December 19, 2023

Racing executives cite critical workforce need during visit to Purdue University in Indianapolis

Symposium creates crucial connections between Purdue motorsports engineering students and industry leaders

INDIANAPOLIS — At the first motorsports symposium at Purdue University in Indianapolis, a wide array of topics were on the table. While machine learning and AI, electrification and hybrid technologies, driver safety, and autonomous racing were all discussed, one thing was made clear: the critical need for a skilled workforce.

Purdue University in Indianapolis motorsports engineering students and graduates took the first step toward filling that void by connecting in person with potential employers on Dec. 6 at the Lilly Auditorium in Indianapolis. Spearheaded by motorsports engineering program director Chris Finch and associate professor Hamid Dalir, the symposium put Boilermakers in front of industry leaders from racing teams like Andretti Global, manufacturers like Dallara USA and Goodyear Racing, and cutting-edge innovators from the Auto Research Center.

“The goal of this symposium was to provide a platform for motorsport industry leaders to highlight the research and educational requirements of the industry,” Finch said. “It gave our faculty and students a great networking opportunity and better understanding of the unique technical nature of working in motorsports.” 

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During the symposium, which included keynote presentations, a question-and-answer panel and several informal networking opportunities, the workforce subject repeatedly arose. Alex Timmermans, chief engineer at Dallara USA, said finding qualified applicants was one of his biggest challenges. Other panelists, such as Henri Kowalczyk, echoed those sentiments.

“In my 20 years, the hardest part of my job has been finding skilled talent,” said Kowalczyk, chief operating officer at Auto Research Center. “It definitely helps knowing the background of the (Purdue) program as these students rise to the top of our resume list.”

Purdue University in Indianapolis has helped address workforce concerns as the nation’s only ABET-accredited undergraduate motorsports engineering program. Between its campuses in Indianapolis and West Lafayette, Purdue has propelled students and graduates to impactful careers in the highest levels of racing, including NASCAR, IndyCar and the International Motor Sports Association.

That impact isn’t limited to just the track, as many have gone on to work for manufacturers in the motorsports space such as Cummins, a global power technology leader, and Dallara USA. At Dallara, five of its seven full-time engineers are graduates from the Purdue engineering programs in Indianapolis. 

The motorsports industry’s influence is particularly felt in Indiana, where hundreds of employers and thousands of jobs, which exceed the state average wage, are located within the state’s borders. That leads to $2 billion in annual economic impact for the state, Rollie Helmling, senior advisor for motorsports at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, told symposium attendees.

Thanks to world-class facilities like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway and Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in Brownsburg, nearly a dozen NTT IndyCar Series teams have offices in central Indiana, and several NHRA teams, like Tony Stewart Racing and John Force Racing, are based in the area. The headquarters for both Dallara USA and Allison Transmission are less than five miles from the physical footprint of what will become the Purdue University in Indianapolis campus in 2024.

“Being in such proximity to the heart of the motorsports industry is a real advantage that allows us to connect students with potential employers right in our backyard,” said Dan Hasler, chief operating officer of Purdue University in Indianapolis. “We can bring in students from all over the country to our motorsports engineering program, and they can stay to pursue their racing dreams right here in Indiana.”

About Purdue University in Indianapolis

Purdue University in Indianapolis is a new, fully integrated extension of the West Lafayette flagship campus, expanding the academic rigor and accessible excellence that Purdue is known for to Indiana’s industrial and technological center. As the only public top 10 university, most trusted university and most innovative university in the state of Indiana, Purdue is focused and committed to strengthening its presence in the capital city. Purdue University in Indianapolis will reimagine a collaborative platform that connects students, faculty and local businesses to promote breakthrough discoveries and create a new and direct talent pipeline. Realignment of the existing IUPUI partnership is expected to be completed by the start of the fall semester in 2024. Learn more about Purdue’s latest giant leap at

Writer/Media contact: Derek Schultz, 

Sources: Chris Finch, Dan Hasler, Alex Timmermans, Rollie Helmling, Henri Kowalczyk

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