U.S. Army engineers and NASCAR’s Research & Development team share a common motto and ethos: “Let Us Try.”
“Whether it’s military aircraft or the Next Gen Car, it’s all about moving people and things, so there is a lot of carryover,” said CJ Tobin, Senior Engineer for Vehicle Systems at NASCAR and retired U.S. Army Officer. “But for me, the biggest overlap between NASCAR and the Army is that sense of family.”
Tobin came to NASCAR’s Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina, in 2022 following a distinguished career in uniform, which saw him graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point, rise through the ranks of the Army Aviation community and eventually become a Company Commander.
When Tobin prepared for the transition into civilian life, he thought about how he could combine the advanced engineering skills he learned in the Army together with his passion for racing.
Thankfully, the Department of Defense had launched SkillBridge, a hands-on externship program that placed Tobin, then still an active-duty officer, in a working role within the NASCAR organization. With his skills and experience, Tobin immediately began to add value to the NASCAR team and upon completion of the program, he was hired in a full-time role as Vehicle Systems Engineer.
While Tobin was NASCAR’s first SkillBridge participant, he will certainly not be the last – as the company continues to engage transitioning service members through the DoD program. Michael Patterson, a project manager and former jet engine mechanic in the U.S. Air Force, is currently supporting NASCAR’s Sourcing and Procurement team at company headquarters in Daytona Beach.
The involvement with SkillBridge represents a continuation of NASCAR’s longstanding support for the U.S. Armed Forces and veterans, a commitment celebrated through NASCAR Salutes Together with Coca-Cola and other ongoing military programs, including NASCAR Troops to the Track.
Through the recently launched NASCAR IMPACT platform, NASCAR is strengthening its support for veterans with a focus on transition services. This week, in the spirit of Veterans Day, NASCAR launched partnerships with organizations dedicated to easing the challenges of transitioning from active duty to civilian life.
On Nov. 9, NASCAR announced a new endeavor with Texas-based nonprofit Sound Off, founded to help reduce the staggering rate of veteran suicide in the U.S. through an anonymous platform for veterans and active-duty service members to access mental health services.
“We recognize that 47% of veterans won’t seek the mental health services they need, in large part because there is a huge difference between ‘confidential’ and truly ‘anonymous’ support,” said Sound Off Founder and CEO William Negley. “From day one, NASCAR was willing to really lean in and say ‘how can we activate our fanbase to become direct supporters of other veterans and service members’ in a way that not all organizations are willing to.”
Sound Off specifically targets military veterans to join its platform, participate in mentorship training, and serve as mentors for other veterans and service members in need of mental health support. Beginning in 2024, NASCAR will bring Sound Off to its fan base and encourage those who are veterans to become peer supporters through the digital platform.
NASCAR Vice President of Racing Operations Tom Bryant, who served 21 years as an officer in the U.S. Army, announced the partnership on Thursday at Sound Off’s annual Veterans Day event in San Antonio.
“For veterans and service members, talking about issues like anxiety and depression is not easy, but having that conversation with other veterans who share similar backgrounds and lived experiences makes it less difficult,” said Bryant. “We believe in the critically important work Sound Off is doing and know that our sport can have a substantive impact on its mission.”
With a similar focus on mentorship, NASCAR is also partnering with American Corporate Partners (ACP), a leading nonprofit dedicated to providing one-on-one career mentoring to transitioning service members. Through the partnership, NASCAR will enlist employees through its volunteer platform to serve as peer mentors for veterans that have joined the civilian workforce, lending their on-the-job expertise in the areas of career counseling, communications and marketing, and financial skills.
“ACP aims to ease the transition from the military to the civilian workforce by partnering with organizations like NASCAR to provide real, hands-on career support,” said Sid Goodfried, American Corporate Partners Chairman and Founder. “In NASCAR, we have found a partner who is truly committed to putting in the work to this critical shared mission.”
The work with Sound Off and ACP will commence in early 2024, a year that will also mark the 10th anniversary of NASCAR Salutes Together with Coca-Cola, a national celebration of the service and sacrifice of U.S. military members and their families through various at-track integrations, original content features and fan engagement opportunities.
But for veterans like Tobin, NASCAR’s commitment to America’s veterans is a lived commitment that endures 365 days a year.
“We as veterans don’t necessarily need a day when we’re paraded in front of a larger group to say, ‘what a great American,’ ” said Tobin. “It’s not about recognition, it’s about recognizing them as humans and providing them with the real resources they may need.”