Members of the next generation of INDYCAR race engineers may well have been inside the doors of Chip Ganassi Racing when the team opened its Indianapolis shop to a group of college freshmen on Monday.
Nearly 30 students from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) were invited for a shop tour by Julian Robertson, CGR’s longtime engineering manager. Robertson also serves on the board for IUPUI’s motorsports engineering program, the first of its kind in the United States offering a four-year bachelor of science degree from Purdue University since 2008.
Robertson, along with CGR engineers Brian Junger, Jim McCabe and Danielle Shepherd, showed and explained to the students all the work areas of the Ganassi shop that houses the team’s Verizon IndyCar Series and IMSA sports car teams.
“For many, this will be their first taste of what actually happens at a race team,” said Robertson, part of the CGR landscape for more than two decades. “Everybody sees racing and think it’s cool and all the glamor, but they don’t realize the hard work and the guts of it. They’re going to find out a little more today on all that side of things.
“It’s a good introduction for them to see a real race team and see how they operate.”
Following the tour, a question-and-answer session allowed the students to ask everything about engineering jobs in racing, from whether the Ganassi quartet loved their jobs to how formal the interview process is with the team. Robertson emphasized the need for the students to succeed academically while also gaining applicable experience in college – whether it be internships with race teams, going to sprint car races and volunteering to help out a team or taking on a car rebuild project in their garage at home.
Each of the four CGR engineers also detailed their various paths to where they are today. Robertson began as an aeronautical engineering student at the Imperial College of London but soon found his way onto racing projects at the university and never left the sport. McCabe earned a mechanical engineering degree at IUPUI and went into industry before getting his foot in the door in racing. Junger started as a computer science major at Purdue before changing majors to mechanical engineering and landing an internship with the former PacWest Racing team. Shepherd majored in math and physics at the College of Wooster in Ohio, where she caught the racing bug and worked for the former KV Racing Technology team before joining CGR.
It put on display for the students the variety of avenues to become involved in the sport, as well as the passion each Ganassi representative has for their job. Shepherd was happy to pass along her experiences in helping to guide the next generation.
“Whatever questions they have, if we can get them answered and get them interested and excited about it, that’s what it’s all about,” she said. “Help them figure out if it’s something they want to pursue or not – especially for freshman just starting. That’s a great time to see if it’s something they’re passionate about or after exploring it a little bit, it’s something they’re really not interested in.”
Those students who do carry on through the motorsports engineering program will join the list of graduates that continues to expand in number and prestige, according to Robertson.
“The program has grown stronger and stronger over the years,” Robertson said. “It’s turning out some pretty good graduates that go into race teams.”