Charlotte Motorsports Industry Fuels Innovation
The NASCAR Technical Institute in Moorseville, NC
The NASCAR Technical Institute in Moorseville, NC, provides course work in car maintenace and the history and rules of NASCAR as well as a Pit Crew training program. See more on the motorsports industry near Charlottesville, NC.
“The talent we have here creates a lot of diversification, and the reason we have the talent is because so much of NASCAR is located here. The two are like a knot.”
There is a popular strategy in NASCAR racing called bump drafting. It involves the driver of one car pulling as close as possible to the rear bumper of another, forming an aerodynamic link that enables the two cars to work together and go faster than a single car.
A similar relationship is taking place in Charlotte USA between NASCAR and the numerous industries that support the sport. Approximately 90 percent of all NASCAR teams are located within 50 miles of Charlotte, and the region has several major motorsports facilities, such as the Charlotte Motor Speedway complex, which includes the zMAX Dragway. As a result of this concentration of racing activity, Charlotte USA is home to more than 700 motorsports-related companies.
The bump-draft effect between NASCAR and the sport’s supporting industries has steadily gained speed over the years. According to a 2006 study, the result is a $5 billion annual economic impact in the region, plus technology and innovation in everything from material manufacturing and energy efficiency to military applications.
“With NASCAR, you have an industry that needs a workforce trained in the technological background of high-performance motorsports,” says John Dodson, community / NASCAR team relations director for the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C. “That workforce is here because of NASCAR, and since that workforce is here, it drives other companies here.”
As an example, Dodson points out that JRI Shocks in Mooresville, N.C., began as a company that provided shocks for race teams, but now also builds specialty shocks for tactical military vehicles.
“They have a trained workforce with the capabilities of providing what the military needs,” Dodson says. “The talent we have here creates a lot of diversification, and the reason we have the talent is because so much of NASCAR is located here. The two are like a knot.”
The School of Racing
Since high-performance vehicles are heavily computerized, training is needed that extends beyond what is found in typical automotive classes. But because auto racing is such a specialized field, knowledge also is needed in areas not available in basic engineering classes.
Schools such as the NASCAR Technical Institute provide both. Dodson says students learn all the aspects needed for a career in motorsports, but the information they receive is so widespread that approximately 85 percent of graduates go into fields other than motorsports.
Similarly, UNC Charlotte began a program in 1998 under the umbrella of the school’s mechanical engineering department called the North Carolina Motorsports and Automotive Research Center. Students receive a mechanical engineering degree with a motorsports concentration, focusing heavily on aerodynamics and engine development.
According to center director Mesbah Uddin, approximately 40 percent of the students are from out of state. Uddin says the school has become so popular that five faculty members have been added and the school recently opened a 20,000-square-foot building dedicated to motorsports research and development.
“The skills our students learn are not limited to motorsports,” Uddin says. “Some are working in the nuclear power plant design sector, because the rigorous training they receive in motorsports engineering provides them with sufficient information to tackle any engineering problem.”
Beyond the Track
Windshear Inc., an automotive wind-tunnel testing facility located in Concord, is another example of a company that originated in the Charlotte region because of the high concentration of racing teams, but has expanded far beyond motorsports.
“We’re involved in just about every segment of racing: NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula One teams coming from Europe, road racing,” says Jeffrey Bordner, Windshear site manager. “But we’ve also drawn in customers from production car companies. We’re looking at doing some work with over-the-road truck manufacturers testing scale-model tractor trailers. That’s an area of the business that we’re really growing.
Windshear located in Concord because it is the town where a bulk of NASCAR teams, Bordner says. "The service industry that supports the engineering activities associated with motorsports is drawn here because of all the motorsports activity taking place.”
In High Gear
$5B Annual economic impact in Charlotte region from motorsports 700 Companies connected to motorsports in region 3 State-of-the-art wind tunnel test facilities in region 90 Percent of all NASCAR teams within 50-mile radius of Charlotte