Archive for the ‘Motorsports Engineering’ category

Indiana State graduate named crew chief for Tony Stewart

November 26th, 2013

Article credit to Indiana Motorsports Association:

Chad Johnston has signed on as the new crew chief for Tony Stewart and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team. He’ll begin his new position in December.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to be put with someone like Tony Stewart who is a proven winner, a proven champion,” Johnston said. “Obviously, the expectations are high so I’m looking forward to prove what I can do and prove that I deserve this position.”

The second-generation racer most recently worked for Michael Waltrip Racing as Martin Truex Jr.’s crew chief. Following a stint with Evernham Motorsports, he joined MWR in 2009 and became Pat Tryson’s engineer the following season. At the June Pocono race, Johnston was promoted to crew chief. In their first full season together, Truex and the No. 56 team qualified for the Chase. This season, Johnston guided the team back to Victory Lane with the win at Sonoma.

After graduating from Indiana State with a degree in mechanical engineering, the 33-year-old Cayuga, Ind., native worked in the aerospace industry before his passion for racing carried him to NASCAR and the Camping World Truck Series in 2004. That’s where he first had the opportunity to work with Stewart.

Three-time champ Tony Stewart’s impact goes beyond driving. Check out his top accomplishments.
Despite Stewart’s returning in February from six months on the sideline after breaking his tibia and fibula Aug. 5 in a Sprint Car race at Southern Iowa Speedway, Johnston believes the 42-year-old three-time champion will be back to winning form.

“It’s like riding a bike,” Johnston said. “Tony Stewart will drive the wheels off anything – doesn’t matter what it is, doesn’t matter if he drives it once or drives it 100 times. I think everybody’s expectations will be to win races and to finish up front every week and make a run at the Chase next year.”

Johnston replaces Steve Addington on the No. 14 Chevy; Addington had been the crew chief for the past two seasons. Addington is expected to go to Phoenix Racing as crew chief in 2014.

Johnston joins fellow SHR newcomer Rodney Childers, who worked with Johnston at MWR and Evernham prior to accepting the crew chief position on the No. 4 Chevy with Kevin Harvick.

“It will be a big advantage to have Rodney start early and get his feet underneath him,” Johnston said. “I think that will help my learning curve. We know how each other works. They’ve got a lot of strong people in key positions over there that I think will help me get up to speed quicker. It’s just a matter of learning the people and the processes.

“I’ve not had a lot of experience with a lot of drivers. As a crew chief, I’ve only worked with Martin. So that will be different. It took a little time to know my job and to know Martin, so to learn someone else and to learn the lingo – when he talks about the car and what it needs – I hope to get up to speed really quick.”

SHR also announced several other changes. Daniel Knost will be the crew chief for the No. 41 car of Kurt Busch, who was added as the team’s fourth driver for 2014. Rodney Childers will be the crew chief for the No. 4 car of Kevin Harvick. Matt Borland will transition from crew chief to vice president of engineering, while Greg Zipadelli will manage all four Sprint Cup teams as SHR’s vice president of competition.

Case Study: Another Layer of Confidence in Quality and Speed

April 14th, 2012

Here’s a great article from Quality Magazine about motorsports engineering and applied careers in racing for those of you looking to work on the manufacturing side of motorsports.

Case Study: Another Layer of Confidence in Quality and Speed
by Michael Gibbons
April 6, 2012

Corvette ALMS race car at the 12 Hours of Sebring race on March 19, 2011 in Florida. Source: General Motors.
With tighter tolerances and increased customer requirements, Pratt & Miller turns to Zeiss quality inspection solutions.
The CONTURA G2 10/12/6 with VAST active scanning was the best solution for Pratt & Miller’s new and growing requirements. Source: Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology

Customers know they can count on Pratt & Miller Engineering (New Hudson, MI) to quickly get quality products over the finish line. While Pratt & Miller is well known for its commitment to motorsports—with design, fabrication and testing services on display through the General Motors factory American LeMans Series Corvette Racing and SCCA World Challenge Cadillac Racing teams—it is much more. Pratt & Miller provides cutting-edge engineering and manufacturing solutions for clients in the motorsports, automotive, aerospace, commercial and military industries.

