Lincoln Tech Student Recaps His IndyCar Experience

In early April, Lincoln Tech student Tyler Crist – training for an Automotive Technology career at the Denver campus – was chosen as the first student to take part in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) Mentor Program.  (That’s Tyler on the left with driver James Hinchliffe and Lincoln instructor Tim Smith on the right.)  When Lincoln Tech entered into a sponsorship agreement with SPM, the Mentor Program was a key component of the new partnership.

Tyler and Tim flew to Long Beach, CA and were on hand to watch James Hinchcliffe, SPM’s driver, win first place!  We asked Tyler to tell us a little more about the experience.

An Unforgettable IndyCar Weekend: “Best Weekend of My Life”

–  Tyler Crist

It all started with the plane ride, and that alone was an awesome experience flying west of Colorado for my first time.  We flew low enough to see the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas and the Hollywood sign.

After arriving, we headed out to meet the team. I was already impressed with all the work the team had done just in setting up their equipment. It was there that I met Cole Jagger, a Lincoln graduate [from the Indianapolis campus] and now the team’s aero tech working on the car’s body pieces. I spent the weekend working by Cole’s side learning how the angles of the wing and widgets, which create downforce, are crucial to the car’s ability to grip the track.

The car and every spare part had to be checked and within the specs required to run on the track; otherwise, it could cause a disqualification. The first run of practice went smoothly and the team took laps while the engineers and driver analyzed how the car performed, making changes every couple of laps to get the perfect set up.

The second day didn’t go quite as well when the transmission lost 6th gear and left our car stranded on the side of the track. The team rushed to get the transmission pulled and swapped out before qualifications. It was great to see the teamwork involved in getting the job done.  The team finished the day by qualifying 4th. After the team called it a day, I headed over to the track to see the formula drift and trophy trucks run their races. I had the best seat and I managed to build my racing contacts while I was there.

On Race Day, we unloaded the cars, made changes requested by the engineers, then waited for the race to begin. I was given the opportunity to custom-build a widget for the rear wing, which was on the car during the race. It all came down to pit strategies: there were two-pit or three-pit strategies that teams were running. We went with the two-pit since we qualified at the front and could conserve gas for most of the race.

The pit crew and driver had to work together perfectly to maintain a leading position. It all came down to the last pit where we managed to outrun the other teams, putting us in first place with 10 laps to go. The nervous pit crew didn’t watch until there were only two laps to go, when we all stood glued to the TV monitor cheering James Hinchcliffe on to victory. We took the win and headed down to Victory Lane to celebrate as a team.

This was the best weekend of my life, and an experience you don’t usually get with your first race. It reminded me of why I joined this field in the first place and to never give up on my dreams. Everyone on that team had to start where I am too and look what they did with it!

The words that will stick with me are what [SPM] expects from their hires and what our Lincoln Tech instructors preach to us every day:  “Tuck your shirt in, look presentable, show up on time and be ready to learn.” If only everyone could see that no matter where you go in this field, presentation and attendance will be the most important steps that help make you successful!

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