NASCAR, UTI extend industry training program for 10 more years

(Photo courtesy NASCAR)

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.

UTI vice president John Dodson

“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.”

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NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”