Pratt & Miller started out as a small motorsports engineering and fabrication shop when it opened its doors in 1989, and has grown into an innovative solutions provider spanning several industry sectors. Since 2009, Pratt & Miller has doubled its total sales stemming from both existing and new customer orders. With the addition of new employees, less time to manage customer orders, tighter tolerances and increased customer requirements it needed a more advanced quality inspection solution.

In March of 2011, Pratt & Miller installed a Zeiss (Maple Grove, MN) CMM in its quality inspection lab to help meet those needs. The company had analyzed key factors, such as part volume sizes, target tolerances and available floor space, to determine that the CONTURA G2 10/12/6 with VAST active scanning would be the best solution for its new and growing requirements. Pratt & Miller chose the VAST XT sensor for its fast scanning speed, allowing the company to gather more data and get better information.

Prior to the Zeiss CMM, Pratt & Miller was measuring parts with several different sized portable measuring arms and various hand tools, including micrometers, bore and height gages. However, the company needed increased turnaround, repeatability and accuracy to meet its new targeted tolerances. Manual measurement with the portable measuring arms and hand gages required consistent technique to get consistent numbers and that was very difficult. Internal design tolerances were reaching 2 ten-thousandths-of-an-inch and some of its customers had tolerances of five microns on certain dimensions. With some pre-production runs increasing in size—with hundreds of a particular kind—repeatable results were critical.

The majority of the parts that Pratt & Miller inspects are prototypes, such as clutch plates for electronically controlled limited slip differentials, suspension components for military vehicles and racecar chassis components. During development, these parts go through several revisions with the customer and have increasingly critical tolerances as they get closer to the finished, production stage.

Spindles for the various race programs, including Corvette Racing and Cadillac Racing, are examples of some of the more complicated parts that Pratt & Miller designs and manufactures internally. These parts, often referred to as life-critical parts, are especially important and must be thoroughly measured. Spindles are measured on the CMM several times—initially during first article inspection, just before they leave for outside processing, a sampling when they return after heat treatment, and then one more final inspection after grinding operations are complete.

“Some more complicated parts, such as hubs, can take up to two months from start to finish, including all of the outside processing steps, which account for well over half of the processing time, and their associated inspection,” explains Frank Wilson, quality assurance manager at Pratt & Miller. Speed and repeatable accuracy are critical to keeping long lead parts such as these on the tight timelines required by motorsports, as well as other industry sectors Pratt & Miller has expanded into. About 12 parts a day on average are measured using the Zeiss CONTURA G2, which includes re-inspection of used parts, however, daily volume fluctuates significantly depending on current manufacturing programs and can be in excess of 100 parts some days.

The CONTURA G2 is saving Pratt & Miller a significant amount of time with its inspections. For example, inspection time for an upright was reduced from two hours with the manual gages to 20 minutes with the Zeiss CMM. The company also can measure all locations and sizes on the part with only one measurement tool, versus 10 to 20.

Frank Wilson measuring clutch plates for a limited slip differential. Source: Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology

The CONTURA G2 has been getting more use than expected recently because of increased awareness of its capabilities. Pratt & Miller even had to get a second set of fixturing to prepare other parts waiting to be inspected. All operators are up to speed on the CALYPSO metrology software programs and Pratt & Miller has received a lot more high-tolerance orders due to its new capabilities. “The local service and support has been great in helping us maximize our CMM use,” says Wilson.

One surprise Pratt & Miller had was when it decided to use the CONTURA G2 to measure the suspension setup gages for racecars to better understand their impact on setup variations. In an effort to maximize setup consistency and performance, these gages were measured to determine the effect of assembly tolerance stack-ups on the accuracy of the gage. The CMM allowed the company to quickly find where improvements could be made.

