Only the Beginning

Last week was officially the last week of my internship. I can’t believe this incredible summer is already coming to an end. It seems like just yesterday I was on a plane to Charlotte heading to the All-Star race. But let me tell you, this summer will definitely go down as one of the most memorable, opportunistic, and eventful summers of my life. I’ve met so many people, had a blast with the interns here in Daytona, and have learned more about NASCAR than I thought was possible. I’m sure it will be difficult for me to go back to school after my amazing summer, but I’ve never been so focused, determined, and excited for what’s to come.

The July races at Daytona International Speedway were definitely one of the highlights this summer. I finally had the opportunity to attend a race as a professional and not as a fan, and that made all the difference for me. It’s my time to decide which side of the fence I will be on: am I destined as a fan in the grandstands, or do I really have what it takes to be in the garages with some of the best in the business. I took advantage of every minute I had at the track by walking through the garages and networking. Like I’ve said before, if there’s one thing you need to be good at in life, it should be networking.

I was curious to see how some of the engineers got their start and what advice they could give me. I am so very grateful that engineers from Stewart-Hass Racing took the time to talk to me, tell me about what they do, give me advice as I finish up my last two years in school, and even keep in contact with me. John Klausmeier, the Race Engineer for Danica Patrick’s crew, has been helping me build my résumé and make it motorsports engineering specific. I also got the chance to talk to Alan Gustafson, Jeff Gordon’s crew chief, who I also met at the All-Star race in Charlotte. Alan is someone who I’ve always looked up to as an engineering student working towards a career in NASCAR. He previously attended Embry-Riddle, which influenced my decision to attend ERAU.

Alba Colon, the program manager at GM, went out of her way to meet up with me for a few minutes. She is truly a pioneer for women in engineering in motorsports, and someone who will be a great mentor for me as I pursue my career. I even got the chance to give my business card to Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief. The advice and time that I received from these professionals in this sport was priceless and confirmed my aspirations to be in their shoes someday.

 

A few more highlights from race weekend included a pace car ride, victory lane with Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, check presentations, and enjoying the race with the interns.

Coke Zero 400 Victory Lane

The last few weeks of my 10-week internship went by the fastest. I was busy working on several projects up until the very last day! The most time consuming project that I was tasked with was the weekly track survey. During the month of July, it was my responsibility to call the 55 weekly promoters and conduct a survey, gaining valuable feedback about sponsorship programs, promoter events, and future business opportunities.  Although I spent most of my days on the phone, this project was the biggest learning experience for me. Not only was I able to learn about the program from my supervisors in the Weekly and Touring department, but from the promoters, who often shared many different views and perspectives.
 
Using the feedback from the promoters, I created a Survey Recap and presented it to my entire department. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so nervous in my life… In the end, my presentation went very well, and my department was impressed with all of the hard work I had put into the recap. I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it felt to receive such high recognition from everyone in my department.
 

The interns with VP Marcus Jadotte

Just about every week, the NASCAR interns had the opportunity to connect with NASCAR executives at a Lunch & Learn. The executives would share with us their role in the company, their perspective as professionals in the sports industry, and ended the lunch with a Q&A session. A few of the featured executives included: NASCAR President Mike Helton, VP of Public Affairs and Multicultural Development Marcus Jadotte, VP of Strategic Development Eric Nyquist, VP of Human Resources Paula Miller, and Human Rights Activist Dr. Richard Lapchick.

The interns with Dr. Richard Lapchick

The NASCAR interns showed Daytona that they knew how to have a good time. We had an unforgettable summer together – whether it was going to the beach, movies, Daytona night life, line dancing, hibachi, New Smyrna Speedway, or a tour at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. There was never a dull moment with the interns. I can easily say that we will all be lifelong friends as we pursue our careers in the sports industry.

New Smyrna Speedway

Checking out weekly racing at New Smyrna Speedway

4th of July in Daytona

Touring ESPN Wide World of Sports

The interns with Pluto!

As I sadly watch this experience come to the end, I now know exactly what I need to do as I build my engineering experience. I plan on getting involved with local race teams or maybe even gaining experience at Spirit of Daytona. I’ve never wanted this more than I do now and I am going to do everything possible to ensure my career in motorsports is a success. My NASCAR internship may be over, but I can assure you that this is only the beginning.

 

Check out the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program Newsletters:

New England Racing!

Working at the office or in the shop is one thing, but going to the track always puts everything into perspective for me. As an avid NASCAR fan my entire life, I have grown up with a love for racing, following the National Series week in and week out. Little did I know that I was missing a huge part of NASCAR that I knew hardly anything about: NASCAR Home Tracks. Working in the Weekly and Touring Department for the summer has introduced me to a part of NASCAR that I have come to love. I went to a few weekly races at Houston Motorsports Park growing up, but now, I have a whole new appreciation for grassroots racing.
As a Diversity Intern in this
department, I had the opportunity to travel to Connecticut with Lauren Wescoat, the manager of Weekly Racing Operations. We visited three different NASCAR Home Tracks in three days: Thompson Speedway, Stafford Motor Speedway, and Waterford Speedbowl. Part of our job is to travel to our NASCAR Home Tracks and visit with the promoters, competitors, sponsors, and fans. This allows us the opportunity to show support for their race programs, keep current with industry practices, oversee sponsorship fulfillment, and to continuously find ways to improve our program. Not to mention, watch some exciting weekly racing! I was able to watch some incredible drivers well known in the New England area, who compete in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, and who are former national and regional champions.

