WVU, Rooster Hall teaming up to make racing an educational tool

WVU, Rooster Hall teaming up to make racing an educational tool

SRO America

WVU, Rooster Hall teaming up to make racing an educational tool


Rooster Hall Racing team owners Todd and Michelle Brown had a great idea this past winter to include college students with their Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car road racing effort in 2018.

This idea isn’t new in the motorsports world as students have worked annually with various racing teams throughout North America. But the Browns wanted to work directly with a college program that would promote the Rooster Hall Racing team through its students’ involvement.

“Our connection with Rooster Hall Racing and West Virginia University dates back to my parents meeting while attending the school and then my daughter playing soccer at WVU,” said Todd Brown. “I knew that Formula SAE was a very strong program among the various universities across the country. So, I thought I could promote the Formula SAE program through WVU with engineering students coming to our team and learning. We had a crew chief come through Formula SAE last year who now works for the Stewart-Haas NASCAR team.”

Brown developed an idea with WVU where donors could get involved with the racing team as they do with many of the school’s sports programs. The idea of working with the WVU engineering department and the Formula SAE project at the school was initially met with a lukewarm reception by the WVU administrators.

“A university had never sponsored a sports car in a pro racing series previously,” he explained. “But the school administrators talked with the donor foundation and my parents chipped in with a donation to the school project. Then others became involved and we had enough donors for a sponsorship of the No. 80 Rooster Hall Racing BMW M235iR with driver Johan Schwartz. It’s the first time we know of a college served as a sponsor on a pro team to assist their students in learning.”

The WVA program includes bringing two Formula SAE engineering students to work with the racing team each race weekend, all expenses paid by Brown’s racing operation. And the additional donors for the program helped raise over $100,000 for the school’s Formula SAE program as well.

It’s a dream come true to any engineering college student interested in motorsports and participates in the Formula SAE program at West Virginia University.

For WVA senior engineering students, Mark Zeigler and Justin Moser, the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge racing experience has been invaluable for their future employment opportunities.

“I have worked with the Formula SAE at WVA for the past three years and I heard about the Rooster Hall program through SAE in school,” said Zeigler, who graduates with a double major (mechanical and aerodynamic engineering) this December. “I had worked as an intern the previous summer with the Ganassi NASCAR effort and I reached out to Todd when I heard about the program at WVU. That was around February and I was accepted for the team. And the next month I was in Austin, Tex., at COTA for the season-opening Pirelli World Challenge TC event.”

The WVU/Rooster Hall Racing association has received a good amount of attention around campus and in the local media. The application process has grown since the initial announcement of the school and the No. 80 Rooster Hall Racing/West Virginia University BMW M235iR sports car will be on display at the Sept. 22 WVU home football game.

“There has been a lot of attention around the campus on the Rooster Hall race car with WVU’s involvement,” said Zeigler. “And I know everyone with Formula SAE and engineering departments are excited to have the car at the football game next month.”

Moser, a mechanical engineering major also graduating in December, has enjoyed his racing experience with Rooster Hall and learning about professional road racing.

“I am the team lead with the WVU Formula SAE project right now and getting the opportunity to work with the Rooster Hall Racing team has been a great experience this summer,” said Moser. “They wanted someone at WVU who could bring back knowledge from the Pirelli World Challenge to the Formula SAE project this coming school year. I have learned a lot with Rooster Hall Racing on setups.

“Johan is so enthusiastic about racing and he is great to work with on the car. He really works with everyone on the team to get better. That is great to see for a college student. And winning races was so exciting for us too.”

Schwartz, the veteran racer with two 2018 victories in the No. 80 Rooster Hall Racing/West Virginia University BMW M235iR, has been instrumental in working with the WVY engineering students throughout the 2018 PWC campaign. And the North Carolina driver has mentioned that the Zeigler and Moser have added tremendously to the team and its operation.

“I have been extremely excited about the program from the start,” said Schwartz, a former Pirelli World Challenge series champion. “When I was in school, it was difficult to get practical experience in racing. When you get a job after school, you really get that experience. Now, with this program, you can learn about racing and all of the aspects while still in classes. And then you come out of school with this racing experience. That looks nice on anyone’s resumé.

“You can really set yourself apart from other applicants for a position with this experience and if you show you are a ‘go-getter.’ Todd showed my BMW world record drift video to the class on a podcast and they raised the interest for the Formula SAE students too. Young people know about drifting and they really jumped up to become involved with our team.”

Brown has already proved to school administrators at West Virginia University the value of the PWC TC program this year. And Todd sees similar involvement with other universities across the country.

“The media exposure for TV and other media outlets is getting close to $1 million in coverage with the car, team and the university this year,” said Brown. “That really means the synergy with the team and the school has already made a tremendous impact. And we are looking forward to next year with WVU and I can see other schools establishing similar Formula SAE projects like West Virginia University and Rooster Hall Racing. In fact, I have talked with three schools about replicating our program. I would be happy to explain our model of our program to other schools.

“WVA President (Gordon) Gee is really behind this program and we are trying to bring more engineering students to the university by working in the Formula SAE project. This means more applications to the engineering department and working in motorsports. It’s a great way to learn about racing as a possible profession.”

Ziegler and Moser will be coming from West Virginia University to the Pirelli World Challenge season final next weekend (Aug. 31-Sept. 2) at Watkins Glen International to complete at a spectacular “summer internship” for the Touring Car doubleheader weekend.

“I will drive up for the event after taking an 8 a.m. class,” said Zeigler. “The rest of my professors understand my ‘on the job training program’ and they are very supportive. My dream is to work on a racing team after graduation and this Rooster Hall/WVU program is making it possible.”