Prepping to Race - From Home

Friday, May 22, 2020
Paul Nowell

Before he graduated from UNC Charlotte with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Eric Duncan ’20 was working for Germain Racing, a NASCAR team based in Lexington, North Carolina.

His first day as a race engineer was March 16, or as Duncan puts it, “just in time for the world to shut down.” A mid-sized team in the NASCAR Cup Series, Germain sent most of its employees home due to COVID-19.

Other than the day he applied for the job, Duncan, 23, was not able to go to the team’s race shop until just this week. He is busy, routinely engaging in multi-hour video conferences with his supervisors.

He was hoping to join driver Ty Dillon and the crew when the altered NASCAR season opened on May 17 in front of empty grandstands at Darlington Raceway. But due to social-distancing requirements, only about half the team went to the track.

Duncan was not among them.

While an undergraduate at UNC Charlotte, Duncan gained a lot of experience working for Hendrick Motorsports. Along with his engineering work, he learned about fabrication and other aspects of working for a NASCAR race team.

Duncan was finally able to go to the shop this week, working nights helping the Germain team prepare for the May 24 running of the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Like at Darlington, fans are not allowed to attend the Charlotte race.

“I have been helping come up with some of the race day strategy from the shop, and I am following along with the data we get from the track during the race,” he said. “Being able to do it this way has been able to help me get up to speed with understanding the data that is coming in and how I could use it when I am finally at the track.”

It’s been a lesson in patience for this take-charge individual.

“I have to admit it’s been a little weird,” he said. “Since 2010, I have been wanting to become a crew chief, and this is a big step for me in that direction.”

Facts about UNC Charlotte’s Motorsports Engineering program:

Roughly 15 percent of all NASCAR engineers are UNC Charlotte graduates.

UNC Charlotte Motorsports is located within 50 miles of 90 percent of the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams and five miles from Charlotte Motor Speedway.

 The Motorsports Engineering program offers innovative "hands-on" experiences, allowing students to be some of the most qualified applicants in motorsports.

The program also offers the opportunity to build on an undergraduate motorsports education with master’s and Ph.D. degrees offered in one of the Lee College’s engineering majors.