For a self-described “small-town farm boy,” Matt Mote is getting a taste of big-time racing.
A year after interning with IndyCar Racing League, the Hauser graduate and IUPUI student is doing an internship with Hendrick Motorsports in Concord, North Carolina. Hendrick features drivers Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I’m absolutely living my dream, and I’d never guess coming from Hope, Indiana, I’d get to do this,” Mote said. “I can’t describe it.”
Mote, 20, who has been with Hendrick since the second week of May, primarily works with Kahne and Gordon, who is the current NASCAR Sprint Cup series points leader. Gordon also happens to be Mote’s favorite driver.
“Jeff Gordon is my all-time hero, so I would have picked him out of the four,” Mote said. “I got to meet him on the first day, which was pretty cool.”
At Hendrick, Mote works in the vehicle engineering department. He’s traveled to testing sessions with the team, but not an actual race. The July 26 Brickyard 400 will be his first.
“It’s been the best of both worlds because I’ve gotten to travel with them,” Mote said. “I’ve gotten to design. I’ve been to a lot of tech sessions.”
Last summer, Mote worked as an official on pit road during IndyCar races. He did a lot of inspection and pit tech work.
“I really liked that,” Mote said. “I was never an IndyCar fan. I was always a diehard NASCAR fan. That gave me a good introduction into that and to racing in general.”
A year earlier, Mote interned with Cummins Tech Center during his senior year of high school.
“The past three years, I’ve got to experience a lot of different types of engineering,” Mote said. “In racing, not only do you have to worry about the engine, you have to worry about the car and different conditions. Racing has always been a true passion.”
That passion was developed early for Mote, who got into go-kart racing with the help of his grandfather, Bob Mote. Although it took Matt three years to win a race, he was hooked on racing.
“That’s really what started everything,” Matt Mote said. “I’ve always been a big NASCAR fan, but whenever I started doing it myself, that’s when the true passion came. Racing can do a lot for someone, but it actually made me who I am. It taught me the mechanical stuff, but it also taught me the life skills like perseverance, dealing with defeat. It taught me how to learn from my mistakes, having a set goal and achieving it.”
Now, Mote competes for IUPUI in the Purdue Grand Prix. He was crew chief as a freshman and driver as a sophomore.
As vice president of IUPUI’s Motorsports Club, Mote has headed up the team’s Purdue Grand Prix efforts the past two years.
“I’ve always kind of been the person behind the scenes, so when I went to college, I wanted to step out and do more,” Mote said. “I’ve always been kind of the shy kid. When I interviewed at Hendrick Motorsports, I never thought I’d get it just because of the competition. But I talk a lot, and I always have a smile on my face. I have fun with things.”
Mote, who is also a student ambassador at IUPUI, is thankful for his family and for Dr. Terri Talbert-Hatch, the assistant dean of student services at IUPUI.
“She’s been huge in helping me, really a big mentor,” Mote said. “The school is the one who paved the way to get there. That’s why I can’t thank Terri enough for what she’s done, and all the professors. They’ve been great.”
“Matt is a good student, and he’s also had to work hard,” Talbert-Hatch said. “It doesn’t come naturally to him, but what I see in him is passion. To be successful in motorsports, you have to have passion because it’s not a five-day-a-week job.”
Mote’s internship with Hendrick has made him realize that he wants to work for the organization when he graduates from college.
“I always dreamed of something with racing,” Mote said. “My ultimate goal would be crew chief, race engineer, something along those lines with Hendrick Motorsports. It’s nice to get that opportunity with the dream team.”