CONCORD, N.C. – Wednesday, a new edition of #MorningsWith aired live on the Hendrick Motorsports Twitter account, a segment that introduces fans to teammates all across the organization’s Concord, North Carolina, campus.
This week, we got to know No. 9 team jackman T.J. Semke.
In his first full season with the No. 9 team in the NASCAR Cup Series, Semke is about to take part in the playoffs for the very first time.
“Super excited,” he said. “It’s been a long journey to get here, I feel like – this is a pretty long season and we’ve been working to get into the playoffs and it’s finally here. So, it’s getting to be that time to really buckle down and get ready to go.”
Semke’s journey to the No. 9 team began when he was invited to the annual Hendrick Motorsports pit crew combine. From there, he was invited back to campus for a minicamp and was ultimately chosen as one of five athletes to join the organization’s developmental pit crew program.
“I took it and ran with it, took advantage of the opportunities I had and ended up on Chase’s team, fortunately, and here we are in the playoffs.”
A former walk-on at the University of Kansas, he didn’t know much about NASCAR when he first got the call, but he was excited at the prospect of continuing his athletic career professionally, and he immediately fell in love with the sport.
He felt that earning his spot on a Division I roster as a walk-on prepared him for the challenges that awaited him in his new role.
“Being a walk-on and kind of being undersized for my position, you’ve always kind of got that chip on your shoulder and you’re pushing a little harder, maybe,” he explained. “It really helps you in situations like this that you’re prepared for that moment and you’re used to getting after it like that. I think it definitely helped me getting here.”
Notably, in addition to his history as a football player, Semke was also a former part-time bounty hunter – a job that has drawn plenty of interest from his teammates at Kansas and Hendrick Motorsports.
He recalled tackling a “bad guy” and putting him in handcuffs, and he was hooked from there.
“When I was 18 years old was the first time I went,” he said. “That adrenaline rush, just like doing a pit stop, anything that’s adrenaline, I’m all for it. It was definitely fun while it lasted, for sure.”
Hear more from Semke in the full #MorningsWith segment below.