Thompson Speedway

Lauren Wescoat, manager of Weekly Racing Operations, and I at Stafford Motor Speedway.

I was also fortunate enough to catch the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Waterford Speedbowl. I found it interesting to see how weekly events and touring events compare. I gained valuable insight to how each series is run, and even got to watch tech inspection up close after the touring race. The officials were happy to teach me about the inspection process, and as an engineering student, I definitely soaked it all in. After watching so much racing weekly racing, I can now say watching modifieds is a new favorite of mine.

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Waterford Speedbowl

Autograph Session

One of the best parts about grassroots racing is seeing how passionate these drivers and teams are. All of the tracks we visited were about an hour apart. Most of these drivers race at all three tracks every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. They truly make racing their livelihood, work on extremely tight budgets, and are the foundation of this sport.

Touring the Whelen Engineering Headquarters Facility

 

Aside from racing, a few highlights from the weekend included visiting the Basketball Hall of Fame, eating a lobster roll for the first time, and touring the Whelen Engineering Headquarters facility in Chester, Connecticut. Phil Kurze, VP of Whelen Engineering, shared with us the history of Whelen, current projects they are involved in, and gave us a tour of their entire Whelen Engineering facility.  It was incredible to see how they create their products with such precision, and how passionate the Whelen employees are about what they do. I am so grateful to have had this amazing opportunity and am looking forward to learning more about this side of the business. Regardless of where my education takes me, I know that I can find a local track to get involved at as I pursue my career in motorsports.

Basketball Hall of Fame

This summer has been packed with racing! I saw some incredible weekly racing in Connecticut, traveled to Atlanta Dragway with Larsen Motorsports this last weekend for the Night of Fire, will be going to the Independence Day race at New Smyrna this Wednesday, will be attending the Subway Firecracker 250 on Friday, and the Coke-Zero 400 on Saturday!  So watch out for some exciting race updates this next week! (: I hope you’re pumped because I know I am!!

 

November 16, 2008

Hello everyone! I hope November is treating everyone well. November has been fun around ERAU. Last weekend was homecoming on campus, and there was so much going on. On Friday Touch-N-Go held the tailgate party before the basketball game. Luke Bryan held a concert right on our parking lot and food from Bubba Gump’s and WingZone was served. After the tailgate, we went inside and watched our Eagles beat up on the opponent. Saturday, we had a comedy show on campus featuring Greg Giraldo. It was tons of fun and I laughed A LOT. Also that weekend, I attended the parade and the air show put on by the Student Activities office on campus. By the end of the weekend I was worn out, and I thoroughly enjoyed the extra day off on Tuesday (Veterans Days)! Earlier this week Wood Hall had some fire alarm issues. The alarms and sprinkler systems went off on the fifth floor and water went everywhere. About 8 hours later, the same thing happened on the third floor, and water came creeping into my room on the second floor. Currently my carpet is still damp and my room smells a bit moldy, but maintenance is promising to fix all the problems. Although this incident was difficult to deal with, we all were laughing and got a break from our homework and studying. No one on my floor lost anything to the water, so we could all relax and try to embrace the situation. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen again…

I got to go to Titusville this weekend and experience a space shuttle launch first-hand. I have always wanted to do this, and I had a good time. It only took about an hour to get there, and the weather was perfect for the launch. We found a place on one of the causeways where we had a great view of the launch pad. At exactly 7:55, the shuttle took off and lit up the whole town. I was so relieved to see everything go off without a problem. I got to shoot a video of the launch, and I took a few pictures. None of them turned out perfect, but I’ll try to get the video posted for you. The whole experience was unique and I think everyone should experience this at least once in their lifetime. My friends and I went to the beach yesterday and got to play volleyball on my favorite court. We enjoyed what may be our last day on the beach for a while, as it is only supposed to be in the sixties this week. I know that may not sound bad to some Northerners, but that’s rough for us. As usual when we were playing volleyball, we found some other Riddle kids and they joined our game. There are so many people to meet and I have found some really good friends here. It is so much fun to be able to hang out with a group of friends who come from all walks of life. My close friends are from Georgia, Wisconsin, Iowa, Germany, New Jersey, New York, and everywhere in between. That is one great thing about ERAU: you meet people from everywhere. Having such a variety of friends has opened my mind and I enjoy being around all of them. These next two weeks are going to be a blast for me. I get to go back to MISSOURI thanksgiving week!!! I never thought I would be so excited to say that. It is funny how you react when you move away from home. I really miss my friends and my mom’s cooking, but I may very well miss my dog the most and I can’t wait to cuddle with my 150 lb Bloodhound again! I am going to be so cold, but I am sure I will enjoy my 5 days back home. When I return to campus, I have 4 days of class and then finals. This semester is almost over and it seems like it just began. Wow! I hope everyone has a GREAT Thanksgiving! I know I will!

Until Next Time,
Mack