When Mandy Chick isn’t racing from class to class at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, the mechanical engineering major has stock car racing on her mind, especially this weekend. The full-time student will be driving at the famed Daytona International Speedway, competing in the Automobile Racing Club of America Menards Series.
The 200-mile race on Saturday, which is considered an important rung in the ladder to NASCAR, serves as a lead-in race to Sunday’s Daytona 500.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Chick said she was able to make a test run at the track in January.
“It was the most incredible experience. It was surreal for me because growing up in the racing industry, everyone wants to have the opportunity to go to Daytona,” said Chick.
This is Chick’s first season in the ARCA series, which will take her across the country over the next nine months, running on some of the biggest tracks in the industry. The series serves as a minor-league feeder system for NASCAR. Following this weekend’s debut in Daytona, she’ll then drive her No. 74 Toyota at Talladega Superspeedway and Bristol Motor Speedway.
Chick is a third-generation racer from Kansas; her dad raced and her grandfather built the machines. The 21-year-old has been behind the wheel since she was barely able to see over it.
“About 2005-2006 was when I started getting into racing and quarter midgets at 6 years old,” Chick said. “So really, it’s that deep family history for us. I’ve been in a race shop since before I can remember and working on cars since hands on since I was 10, or 12.”.
Chick is simultaneously pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s in engineering management. Mix in minor degrees in economics and entrepreneurial studies, and time management is a critical function for Chick. That frenetic mix allows her to earn multiple degrees during her four years at Rose-Hulman.
“I work in admissions, giving campus tours, and I love being able to tell potential students that this program (Rose Squared) is here because that’s very unique,” she said. “Not a lot of institutions have an opportunity like that where you can get your bachelor’s and your masters at the same time.”
Her uniform and the car she drives is emblazoned with Rose-Hulman logos. According to the school in Terre Haute, Chick is the only known active racer who is both a full-time student and sponsored by her school.
She says not only is the school supportive of her racing career, but so are her professors, who are willing to work around her schedule.
“I work really hard to make sure I don’t have homework throughout the weekends, on race weekends, and I work with my professors to kind of make sure I get most of what I need done before I leave town,” said Chick. “I can leave town with peace of mind and know that I’m gonna go do my job that weekend and focus on what needs to be done on the track.”
In a male-dominated industry, Chick wants to showcase her educational and racing pursuits as an opportunity to raise awareness in the science, technology, engineering and math fields among women.
“Ever since I was young, racing and now engineering, there are fewer and fewer females at these levels as I continue through both of my careers,” she said. “And that’s really, really big for me to want to do some STEM outreach with younger females and show them that they’re capable.”
Promoting a STEM education and career path among women is an important aspect of the Rose-Hulman sponsorship of Chick’s car. She takes an active role in the school’s outreach program to middle and high school females in the area.
“I talk about being kind, being accepting of others, but also being a driven individual, learning how to make achievable goals and create a strategy to achieve those goals. And I think all of those topics come hand in hand and really tie up to the fact that I’m very passionate about women in STEM fields.”
As if the racing weekend isn’t enough for Mandy’s schedule, she is also facing final exams for Rose-Hulman’s winter academic quarter. She’ll return to campus this weekend to study for those rigorous exams that begin on Monday.
Her course load includes Introduction to Engineering Management, Measurement Systems, Numerical Methods, and Physics of Stars.
Saturday’s race will be carried on Fox Sports 1 starting at 1:30 p.m.