Axalta Coating Systems hosted University of Michigan (U-M) business, chemistry and engineering students at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 race weekend Aug. 27-28. The recently announced Axalta/U-M partnership aims to drive awareness and support for STEM and business education. Students had rare, special access to industry leaders from Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports, Michigan International Speedway (MIS) and NASCAR.
“Everyday, the engineering excellence that is essential to racing transfers almost seamlessly into practical applications for the coatings industry,” said Steve Markevich, Axalta executive vice president and president of Transportation Coatings and Greater China. “Our partnership with the University of Michigan, one of the premier research institutions in the world, benefited students who joined us at the track and will continue to be a valuable resource for students and faculty in the future.”
U-M students experienced a wide array of business, engineering and race activities during the weekend. On Saturday, students took part in an interactive panel discussion focused on the fusion of business and engineering at the racetrack. The panel featured Markevich; Gene Stefanyshyn, senior vice president, Innovation and Racing Development at NASCAR; Roger Curtis, MIS president; and Eric Jacuzzi, senior aero/vehicle performance engineer, at NASCAR. Chris McKee, director of business development at the Motor Racing Network, moderated the panel. Topics varied from the advances in racing technology, to how sponsors maximize their visibility, and to how tracks like MIS make the fan experience ever more memorable. After the panels, students toured the track and saw parts of the rain-delayed NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
Saturday evening, Markevich and Jack Hu, U-M vice president for research, hosted dinner at the storied U-M Student Union in Ann Arbor. Guest speakers included Ray Evernham, three-time NASCAR champion crew chief and TV host, and Alex Bowman, substitute driver of the No. 88 Axalta/University of Michigan Chevrolet SS race car for Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the Pure Michigan 400.
“Engineering is problem-solving,” said Evernham. “Work done in this area has taken our sport, an engineering-driven sport, to new levels.”
On Sunday, students returned to MIS to watch the Pure Michigan 400 and the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS with its special University of Michigan paint scheme. Axalta unveiled the joint paint scheme last June at its research and manufacturing facility in Mount Clemens, Mich.
“This was a great weekend for our students to see the amount of engineering and the levels of teamwork that go into race events. The discussions with Axalta, NASCAR and MIS could have gone on all night,” said Chris Gordon, manager of U-M’s Walter E. Wilson Student Team Project Center, which provides students with dedicated space and facilities for student race teams to compete nationally and internationally.