LOUDON — Katelyn Supan, chief engineer for the Chip Ganassi Racing's NASCAR Xfinity series DC Solar team, said that she never really thought that she would have a career in auto racing.
But now that she does, she says it's like living in a different world. “It's not really like the real world. You get to go to cool places and be around cool people. It's pretty cool. I like it a lot.” she said.
Supan, who grew up in Gilford and said that from an early age she was driving go-karts, along with her brother, in small regional races around New Hampshire. “It was lots of fun. I loved it.”
Her dad, Rick Bernasconi, had a passion for racing and wanted to share that with his children.
“He used to race late models at the White Mountain Speedway in North Woodstock and at other tracks all over the state. And it was his suggestion that I might want to look at engineering which got me thinking that might be the career I wanted. Now that I'm there, I realize that I wouldn't want to change anything,” she said.
Supan graduated from New Hampton Prep School in 2009 and enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she earned a degree in engineering. And her credentials and high level of interest quickly landed her a job with Roush Fenway Racing, where she became chief engineer. Her first ever race on the Xfinity series saw Roush Fenway driver Ryan Reed win.
This year she joined the Chip Ganassi Racing Team and is the chef engineer for driver Brennan Poole, who currently is fourth in points in the Xfinity Series.
She said before Saturday's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon that she was looking forward to being back in New Hampshire and getting to spend a little time with her family. “It's really special when we can get together,” she said.
Poole placed 10th in Saturday's race and Supan earned some recognition as she was named to the All-Star pit crew by NASCARonNBC.
Poole placed in the Coca Cola Firecracker 250 Daytona Speedway after winning the pole position for the race. The Chip Ganassi team honored Supan's brother SPC Jaran T. Bernasconi, who is currently serving in the 1st Brigade Combat Team/10th Mountain Division, U.S. Army, based in Fort Drum, New York, by having the brigade's numbers on their car at that race.
Supan has many responsibilities in her role as chief engineer, including the design of the racecar and a lot of simulator work to see what impact any changes will have.
On race weeks she's very involved. “We work with the crew chief on things like setups. We work on things like spring packages and try to fix problems when they come up. We're always looking at anything that will make the car go faster” she said.
On race days, she's in the pit box with the crew chef and car chief and helping out wherever she is needed.
“It's really kind of a dream to be here and be doing the things you love. It takes a lot of hard work and being able to work as a member of a team. To do that you have to be willing to reach out and connect with people,” she said.
Katelyn Supan, chief engineer for the Chip Ganassi Racing Team's NASCAR Xfinity series DC Solar team. (Courtesy photo)