Data Acquisition Engineer
Patrick, works for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. He has a COOL JOB as Data Acquisition Engineer.
Data Acquisition Engineer for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. "I really became interested in what my career path would be when I was at college earning my engineering degree. I have been involved with automobiles my entire life (family owns car dealerships) and had enjoyed watching racing. Why not use my engineering degree to do what interests me?" Patrick said.
A Day In The Life Of:
At the track on a race weekend, Patrick has specific tasks that he is responsible for. Thursday is basically just a setup day. The transporters are parked, all equipment is unloaded into the garages or under a big canopy tent. The mechanics get the cars out and put them on the setup pad. The setup pad is where they make the very critical adjustments to the suspension that the engineers specify. Patrick is responsible for every sensor that is on the car."I plug in my laptop to the car and check that the sensors are reading the proper calibrations. I also upload any new changes to the car, including different dash readouts, track length, driver info, etc."
Friday and Saturday are practice and qualifying days. When the car is running on the track, they can monitor various parameters by way of telemetry. The car transmits back to the teams engineering stands in pit lane. The most important sensors to watch during the run are engine parameters, including temperature, pressure, maximum rpms, speed, etc. "As the car comes into the pits to make changes, we plug into the car to download data that was compiled during that run. The race engineer and driver consult on what the car needs to go faster, while the assistant engineer and myself look through the data," Patrick said.
Sunday is race day. Actually, there is not much to be done on race day. There is a morning "warm-up" session for a half hour to make sure that all systems check out on the car after the Saturday night engine change and race preparation. The start of the race is usually 3 hours after morning warm-up. "We 'grid' the cars in pit lane 45 minutes before the green flag waves. Going out to grid is one of my favorite parts of my job. All the cars get lined up with all the crew next to them. You get to talk to other members of the other teams, say hi to old friends, and just check out the scenery. All the photographers are walking around, trying to get the last minute shots before the drivers get strapped in," Patrick said. Once the cars are fired up and head out of the pits, the crew heads back to their timing stands to watch the race. "Hopefully, the start goes well and our car makes it through the first turn, which allows us to exhale. After we win (okay, not everytime), we pack up and head home. The circus moves on to the next city and we do it all over again. Next year, we will have 22 races plus the Indy 500. It is a long season, but very exciting and I wouldn't want to do anything else in the world," Patrick said.
Patrick started to inquire about a career in motor racing his junior year of college. His main investigating tool was the Internet. "I emailed people, looked up racing teams, just tried to find out as much as I could about what it takes to "get into racing", he said. During his research he came across the magazine, Racer, and there was a little ad in the back pages for racing mechanics needed to work for Russell Racing School. He was curious, and called to get some more info about it. Basically, it is a 12-month apprentice program for aspiring motor racing mechanics, where you take care of the school's racecars. "At first I didn't give it much serious thought, due to the location in California, but later that year I went out to visit for a couple of days and the rest is history!"
"I sent out a barrage of resumes to all the professional race teams in CART, Indy Lights, and Formula Atlantic. The Long Beach Grand Prix was coming up in a few weeks and I was planning to attend to meet with teams. I heard back from a few, but mostly just courtesy calls, but I got a call from a team manager of Hogan Racing. He asked if I would fly out to St. Louis and see the shop that next week. Of course!"
He was hired to build and maintain the shock absorbers for the team. "The last race weekend of 1999 was one that I will never forget. When we arrived at the racetrack on Thursday, we were told that we didn't have a team funded for the 2000 season. We were all kind of in shock the rest of the day, but then realized we needed to find jobs, so I went back to the hotel that night and updated my resume and printed out about 15 copies," said Patrick. He talked to all the team managers the next day, and by Saturday morning, he had an offer from the best team to be a part of their engineering program. "I was very excited, called my wife, told her about it, and went back and accepted. We sold our house in St. Louis, bought one in Indy and moved here last December."
"Traveling to great places: Japan, Brazil, Australia (wife got to come with this year), Vancouver, Toronto, Monterey, CA, and next year, Germany and England."
"Being away from home. This year, I will have been away for approximately 140 days."
"This industry can be very lucrative. I hope to make a ton of money and retire early!"
Words from the Wise :
"I spent a lot of time figuring out how to "get into racing." My search started online trying to locate people or race teams to talk to," said Patrick. He also said that one of the best things to do is go to race weekend and just observe what is going on with the race crews. Get a garage/paddock pass, go early in the weekend, and just hang out and watch. You can learn a lot about how teams operate, who does what, and why they do it. Every team on the professional level is looking for someone with racing experience, he said. "I would bet that just about every region in the country has groups of small time amateur races and they are a great place to start. Go to a race and ask some of the racers if they want any help. You will learn the basics very fast and this opens the door to bigger and better things to come."
BS - Mechanical Engineering, University of Dayton '97.