One of the most beneficial features of the CALYPSO metrology software for Pratt & Miller has been the graphical outputs. The company can now visually examine circularity and true position to locate and rework high spots into tolerance. “We couldn’t do this before. This visualization helps me quickly show coworkers what is happening versus having to draw multiple sketches,” states Wilson. “It helps us to avoid frustration and it gives us a much stronger handle on quality. For example, sometimes a part’s edge can become ‘tri-ovaled’ due to pressure from the chuck jaws. This part may be within specifications, but there is still room for improvement and the graphical visuals help us communicate that need.” Another benefit has been the mirror feature in CALYPSO, which they realized was excellent for dealing with left and right components on race cars. In some instances, it has saved Pratt & Miller a day’s worth of programming time.

“The CONTURA is still new to us and we’re still realizing new ways to integrate it more and more into our environment,” says Wilson. “We still have a prototype environment and mentality, but we hope to do more statistical analyses with the CMM in the future.” While Pratt & Miller manufactures some part runs that number in the hundreds, the majority are small batches of approximately 20 pieces, some of which are quite intricate. One current benefit is that it helps the company monitor machining operations, such as determining if the end mill is wearing out towards the bottom, based on if a bore is being tapered.

As Pratt & Miller acquires new customers, it’s noticing more and more requirements, especially in the defense industry. Fortunately, the company’s specialty shop mindset has been adapting by adding new technologies and processes for these new requirements. Of course, Pratt & Miller still anticipates many more motorsport projects in addition to providing engineering support, including development of newer, green prototypes. If it keeps growing at its current rate, the company could need an additional CMM, and a second shift.

The CONTURA G2 has given Pratt & Miller a higher degree of confidence in its measurements and has improved communication with the graphical reports. “The CNC control automates part measurement, gives us complete confidence, and frees up our time to perform other tasks,” says Wilson. Customers often come to Pratt & Miller because they are in a crunch and need a quick turnaround. The CONTURA G2 increases throughput without rushing the job, something that could have led to errors in the past. “Once you see how much more accurate and repeatable the measurements are with the ZEISS CMM, you realize that it is invaluable. It adds another layer of confidence to our day,” says Wilson.

The original article can be read here.

Motorsports Engineering: Critical Components That Ensure Driver Safety

November 15th, 2011

Today, we’re sharing a video on racing safety – an extremely important, and constantly evolving, aspect of motorsports. If you’re interested in motorsports engineering or careers in racing, knowledge of the safety technology used in the sport is crucial. And, experience with technology and motorsports engineering is crucial to understanding and developing racing safety equipment.

Here’s a great video from Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet, and other members of the JR Motorsports team talking about racing safety and the motorsports engineering it takes to develop those crucial components:

What do you think the most important piece of safety equipment is to drivers today? How has motorsports engineering helped to develop that?

Motorsports Engineering Innovation in NASCAR History

June 30th, 2011

It’s pretty obvious that NASCAR is filled with marvels of motorsports engineering. But there have been some truly standout moments in NASCAR’s history where motorsports engineering completely changed the game.motorsports engineering in NASCAR

One of those moments came almost 15 years ago, during the 1997 All Star race, when Jeff Gordon took the Hendrick Motorsports Jurassic Park-themed Monte Carlo, affectionately nicknamed ‘T-Rex’, to victory lane. The Hendrick team, led by engineer Rex Stump, had completely re-engineered the beast from the ground up.

With an engineer’s zest for problem solving and design improvement, Stump posed a question to his team that everyone in a motorsports engineering school will hear at some point during their studies: if you could start from scratch, what would you do to make this car better and faster?

The car that Stump and his team designed will go down in history as a technical marvel as it debuted at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the 1997 All-Star race, then called The Winston. Although the race was fairly unexciting, with Gordon holding the car back for the first two segments and then unleashing it in the final laps to take the lead, the car itself was something that had never been seen before in NASCAR.

What made it exciting, then and now, to motorsports engineers was that the car was completely legal because most of the changes fell into the gray areas of NASCAR’s rulebook at the time. Everything from the materials the car and its parts were made of to the angle of certain components was evaluated and adjusted if needed. Some changes were minute and some were significant, but when the car went through technical inspection it passed because of Stump’s team’s careful and exact consideration of the rules.

