NASCAR opens school for fast learners

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

By Jenna Fryer ~ The Associated Press

MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- NASCAR continued its rapid expansion Monday at the grand opening of a school designed to specifically train mechanics and help them break into auto racing.

The NASCAR Technical Institute is a sparkling 146,000-square foot training facility located on 19 acres in the heart of NASCAR country. The school is capable of training 1,900 students a day and ready them for jobs in auto racing.

The school offers two programs -- one lasts 57 weeks, the other lasts 69 -- and consists of traditional technology training, as well as NASCAR specific training. Tuition starts at $24,350 and the first session begins July 1.

"This is a terrific opportunity to get the education needed to participate in our sport," said Winston Cup crew chief Ryan Pemberton.

"We have a need for good people, everyone in our sport always does. It's just a matter of finding them."

Pemberton was fortunate to get his start in the business, convincing older brother Robin Pemberton to let him hang around the shop and do odd jobs during Robin's early days as a crew chief. He learned from watching and said students who graduate from NTI will have an even greater advantage.

"I'm not a good example because I had a brother in the business," he said. "But so many people in this sport try so hard just to get a job sweeping in the shop so they can just get in the door. With this school, a degree from here might help guys skip right over the broom."

NASCAR teamed with Universal Technical Institute to build the school, which requires only a high school degree or a General Equivalency Diploma and has an age requirement of at least 18 years old.

Coursework includes engine construction, electrical, fuel and lubrication systems, drive trains, body and chassis fabrication and racing theory principles. Students will also learn the history and rules and regulations of NASCAR.

Graduates are expected to easily find work, whether its with a race team, a car dealership or a garage.

"What we found with other UTI schools is that the graduates all get jobs," said Gary Nelson, managing director of Winston Cup competition.

"A lot of people have an interest in this, but to actually complete the course shows an enthusiasm and commitment that we look for. If they make it through the course, they should be pretty good."

Nelson envisions graduates landing jobs ranging from mechanics, tire changers, engine builders and even NASCAR officials.

That there's a need for such a school shows how much the auto racing industry has grown since its early days. Crew members are usually educated and are capable of doing everything from building an engine to adjusting shocks and springs.

And with the competitive nature of the sport, top level employees are in constant demand. Plus, the sport now relies heavily on computers and specialized programs to improve the cars and overall racing programs.

Finding people who can fit in isn't always easy and NASCAR recognized that in forming the Technical Institute.

"It's exciting, because we're preparing for the future with this school," said NASCAR president Mike Helton. "We're training prospective team members and crew chiefs and mechanics and helping them get into our sport and lead us."

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