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:

All-Star Weekend

Just when I think everything is going great, it gets even better! The opportunities seem never-ending and I have more blessings than I can count every single day. Attending All-Star Weekend in Charlotte this past weekend was one of them. This officially kicked of the start of my summer internship with NASCAR. As an intern, my orientation includes a mandatory, all expense paid trip to the All-Star Race weekend in North Carolina! (Tough life, right?) This experience gave me a behind-the-scenes look at the weekly operations that make each NASCAR race possible. I’m sure it’s obvious that it takes a lot of people to ensure a successful NASCAR weekend, but to actually speak with professionals who work in the sport has given me a completely different perspective. As if I didn’t love NASCAR enough already, I’ve definitely walked away from this experience with an even greater appreciation of this extraordinary sport. Now I’ve got to catch you up on this crazy weekend! Where to start…
 
The internship I have secured for the summer is through the NASCAR Diversity program. The purpose of the program is to create more diversity in the NASCAR industry and provide opportunities for minorities in the sport. All of the interns arrived in Charlotte on Thursday. Kristian, the Account Executive for Diversity Affairs in NASCAR, organized this trip for all of the interns. Thursday consisted of a social event where we could all meet each other and have some fun.
 
That evening, we headed to Downtown Charlotte for some bowling and pizza. Let me tell you, Charlotte is absolutely beautiful. I know it’s somewhere I want to live when I get older. It’s the perfect combination of city and country life. All of the interns in this program are pretty incredible, as well. They come from some amazing backgrounds and have already accomplished so much throughout their college careers. This orientation experience bonded us quickly and gave us an opportunity to learn from each other.

Walking through Downtown Charlotte

Intern outing at Strike-City Bowling

Friday was the first long and tiring day. Schedule for the day: breakfast, NASCAR R&D center, guest speakers, lunch, Revolution Racing tour, Roush Fenway Shop tour, dinner, guest speakers, driver intros, and the truck race. Whew! What didn’t we get to do?! A day full of NASCAR was the perfect way to spend my birthday. The NASCAR R&D center was unveiled in 2003; this center is used for safety initiatives, to enhance competition, and to perform weekly inspections. We were able to tour this facility and learn in detail about what takes place on a weekly basis.

NASCAR R&D Center

R&D 2

Throughout our orientation events, we had the opportunity to listen to several previous interns and professionals who work in the industry. They gave us valuable advice to help us make the most of our internship experience, as well as our future careers with NASCAR, or anywhere else for that matter. One piece of advice that I came away from this weekend: NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK! Hard work will take you places, but the key to moving up in this industry is all about who you know. It’s really not a bad idea to network anywhere you go. Throughout this internship I will make an extra effort to work with other departments and become familiar with their operations and the people that make them up. Talking to professionals also gave me a glimpse of the inside operations that make the sport go. I never realized all of the positions and jobs involved in the sport; NASCAR truly does think of everything.

Next stop: Revolution Racing. Rev Racing manages NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. This is an outreach program looking to get minorities, including women, involved in racing. I love the efforts of the Drive for Diversity program because as a Hispanic female engineer, it would be great to see changes in the number of women and minorities involved in the sport.

The interns visiting Rev Racing

Before heading to the race track, we headed over to the Roush Fenway Shop for a tour. We were able to check out some of the cars that will be used at the Charlotte race this weekend, as well as where the cars are maintained.

Roush-Fenway Shop

All of the interns made my birthday extra special. It was my first birthday away from my family but it was definitely an unforgettable day. They all signed a cute Cinderella card for me and I even got a birthday sundae at dinner! Yum!

Such an incredible birthday

Now off to Charlotte Motor Speedway!

Livin’ it up at the racetrack!

As soon as we arrived at the race track, we were put right in the middle of the excitement. Crews were pushing their trucks on to pit road and camera men were running around trying to catch all of the action. At this moment, I stood in awe of what happening around me and did my best to soak in as much as I could. Here are a few pics of what I saw:

Truck Series Garage

Pit Road

Driver intros came next! We were directly in front of the stage on the race track. Pretty exciting stuff, I must say.

Driver Intros

Met driver Ty Dillon

The interns with Drive for Diversity driver, Darrell Wallace Jr.

And then the race started! We got to watch the race from pit road, where we were up close to the crews and watched them make all their pit stops. It’s one thing to watch it on TV, but to see it up close in person is a whole other experience in itself.

Just when you think it’s over, it’s not. It gets better. Next stop: VICTORY LANE! After the race, we were able to watch Kyle Busch climb out of his truck in victory lane. Couldn’t think of a better way to end the night.

Victory Lane

Can you believe that all of this happened in one day? I’ve seen a completely different side of NASCAR all within 24 hours. This experience was completely life changing and I’ve only shared with you up to Day 2. Stay tuned for the Day 3 – the All-Star Race update. I have seen so much more and can’t wait to share it with you so that you can get excited too! This could be you one day: maybe not working with NASCAR, but getting a taste of your dream. This is only the beginning of an amazing summer. I’m officially livin’ the dream.