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Purdue University in Indianapolis program creates pipeline to career in Indy Car

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Crossing the yard of bricks and winning the Indy 500 is a lifelong dream for so many. Right now, students in the motorsports engineering program at Purdue University in Indianapolis are learning what it takes to build a car capable of fulfilling that dream.

Just five miles from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, junior Reed England, from Columbus Indiana, tinkered on a race car during class Wednesday.

“I kind of grew up into this atmosphere that the month of May is the 500. It is the holy grail of Indiana,” said England. In high school, he decided he wanted to chase his dream of a career in motorsports.

To get there he’s using the Purdue Indy motorsports engineering program.

“As soon as I learned about this degree it’s like, ‘I have to do this. There is nothing else for me,’” said England.

He’s learning from Professor Chris Finch, who has over twenty years of motorsports engineering experience, including Indy Car.

“I’ve literally had students crying on my shoulder thanking me for helping them achieve their lifelong dream since they were a little kid,” said Finch.

Finch uses his experience at the Indy 500 as an engineer to teach his students.

“I tell the students in class everyone thinks Indianapolis is on those two 5/8’s mile straightaways. That’s not where the lap times coming from. The lap times coming in all four of those corners. In qualifying, it’s ‘how little can I turn the wheel and still get the car to arch the corner?’ and it’s all setup driven,” said Finch.

Stories like that help his students learn.

“Take that and then tie it to the engineering side of it, because then all of a sudden, it starts to click,” said Finch.

The program has close ties to multiple racing teams who help guide what is taught.

“They say ‘okay, where your curriculum is now, we need students in three or four years from now to have this skillset,’ and that is invaluable,” said Finch.

“Can be a direct pipeline for a career in the industry?” asked News 8’s Kody Fisher.

“Oh, absolutely,” said Finch.

The program had graduates working on 32 of the 33 cars in the 2022 Indy 500

“Last year when Marcus Ericsson won with Chip Ganassi Racing I got a photo and there are 8 of our students, alumni, or interns,” said Finch. Using connections made in the program, England is hopeful to follow in their footsteps.

“A dream would be to start there. Right there on the Indy 500, qualify, maybe get a podium, maybe you get that famed win, put yourself in the name of the history books,” said England.