Penn State, Axalta partnership puts students in the driver’s seat at Pocono

Penn State students got a glimpse of NASCAR that few see thanks to a partnership between the University and Axalta, a major player in the sport. Students from Penn State spent time with Gordon's race team leading up to the June 6 Pocono 400. Credit: Bill Zimmerman / Penn StateCreative Commons

LONG POND, Pa. — Penn State students got some high-octane career advice Saturday (June 6) thanks to an exclusive look at auto racing’s technical and business side.

A partnership between Penn State and Axalta Coating Systems, a Philadelphia-based manufacturer of liquid and powder coatings as well as a sponsor of NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, gained some 100 students entry into a world few see — the inner workings of a major race such as the Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400 at Pocono Raceway. The partnership is a means to drive awareness and support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and business education.

Gordon, in his final season of a 23-year career, finished 14th on Sunday in a No. 24 Chevrolet SS outfitted in Penn State blue and white alongside Axalta's company logo.

Smeal College of Business and College of Engineering students got an immersive race experience that included a tour of the raceway’s garages, details on the technology of modern race cars, a glimpse at the business aspects of a major sport and the chance to network with Axalta executives, whose company does business in more than 130 countries.

“In school we learn abstract things like leadership, collaboration, open communication,” said Tony Bae, a sophomore in the Division of Undergraduate Studies. “This is our opportunity to not only gain insights but also apply what we’ve learned.”

Gordon, along with Axalta representatives, visited campus on April 14 to unveil the car’s Penn State paint scheme, take it for a spin on campus, discuss the partnership and sample some Bittersweet Mint ice cream at the Penn State Berkey Creamery. Fans also got a glimpse of the car at the Blue-White game April 18.

On Saturday night, students also attended a dinner with Gordon, racing expert Ray Evernham and Axalta representatives at the nearby Camelback Resort. 

“Its not an easy task to pull off,” said Gordon about the partnership. “We know the work that went in to making it happen, and now I get the benefit of going out there and representing a great school — blue and white — as well as a great brand and company in Axalta. It’s going to be a fun day for me no matter what.”

A four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Gordon is also a three-time Daytona 500 winner and five-time Brickyard 400 champion. 

Four Penn State journalism students are also using the race to sharpen their skills; in partnership with The Centre Daily Times newspaper in State College, students are providing written dispatches and photography throughout the weekend.

The team arrived Friday, covering a press conference and Gordon’s qualifying laps to determine his starting position Sunday. 

The rumble may have sounded like an F-15 taking off, but for those who were in attendance at the unveiling of the No. 24 car it was much more. Multiple Sprint Cup champion and NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon visited the University Park campus to announce the partnership between Penn State, Axalta and the Gordon race team that will result in, among other things, a race car dressed in official Penn State blue and white along with the Penn State name painted on the car. Gordon treated the excited crowd to a demonstration of the car by touring the vehicle on Curtin Road by the Bryce Jordan Center before arriving at the creamery. Credit: C Roy Parker

Last Updated June 09, 2015