Interning at the right places has turned into an offer of employment for one West Virginia University senior.
Upon graduation in December, Mark Ziegler, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major from Glen Allen, Virginia, will officially join the team at Roush Fenway Racing in January 2019, working as an aerodynamics design engineer, working mostly with RFR’s NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series cars.
“I have wanted to work in racing for as long as I can remember,” Ziegler said. “When it became apparent that I wasn’t going to make it as a driver, I shifted my focus to the engineering side.”
The opportunity to dual major in mechanical and aerospace engineering led Ziegler to WVU, since both play a major role in race car development.
“It’s very important to understand the cars from a mechanical and an aerodynamic standpoint,” Ziegler said. “I knew that earning both degrees would help me find the job I wanted.”
In his new position Ziegler will be conducting design work focused on a car’s aerodynamics and will spend some time at the wind tunnel, trying to find ways to better use some of the areas of the car that are more aerodynamically sensitive.
“Mark will be working as a design engineer operating our CAD system and working from concept to design to prototype testing and on to production of items that bring performance to our race cars,” said Kurt Romberg, head of RFR’s aerodynamics group. “His days will be made up of conceptualizing ideas and working on getting those ideas into designs that meet the stringent requirements of professional motorsports. Upon the design release, he will follow this idea through fabrication and onto a model going to the wind tunnel. Assuming positive results, he will then follow this design through production and finally onto the race cars. Mark will also have some responsibility for using our computational fluid dynamics tools to reduce the design variants into a usable number prior to tunnel testing.”
A seasoned team member of WVU’s Formula SAE team, Ziegler completed internships at Arena Racing USA in 2014 and Chip Ganassi Racing in 2017. He spent most of 2018 as a racing intern with Rooster Hall Racing, participating in six touring car races in the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge Series.
Thanks to a gift from WVU alums Dan and Betsy Brown, RHR, which is owned by their son, Todd, and his wife, Michelle, were able to offer two internships to WVU students while also supporting the SAE team.
“Most of what I handled at RHR was pulling and then analyzing data off the car and then debriefing with the driver to understand if any set up changes needed to be done,” Ziegler said. “This was important for me to understand how the cars are adjusted and what the cars are put through throughout a race weekend, so I can better understand how the parts that I design will be used at the race track. Ultimately, that will make me a better design engineer.”
“Experience plays a key role in what we are looking for. Mark had an internship at Chip Ganassi Racing in their aero group; that told us he had some knowledge of NASCAR and how the sanctioning body worked,” said Romberg. “He also worked in NX, which is our native CAD software. His application showed that he had experience as a leader on the WVU Formula SAE team, which can be very helpful when it comes to professional racing. The long hours and willingness to do whatever it takes are things that most pro racing outfits are looking for.”
“Mark has just landed one of the top motorsports engineering jobs in the country,” Todd Brown said. “He truly is capable of being atop the pit box in the future as a crew chief.”
That’s great news for Ziegler, who envisions a long and successful future in racing.
“Ultimately, my goal is to be in a position where I can help put the team in a position to win races and, hopefully, a championship,” Ziegler said. “That’s really the goal for anyone who wants to work in racing.”