Internship At Chip Ganassi Racing Gives Cody McKenzie Hands-On Experience In NASCARby Hunter Thomas September 5, 2016
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Over the summer, Dillon’s Cody McKenzie lived his dream by working with Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR and Red Bull Global Rallycross teams through an internship.
McKenzie has always had a passion for racing. In fact, if you visit Dillon Motor Speedway on a Saturday night, you may see him behind the wheel of a Late Model from time-to-time. Growing up in Dillon, South Carolina, McKenzie graduated from nearby Francis Marion University earlier this spring with a B.S. degree in Physics. McKenzie concentrated on Computational Physics and minored in Mathematics. The hard work paid off in the end as he not only received a degree, but he graduated summa cum laude. Before he began his journey to pursue a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Clemson University, the South Carolinian wanted to find an internship; however, he never thought that his once in a lifetime opportunity would come through a simple conversation on Facebook.
“I was trying to find an internship in Greenville since I knew I was going to Clemson this fall, and I couldn’t find anything,” said McKenzie. “I said, ‘well I love racing,’ so we asked a bunch of people on Facebook, and one of them was Matt McCall (crew chief, Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 car). Matt McCall said ‘send me your resume,’ and the rest is history.”
After talking with Matt McCall on Facebook, McKenzie began assisting Chip Ganassi Racing with an array of projects, especially with their research and development (R&D) efforts. McKenzie worked with new parts and on programs and code for certain tools that the team uses. He says that a Late Model stock car that he drives at Dillon Motor Speedway isn’t that much different than the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars that he worked on at Chip Ganassi Racing. The 22-year old said that it was all very familiar because the chassis are basically the same. Both cars have two truck arms, as well as an upper and lower A-frame on the front. McKenzie’s internship began on May 23 and ended on July 29.
“It was great having Cody for the internship for the summer,” said Eric Bretzman, R&D Manager at Chip Ganassi Racing. “We’ve got an internship program there. We usually have a couple of guys, there’s a lot to pick from, and we kind of assign guys to different departments inside the engineering group whether it be design or vehicle dynamics. In Cody’s case, the physics background is a little different than the usual automotive engineer or typical thing we see. We were able to put him to work with a couple of different folks in our group and get him involved with some different projects than the usual interns we get, so that was good for us.
“Cody was involved with some project every week that went straight on the race car and then the usual R&D-type projects, which is what I look after at the team, and he was working under our group, but kind of in motorsports on the engineering side, you get to work on everything really.”
For McKenzie, being able to see his hard work play a role in the performance of the race cars was mind blowing. In June, Kyle Larson won a NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Pocono Raceway, and he raced his way into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup two weekends ago at Michigan International Speedway. Even the team’s Red Bull Global Rallycross team found victory at Daytona International Speedway over the summer with Steve Arpin finishing first, followed by his teammate, Brian Deegan. McKenzie said that he worked on parts that were on the team’s cars those particular race weekends.
“It was really cool,” McKenzie said. “Some of the R&D stuff is parts that I actually touched with my own hands, and then they were installed onto the race car. Kyle Larson won an XFINITY race in Pocono this summer, and I actually dealt with some of the parts on that car, and then last week he won, so I had a part in that too. It was really cool, and now being here this weekend at Darlington, it’s really, really cool, because I hadn’t actually been to the racetrack since I started working with them.”
McKenzie was in attendance at Darlington Raceway this past weekend for the Bojangles’ Southern 500. It was his first time being able to venture to the track and hang out with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race teams. The internship was just for the summer, but it will forever be a memorable opportunity that will hopefully be the beginning of the career in the sport for McKenzie. Now that the opportunity has concluded, McKenzie will shift his focus to studying hard towards his Master’s degree at Clemson University.
Photo Credit: Wayne Thomas