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#Hendrick30th spotlight: Design engineer Nathan Carter reveals his passion outside of racing

You’ve been training for this exact moment for months. Your heart is pounding as you step up to the line, ready and in position.  You visualize the perfect run – staring down the A-zone of the paper target in front of you. The one phrase flashing through your head is, “Trust in your training and follow it.” Then you hear the high-pitched buzzer, signaling you to begin.

In my five years of competing in sharpshooting, I’ve learned that mental preparation is a major key to success in the sport. My teammates and I – fellow Hendrick Motorsports engineers Jason Cutright and Dan Haught – train both mentally and physically every week to ensure that we are ready when it comes time for our turn in the spotlight. That spotlight is shining brightly on us every year at the Point Blank Range Motorsports Team Challenge, where we’ve won two straight championships while representing Hendrick Motorsports.

It’s an honor to be a part of Hendrick Motorsports at the range and at the track. Although my work is behind the scenes, the precision isn’t any less intense when it comes to designing our Chevrolet R07 engines. Yet again, preparation is key because our teams expect the best combination of power and reliability week in and week out. Our engines can achieve more than 850 horsepower during a non-restrictor-plate race, and working on them is both interesting and challenging. I’ve thought that since arriving here 17 years ago. When I first started here, I was working in teardown and inspection. Having my hands on the engines helped me learn a lot more about the process and kickstarted my creativity in terms of what we can do differently. As the years passed, I worked my way up, and now I serve as a design engineer in the engine shop.

I enjoy the challenges that come with designing components. And these engines are constantly evolving with the times, the sport and rule changes. The adjustments we make to these engines in the engine engineering department might seem insignificant, but as we continue to make more changes week after week, those small alterations eventually add up to a net gain that hopefully is seen on the racetrack.

And in a way, that’s how the competitive sport of practical shooting works – every small change in timing, movement or preparation adds up to be quite impactful during a match. The perfection expected while designing a cylinder head is similar to the standard of excellence that needs to be met during a sharpshooting competition. The detail in preparing my ammunition for a match is just like the care that goes into prepping an engine for a race.

But what’s the biggest similarity of all between sharpshooting and designing engines for Chevrolet SS race cars? The answer is easy: mental toughness. You’ve truly got to be mentally tough to compete in NASCAR, as it really is a sport that is almost as draining mentally as it is physically.

Lucky for us, my teammates at Hendrick Motorsports are tough in both ways because this weekend’s 400-mile event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not an easy one. As one of NASCAR’s most celebrated tracks, there’s a lot of pressure to perform well because everyone wants to kiss the bricks at Indy. And it will be the perfect opportunity to test our toughness when we take on the Brickyard next Sunday. 

Nathan Carter

Design engineer

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