Lincoln Tech mentoring program puts student in pits of IndyCar team

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Lots of college students get internship and job-shadowing opportunities, but how many get to participate in pit activities at the Indianapolis 500?

Not many, but at least one does courtesy of a mentoring program between the Lincoln Tech vocational school and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.  

Launched last year, the program allows a student and instructor from one of Lincoln Tech’s 12 automotive schools across the country to participate in five IndyCar races, under the tutelage of Schmidt Peterson, giving a total of five students and instructors the opportunity to attend the races.

The races are the IndyCar Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500, followed by the DXC Technology 600 June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway, ABC Supply 500 Aug. 19 at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania and Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Aug. 25 at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis.

“It gives us an opportunity to build relationships with the best and brightest students that Lincoln Tech has to offer,” said Jon Flack, president of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. “When we have a need to fill more roles, we put ourselves first in line for great talent.”

For this year’s Indy 500, Eroel Costilla, a student at Lincoln Tech’s local campus, along with instructor Jerry King, have been selected by the New Jersey-based school to participate in the race.

To be selected, students need to write an essay explaining why they’re interested in the mentoring program and get recommendations from faculty, said Scott Shaw, Lincoln Tech’s president and CEO. Grades and attendance also are factors in the selection process.

“Our whole mindset is around giving students skills to get them employed,” he said. “This raises the experience and creates something for them to strive for.”

Lincoln Tech picks up the travel bill to get the students and instructors to the races. The Indianapolis 500 is the only race this year in which both will be from the local market.

The student/instructor pair shadow a member of the Schmidt Peterson team, help set up the pit areas and sling tires—just about everything except participating in actual pit stops, Flack said.

The mentoring program between Lincoln Tech and Schmidt Peterson was suggested by John Barnes, who owned the former Panther Racing team. A Lincoln Tech graduate, Barnes now serves as a consultant to Schmidt Peterson.   

Schmidt Peterson had planned to field four cars in this year’s Indianapolis 500, but James Hinchcliffe failed to qualify, throwing a wrench in this year’s plans for the mentoring program.

Lincoln Tech’s student and instructor, who had planned to be in Hinchcliffe’s pit, now will be assisting Robert Wickens, who is starting 18th. Other drivers on the team are Jay Howard (28th) and Jack Harvey (31st).

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