In spring semester, I moved down to Charlotte, N.C., with the opportunity of a lifetime to work for one of the top teams in American racing, Hendrick Motorsports.
As a young person interested in cars, every Sunday I had watched their four NASCAR Cup Series race cars compete with others on tracks across the country. It is that passion that directed my educational goals to become a mechanical engineer in the hopes that I could play some role in the automotive industry. Although I had such a strong desire, I never believed that I would have the opportunity to work in professional racing, let alone a team of this pedigree.
As you enter the Hendrick Motorsports race shops every morning, the front lobbies are lined with race and championship trophies. Hendrick Motorsports has more championships than any other team in NASCAR history, and more than 250 race wins in NASCAR’s top series. Every day this reminded me of the high expectations of cleanliness, hard work and results that are expected in order to achieve success in each race.
The group of engineers that I worked with oversaw the recording and distribution of data to each of the four race teams that compete every weekend. This information is crucial for their performance throughout the race weekend. Some of this information is gathered right before the cars leave for race weekend on a suspension rig; this was an area where I spent most of my time. It was a very surreal feeling to be wrenching on cars that would take to the track in front of millions the following weekend!
Another type of lab test we performed is on a seven-post machine, where the car was bolted down to hydraulic actuators that mimic the road and aerodynamic inputs on the vehicle throughout a lap. This allowed us to test new theories as we prepared for upcoming events.
However, real track testing is still the most valuable. Because of this, I was able to join the team on a two-day tire test during my internship. This exposed me to the extensive data systems that are used in the cars for testing, as well as the unique goals that were set in order to record data that we could use at that track for the race weekend.
I also was able to experience a variety of areas throughout the rest of the shop; these included building shock absorbers, post-race car teardowns, and assisting the race engineers with various reports throughout the week. Above all, I was impressed with the high work ethic and attention to detail that every employee showed day in and day out.
This was my fourth co-op at The University of Toledo, and I don’t believe that this opportunity would have become available without the experience gained and growth that took place throughout my previous internships in the automotive industry. Over the past four years, UToledo has given me the power to grow my skills and the ability to truly capture my dreams.
Day is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering.