces the Next Gen car with a single, center-locking lug nut for its wheels.

Sampere will be on pit road again this weekend at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, the start of NASCAR playoffs. He has given lacrosse fans a reason to tune in — even if they’re the only ones searching for Slax.