Even NASCAR was impressed by the ingenuity in Stump’s machine, although it forced officials to rewrite the rulebook the next morning. Like many engineering feats, T-Rex was the product of creative thinking combined with technical know-how – what every motorsports engineer hopes to achieve.

UNC Charlotte Motorsports Engineering

June 16th, 2011

Although UNC Charlotte does not offer a full motorsports engineering degree, the North Carolina school offers a motorsports concentration as an addition to the Mechanical Engineering degree program.

If you’re enrolling in the Mechanical Engineering program with a concentration in motorsports, you can expect to take the normal course load of mechanical engineering classes including chemistry, physics, English, math, economics, mechanics and other engineering basics courses in your first two years. As you become an upperclassman, many of your courses include the advanced engineering courses and motorsports technical electives.

The motorsports concentration requires participation in motorsports-specific technical elective courses, which include Automotive Power Plants, Road Vehicle Dynamics, Aerodynamics and many other choices depending on what is offered that semester.

In the fourth year of the Mechanical Engineering degree program, motorsports engineering students are required to participate in a two-semester Motorsports Clinic. The Motorsports Clinic is an intensive automotive/motorsports engineering related project.

In addition to the undergraduate program, UNC Charlotte also offers a BA in the new Sport Marketing and Management program in the Belk Business School. This won’t give you a motorsports engineering education, but a business approach to a motorsports education.

There are also four motorsports engineering competition teams available for students to participate in, and motorsports engineering students are strongly encouraged to participate in at least one. UNC Charlotte’s programs include Formula SAE, SAE Mini-Baja, Legends and Drag Car racing.

If you’re interested in a motorsports job, a motorsports education at UNC Charlotte will provide a great start. According to the school’s website, roughly 10% of NASCAR engineers are graduates of UNC Charlotte. You can view a video overview of the school and its resources here.

Motorsports Engineering and Formula SAE

June 8th, 2011

Are you working to become a motorsports engineer or pursuing a degree in motorsports engineering? Or interested in a career in racing? Then you’ve probably heard of Formula SAE. But do you really know what the program entails? Let’s explore Formula SAE and what it can mean to your motorsports engineering future.

Formula SAE and Motorsports EngineeringFormula SAE is a racecar design competition for students that is organized and run by SAE International (formerly known as the Society for Automotive Engineers). The original concept was that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small Formula-style race car. But today, the main undertaking is to design, produce, test and race a prototype race car at the annual competition in May.

There are two competitions each year – one in California and one in Michigan. The Michigan competition is the largest and longest running.

Chances are, the school that you are attending already has an existing Formula SAE team. If not, you can form one, but that’s a much more involved topic and will require contacting SAE International directly.

The great thing about joining an existing Formula SAE team is they already have a foundation laid for the organizational structure of the team – they have a faculty adviser, an established workspace and equipment, and upperclassmen that have already participated in a Formula SAE competition.

Both the faculty adviser and the upperclassmen are great resources for you, and should be appreciated and utilized as you begin your Formula SAE journey. They will be valuable both in terms of the competition and in the future, as they clearly have interest in motorsports engineering like you do (and it’s a very small industry!).

Preparation for the competition (designing and building the car) usually begins within the first few weeks of the semester so it’s important to identify the person in charge of the team quickly to sign up and get started. One of the first things the team does is identify potential team members and look for sponsorship. Getting in on the ground floor will expose you to a variety of aspects of motorsports education.

Before you enter into this process, you should also understand the safety risks of participating in the project. You will be exposed to a variety of machinery and tools in addition to the actual race car. Being careful and aware of your surroundings at all times is crucial to the success of the program overall.

Then comes the fun part: motorsports engineering! You design the car from the ground up. Very little on a race car is new, and Formula SAE isn’t the place to develop new technology. Unfortunately, teams do not have the time or budget to come up with technological breakthroughs. But that’s not a bad thing. Designing and building a car from scratch takes a lot more time and effort than it would seem, and it’s more important to understand the basic principles of motorsports engineering than jump directly into automotive technology breakthroughs.

