Chris Leone (COM '14) is an integral part of GRC’s race day operation, providing real-time web and social media updates including photos from victory lane. Photo credit: QBA/QNIGAN.com
For Chris Leone (COM ’14) it is apparent that he was meant to be around anything with an engine and wheels. Born and raised in New England, Leone is easy-going with a passionate fire for his motorsports roots.
The first to admit that he is not the fastest person behind the wheel, Leone is a classic case of making the best of your talents and sticking with your passion. He understood early that he wouldn’t be a professional driver, but his love and devotion to racing led him to become involved in a different way.
To start things off, tell me a little bit about yourself, maybe starting with your roots. Where are you from?
I was a local Boston boy. I grew up about an hour north of here. Honestly motorsports was always my main interest. I’ve always been a racing guy, from going to NASCAR races as a kid, to going up to Canada to see Formula 1.
It was a very, very singular interest. I didn’t care about anything else. Accident of birth. My dad always worked on cars, so that’s where it came from really.
Can you tell me about your position as Social Media Manager for Red Bull Global Rallycross (GRC)?
To start, GRC [recently partnered with Red Bull] is a racing series in a relatively new form of motorsports to the US: rallycross. We have a ten-race schedule. Last year, we were a part of Global X Games, so we did Brazil, Spain, and Germany events, along with our U.S. events.
As for my position, it’s funny because for a very long time, [directly managing our social media accounts] is what I did the least of in my job. Originally, my responsibilities were geared more toward content creation – being the guy that writes the stories for the website, being the guy that does interviews with drivers.
If you see a Facebook post – about 95,000 likes at the moment – 99 times out of 100, it’s coming from me. If you see a tweet, it’s probably coming from me. Instagram, YouTube, etc., etc.
While I’m still doing those other things with content creation, I am also very actively managing the social media channels and very actively managing the website.
Now are there any cool perks to this job?
Oh, where do I start? Where do I start?
I got to go to Brazil, Spain, and Germany in a three-month span. Among the cool perks besides the travel, I get to work with guys who were heroes when I was growing up.
I’m on the phone with Dave Mirra [who has the most gold medals in X Games history] every week. I get to hangout at events with guys like [GRC driver] Ken Block and Travis Pastrana – people that this generation have grown up watching.
So I’m going to time you on this next question. If you had to explain rallycross to someone who has no idea what it is in 10 seconds, how would you do it? Ready, set, go.
If you ever played with Hot Wheels as a kid: Take those tracks. Take small cars. Put 600 horsepower engines in them. Boom.
Moving on to the state of the competition of GRC right now, is there one dominant driver or is it spread pretty evenly throughout the field?
Last year we had a driver (Toomas Heikkinen) who won five races in a row, and to an extent, it was an accident of luck. He was a very aggressive driver and he was able to use that to his advantage.
With him now gone to another racing series, we have a lot of drivers that are very competitive. Obviously you have Ken Block. You have Tanner Foust [host of Top Gear America] who is a stunt driver. He and another one of our drivers [Rhys Millen] did the majority of the stunts in Need For Speed, which just came out.
A lot of our drivers started as stunt drivers. So you have guys like that, and then you put Travis Pastrana in anything and he’s usually competitive.
If I had to pick a championship winner right now, I couldn’t do it. I’d have to wait for a few races to shake out before I’d really say something. Nobody at this point has asserted themselves far and above everybody else. It’s going to be very competitive (next race for GRC is on May 18, 2014).
That’s great for the sport, too.
How surreal is it for you to be interviewing and putting together these stories on drivers that you were a fan of growing up?
What’s funny is I’ve never been star struck by meeting a race car driver. I have only ever been star struck by meeting the members of the media that I used to follow when they were doing these things.
I would go to NASCAR races and I would meet a guy like Dick Berggren [reporter for NASCAR]. That’s when I would get shook up and start to get nervous. When it comes to the guys that I’m supposed to be covering, they’re supposed to be your friends, especially if you’re working for the series as the media.
It’s not as surreal to be working with these guys when this was something that I really always wanted to do. I knew I was never going to be a driver. I am not fast. (Laughs)
For me it seems like you got your dream job straight out of college. Do you have any advice for fellow BU students not only looking to find a job but also seeking something that they are genuinely interested in?
It’s a lot harder if you don’t have something that you were interested in pretty much since you were born. I’ve been lucky enough where, for 20 years, I’ve been trying to do one thing. My interests have been very plain and simple to me since I was barely out of diapers.
Once you get to college, if you figure out what you want to do, what you’ve got ahead of you, your main goal should be trying to gather experience in that. Quite honestly, that needs to come at the sacrifice of things that are taking up more of your time but may not be worth it.
You have to focus on what is going to get you a job in the real world. In my case, I put my experiential stuff first. If you have an idea of what you want to do – and that’s got to come from you, it can’t come from your friends, it can’t come from your parents, it’s got to be that one thing that is in your head and heart – then make your R&R time all about doing that thing.
Again, if it comes at the expense of things that are just wasting your time, so be it. The work that you do outweighs the piece of paper that you get when you’re done.