For 16 years, NASCAR and Universal Technical Institute have been like a well-tuned engine and transmission combination that hums along with great efficiency and effectiveness.
That’s why the two entities announced today a new 10-year agreement that will keep UTI as the Official Automotive Education Partner of NASCAR, continuing its role as one of the key providers of both training and graduates for both the motorsports and automotive services industries.
“I think the 10-year extension speaks to the success we’ve enjoyed in this partnership,” UTI vice president John Dodson said. “We have hundreds of graduates in the motorsports industry. NASCAR is all about the automobile and that’s what UTI is all about, training tomorrow’s technicians.”
The announcement was made at the 2015 Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas, where more than 100,000 industry members are in attendance.
UTI began its affiliation with NASCAR in 1999 and added its NASCAR Tech Institute (NTI) subsidiary – the country’s first technical training school offering a complete automotive technology program, as well as a NASCAR-specific motorsports program – in 2002.
The 146,000-square-foot facility in Mooresville, N.C., can train up to 1,800 students at the same time in various disciplines, including fabrication, set-ups, shock absorber technology, carbon fiber body work, engine building and chassis dyno development.
NASCAR Tech has been instrumental in providing hundreds of graduates work on the technical and mechanical side of NASCAR, as well as other motorsports series such as NHRA, IndyCar, World of Outlaws and more.
“You pretty much name it, if it has an engine in it and it races, we have graduates in there,” Dodson said. “There are tons of success stories there, and we pretty much have it covered in every category.”
The basic automotive technician program and the NASCAR add-on takes about 15 months. Dodson said more than 60 percent of UTI/NTI’s students choose to enroll in the NASCAR training program.
Roush Yates Racing Engines counts more than 75 of its 200 employees as UTI/NTI graduates, including quality assurance manager Jennifer LaFever.
Among the engines LaFever has worked on this year include those that powered Joey Logano to his Daytona 500 win and his three victories in Round 2 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“I got hired on at Roush Yates as an intern in the quality department,” the 32-year-old LaFever said. “I quickly became a key player in the department. When I graduated from NTI, they said, ‘Hey, can you run the department?’ So I took on that. It shocked me that they trusted me, it really escalated quickly and the rest is history.
“Without NTI and UTI, there’s no way I would have been as successful as I am – and who knows if I’d even still be here.”
After graduation, LaFever became a mentor for NTI students, particularly females, a role that she continues today.
“If this is what you want to do and you keep working hard, you are going to get there,” LaFever said. “I really feel like my story proved that. You don’t need to worry if you’re a male or female. You just have to do the work, and do the work right.
“It reignites the passion I have when I’m able to share my story and to encourage a female who’s feeling like the world’s against them.”
In addition to Roush Yates Racing Engines, Team Penske employs more than 50 grads on its NASCAR teams, and nearly 20 more on its IndyCar side, the most of any team in motorsports. Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, among others, also employ UTI/NTI graduates.
That also includes several who serve on major team pit crews, such as those of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and others.
“Going to the races, walking down pit road or going into the shops here in the Charlotte region and seeing our graduates and what they’ve been able to accomplish is wonderful,” Dodson said. “We win every week, that’s the way I look at it.”