After an eventful summer of Legend Car racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a group of students at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte have created a new “formula” for racing success. 

The UNC Charlotte Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) program, a student-run organization, provides engineering students with the opportunity to work on Formula-style cars. After a 14-year hiatus, this summer marked the group’s return to Legend Car racing at the Cook Out Summer Shootout.

A senior design team partnered with INEX to build a Legend Car from the ground up, then provided the Charlotte 49ers racing team with a striking, green-and-white No. 49 Legend Car to use in gaining real-life experience in setting up the car and racing it on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s frontstretch quarter-mile oval with driver Simon Sanders.

This program was initially started by the late Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 NASCAR Cup Series champion. Kulwicki, who brought his engineering background to NASCAR in the 1980s, sought to provide a hands-on motorsports program for prospective engineers in college. 

“(Kulwicki) was one of the first drivers who was also an engineer and he came out pretty much swinging to the fences with what a lot of people didn't have,” said Wesley Goodwin, the crew chief for the Charlotte 49ers team. “He rolled into the track with just a car and a trailer while other people had full teams behind them, with full support and everything. He came out and did things nobody had done before, but his whole push was for engineering.”

Kulwicki’s passion for innovation continues to run through the UNC Charlotte program with the Kulwicki Foundation. 

“The Kulwicki foundation, they’re fantastic and we wouldn’t be able to do half the stuff we do without them. They are pretty much what keeps us going.”  Goodwin said.

Sanders works with the No. 49 team to adjust the car’s setup and keep track of data over the eight-week, 10-race Summer Shootout. The collaboration among students allows the team to find the problems and fix them for the next week. Their goal this season is to finish in one piece – but to also decrease their lap times from Race 1 to Race 10. 

“I came here and turned the fastest lap I turned, which was a 20-second lap, and then just the second time out the fastest lap I turned was an 18.3,” Sanders said. 

“So, just more seat time and learning the car and learning the setup has really been beneficial to us.”

The Cook Out Summer Shootout concludes its season on Tuesday, Aug. 2, with an action-packed slate of family-friendly entertainment. Gates open at 5 p.m. with Legend Car and Bandolero racing joining a special school bus exhibition race among drivers on Kaulig Racing’s NASCAR team, plus a fireworks show and autograph session.