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Former Penn State football star finding success in new pro sport

Former Penn State star running back Journey Brown will now get a chance to compete at the professional level on Sundays after all following this new opportunity.



Former Penn State Football star, Journey Brown, Penn State Football, NASCAR
Journey Brown, a former Penn State football player, now the front tire changer on Ross Chastain's No. 1 AdventHealth Chevrolet, visits with students at Westside Elementary, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, answering questions as they check out the race car.

Last week, NASCAR reporter Bob Pockrass provided information on a name most Nittany Lions fans know: former Penn State football star Journey Brown. Brown had to retire from football during the 2020 season due to a heart condition. Per Pockrass’s post on X (formerly Twitter), Brown is getting a full-time opportunity in another sport: as a pit crew member in NASCAR. 

Journey’s journey: Finding success through tragedy

Journey Brown entered the Penn State football program as a consensus top-20 prospect in Pennsylvania and one of the top 100 running backs in the 2017 recruiting class. Brown was highly productive but overlooked in high school. James Franklin saw the talent in the Meadville prospect and landed the three-star over the likes of Syracuse and Temple. 

After redshirting and seeing minimal playing time in 2018, Brown broke out in 2019. Brown recorded 10 starts and played in all 13 games for Penn State football, recording 890 yards and 12 touchdowns in only 129 carries. This culminated in an outstanding 202 yards in the Nittany Lions’ win against Memphis in the Cotton Bowl Classic, ultimately Brown’s final game. 

Before the pandemic-delayed 2020 season, the Penn State medical staff discovered an abnormality (later revealed as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) with Brown and held him out of the first few contests of the year. Brown officially retired in November. Brown could not continue to play football as one wrong hit to the chest would be catastrophic due to this condition. Brown’s football career was over before he had a chance to flourish. However, where one door closes, another opens.

A new opportunity for Journey Brown

In recent years, NASCAR teams have pushed to recruit former collegiate football players to service their cars during pit stops. With NASCAR teams located predominantly in North Carolina, many former players are recruited from that region. The keys to a pit stop are speed, discipline, and cooperation with other crew members. Naturally, this makes former football players the perfect targets. 

Former Penn State football star Journey Brown was recruited by Trackhouse Racing after his medical retirement. For those unfamiliar with the NASCAR scene, one of the co-owners of Trackhouse is “Mr. Worldwide,” Pitbull. 

Trackhouse bought out Indy Car Owner Chip Ganassi’s team after the 2021 season. Ganassi had previously utilized former collegiate running backs to service his cars. For example, Mike Metcalf (whose career at Appalachian State ended due to injuries in 2004) serviced Kyle Larson’s car during the 2018 season. 

Since joining the team, the former Penn State football star has quickly progressed through the Trackhouse ranks. Brown attended his first race weekend as a team member at Kansas in May. He was a grand marshal for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series’ Heart of America 200 that weekend, in charge of ‘the most famous words in motorsports:’ “Drivers, start your engines.”

Former Penn State football star gets quick call-up

After attending his first weekend in May, Brown progressed to making his first in-race pit stops of a NASCAR Cup Series car last month at Daytona, when Kaulig Motorsports (who sources their pit crews through Trackhouse) entered a third car for Chandler Smith. Smith finished 15th after leading a few laps in that event. 

Journey Brown was undeniably NFL-bound before his heart condition robbed him of that opportunity. Now, he still gets to perform at a professional level on Sundays. Brown’s first race as a member of the No. 31 crew came Sunday during the Cup Series race at Talladega.

Justin Haley wheeled the No. 31 Chevy to a top 10 at Talladega, leading a lap and placing 6th following a dash to the finish. More importantly, Journey Brown and the rest of the crew came home with a clean car after a mistake-free day on pit road.

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