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.

 

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Summer Fun

Well, I’ve already completed the first three weeks of my summer internship and haven’t said a single word about it. I guess I better fill you guys in on everything!

NASCAR Headquarters in Daytona

I am currently interning in Daytona Beach at the NASCAR building right across from Daytona International Speedway. It is nothing short of impressive. I work on the sixth floor as the Weekly and Touring Racing Operations Intern and I must say, the view from here is not shabby at all. As the Weekly and Touring Operations intern, I have the opportunity of working with NASCAR Home Tracks, which is the grassroots of racing. I get to work with the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the Euro Racecar Series, the Canadian Tire Series, the Toyota Series, the Whelen Southern Modified Series, the Whelen Modified Series, the K&N Pro East Series, and the K&N Pro West Series. As of right now, I have only worked with the Whelen All-American Series, the series where drivers race at the same local tracks weekly, but am hoping I get to learn a little more about the touring series soon.

The view from work

As a lifelong NASCAR fan, my knowledge of NASCAR has only been limited to the top three series: the Camping World Truck Series, the Nationwide Series, and the Sprint Cup Series. I am so glad that I have been given the chance to work with grassroots racing. I knew nothing about these 8 series, and now, this is the perfect time for me to expand my knowledge and become more well-rounded in the sport. It’s only been three weeks and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learned.

A few projects that I have worked on include: the NASCAR: An American Salute project, the NASCAR Green Tree Planting Program, a Spec Engine project, and Track Recruiting. If you have been watching any NASCAR races the last few weeks, you may have seen commercials for the American Salute platform. From Memorial Day Weekend to Independence Day, NASCAR is uniting to honor our military men and women. NASCAR is partnering with A Million Thanks to reach one million salutes to our military by writing personalized letters and dropping them at boxes that have been sent to tracks nationwide, and by using the hash tag #NASCARSalutes on Instagram and Twitter. I have been reaching out to all of the local weekly tracks across the country, encouraging them to take part in it, and creating a recap of all of the special military events these tracks are hosting.

Writing letters to our military

NASCAR is also partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation to donate 90 trees to five weekly tracks, who will then choose a beneficiary locally to donate these trees to. NASCAR Green’s goal is to “neutralize carbon emissions of all NASCAR national series racing in 2013. I am currently in the process of collecting information from these tracks so that I can help move the program forward.

My supervisor gave me a Spec Engine project to work on because it directly applies to my technical knowledge and will give me an opportunity to learn more about engines. I have organized a list of parts needed to build this spec engine and have created a binder full of this information. I knew nothing about engines, but after looking up each part, organizing, and printing specs, I now have a better understanding of engine components.
Track recruiting has also been a huge part in my internship. NASCAR is always looking to sanction more local tracks; this requires gathering information from the hundreds of tracks across the country, working on packets of info that can be sent to them, and coming up with ways to improve upon the NASCAR program.

My new reading material (:

I guess that would be a short summary of what I’m working on. If I told you every single detail, we may be here for awhile.  What is my favorite part of my internship so far? I absolutely love talking to everyone in my department and constantly learn about what they do, and how all of these series work. One of my supervisors has drag and stock racing experience, so he is familiar with the technical side of the sport: the part of the sport I am dying to learn about. He constantly challenges me and tests my knowledge about stock cars. I guess I didn’t realize how little I really know…This has made me even more determined to continue learning and to make the extra effort. If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to always read and always make the effort to learn something new. I try to take at least 30 minutes of my day to do some research online or read my new racing magazines. I absolutely love it.
Learning about the business side of NASCAR has definitely been eye-opening for me. I think so much more highly of the sport after gaining this insight the last few weeks. Next week I will be traveling to Connecticut to attend a weekly race, touring race, and take a tour of the Whelen facility. Going to the track will definitely put what I have been doing at the office into perspective and make it all come together. I know working my first drag race with Larsen Motorsports did just that for me. I could go on all day so I better stop now! I have so much more to tell you guys but I’ll make you wait and save it for later. :D