No matter what function, if you are interested in motorsports engineering or a career in racing, you should be taking advantage of one of the few applied motorsports education activities that are available at some schools and participating in Formula SAE. Don’t worry – you’ll enjoy it!

Video Overview: UNC Charlotte Motorsports Engineering

May 26th, 2011

Today, we have a new video from UNC Charlotte’s Motorsports Engineering program. The video gives some insight into the motorsports engineering degree as opposed to a regular engineering degree and what that means: motorsports engineering projects.

The video takes a look into the The Alan D. Kulwicki Motorsports Laboratory, which is completely outfitted with a complete engine shop and all of the tools used in major motorsports settings like NASCAR and the IRL. You can also see some of the project cars, including a drag racing car, NASCAR car of tomorrow, legends cars and a Formula SAE car that is completely designed and built by students.

Check it out:

For more insight into motorsports engineering programs, check out the videos on the program at Old Dominion University and watch here for more reviews!

Job Posting: Designer/FEA Engineer for Red Bull Racing

May 19th, 2011

If you’re looking for motorsports engineering jobs or a career in racing, this may be the job posting for you:

Red Bull Racing, Inc., part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with drivers Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers, is looking for a Design/FEA Engineer.

Requirements: 3 years of racing experience, experience with Siemens NX, Chassis and Suspension Design.

Red Bull offers a comprehensive benefit program and is an Equal Opportunity Employer. For consideration, submit your resume via our career link at or submit a resume to Please include the job title in the subject line of your submission.

Note: For those of you who are qualified and considering applying for this motorsports engineering job, you already know what an FEA engineer is. But if you’re here looking to learn more about careers in racing, here’s some help:

FEA stands for Finite Element Analysis. It is a type of engineering analysis – specifically it is one of the most powerful and commonly used function of the CAD software that is used by engineering professionals every day. By doing an FEA analysis, motorsports engineers can analyze components for stress-strain, heat transfer and many other properties.

If you want to learn more about AutoCAD software and how it is used, you can check out AutoCAD 2010 for Dummies or AutoCAD 2011 and AutoCAD LT 2011: No Experience Required.

Video Overview: Motorsports Engineering at Old Dominion U

May 11th, 2011

Today we’ve got an overview of the motorsports engineering technology program at Old Dominion University. Old Dominion, located in Norfolk, VA, teamed up with the New College Institute, in Martinsville, VA, to offer a join program in motorsports engineering. By completing the program, students will earn a B.S. degree in motorsports engineering from Old Dominion. The schools also offer a Master’s degree in motorsports engineering as well.

Here’s a video overview of the program, it’s goals and methods, narrated by Dr. Fred Lopez, the program’s director:

The program is designed to be flexible enough to apply to all realms of automotive technology and engineering, so students can pursue both motorsports jobs and other career paths. Motorsports scholarships are not officially detailed on their website, but general engineering scholarships are available.

IUPUI teams up with USAC for Motorsports Engineering Program

December 11th, 2010

USAC Racing Motorsports EducationIUPUI and the United States Auto Club (USAC) have announced a partnership that will offer IUPUI Motorsports Engineering students the opportunity to assist in managing and promoting nine USAC Midget Series events at the Speedrome in Indianapolis in 2011.

Students from the Motorsports Engineering Program in the School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI will work alongside USAC staff and officials in USAC Regional and National Midgets Series events. Some learning opportunities include areas such as journalism/public relations, marketing/promotions, graphic design and media, in addition to performing technical inspection and timing and scoring duties on race days.

Internships credits will be offered for Motorsports Engineering students who participate in the USAC events. Students will be prepared for motorsports careers and careers in racing by seeing the ins and outs of running an established sanctioning body and executing race events.

Because practical experience is extremely important to a well-rounded motorsports education, IUPUI and other programs are offering more opportunities for students to get involved in racing beyond traditional experiences.

Learn more about motorsports engineering and auto racing schools in our Schools section.

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