The business side of racing: Alums seek success on the track

Friday, May 25, 2018

Imagine being strapped inside a turbocharged racecar, virtually unable to move due to the exertion of g-force created by the intense banking of the track’s curves. It is hour three of the 300-mile race, and sweat is dripping as the temperature inside the car soars to nearly 150 degrees. All the while, several other racecars traveling at just under 200 miles per hour are jockeying for position inches away.

“UNC Charlotte has become a hub for engineers who want to get into racing ...
NASCAR has become so reliant on the school to produce highly qualified talent.”  - Matt Tifft

This is the reality for Matt Tifft and Dylan Lupton (’17), two UNC Charlotte alums racing in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series, billed as NASCAR’s “minor league.” Both drivers competed in Saturday’s Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I’m really excited for this race,” said Lupton, who drives the No. 28 Ford for JGL Racing, prior to the race. “I spent a lot of time at Charlotte Motor Speedway while attending UNC Charlotte, but this is my first time racing there.”

Both drivers were enthusiastic about the Charlotte race, but the competition against the top-level Monster Energy Cup drivers – who sometimes race in the Xfinity series – was most compelling for these young drivers.

Matt Tifft's car

Running against the top guys is always a fun challenge,” said Tifft, who drives the No. 2 Chevy for Richard Childress Racing. “We’ve been able to consistently run in the top 5 at the Xfinity level, but it’s a great benchmark to see where your team is at against the top Cup competition.”


While NASCAR is a sport fueled by clashes, at its heart, it is becoming much more of a business. And it’s the business side that brought Tifft and Lupton to UNC Charlotte. With 90 percent of the Monster Energy Cup NASCAR Cup teams located within 50 miles, Charlotte serves as the proverbial epicenter of the motorsports industry, providing a myriad of opportunities.


“The decision to come to Charlotte was similar to someone pursuing a dream of being an actor or model,” said Tifft. “If you want to be an actor or model you go to Los Angeles or New York City, if you want to be in motorsports you come to Charlotte.”


“NASCAR is one giant business,” said Lupton, who graduated last year with a business finance degree from the Belk College of Business. “So being able to earn a business degree and hone my skills within the motorsports landscape of Charlotte has helped me tremendously as I’ve started to build my brand.”


Similarly, Tifft pursued a business management degree while at UNC Charlotte after realizing the importance of being business savvy, especially in a sport where sponsorship deals can hinge on a driver’s ability to be a quality and effective spokesperson.


“I chose to major in business to help me better understand the sponsorship aspect of racing rather than the engineering side that a lot of people do,” explained Tifft.


However, with UNC Charlotte accounting for roughly 15 percent of all NASCAR engineers, the University has cemented its stellar reputation within the automotive and racing industries.


Offering innovative "hands-on" learning, the Lee College of Engineering’s motorsports program provides students with access to state-of-the-art facilities, equipment and high-level practical experience that positions graduates to be competitive in the industry.


“I see UNC Charlotte graduates at every level of the motorsports industry,” said Tifft. “The University has become a hub for engineers who want to get into racing. It’s positioned so well for success being in the center of the racing universe and the large economic engine that is NASCAR has become so reliant on the school to produce highly qualified talent, which is really cool and unique.”


UNC Charlotte's Motorsports Engineering program was the focus of a recent WSOC-TV report. Watch the coverage here.