Growing up, Chris Long ’06 never gave a lot of thought to the inner workings of race cars while watching his father, an amateur road racer, race tracks along the east coast. But now, Long, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from UNC Charlotte and has worked for 12 years in motorsports, says engineering has taught him how to be a better problem solver.

An engineer with Chip Ganassi Racing, Long has had a hand in improving the ergonomics of the team’s cars, helping to mold their shape to make them faster. As a member of the simulation team, he uses computer simulations to measure vehicles’ input and output. And as leader of the quality control team, Long verifies that parts built in-house meet design specifications and ensures that parts from outside vendors meet the proper tolerances.

“I don’t know if I’d be able to do what I do without an engineering degree,” Long said.

As the pace of competition has increased, so has the number of engineers working in NASCAR. It’s a trend that can be traced to the late Alan Kulwicki, NASCAR’s first driver to hold a degree in engineering — and who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Feb. 2.

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Originally published Jan. 31, 2019.