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NASCAR Tech Grad Brandon Harder Helped With a Crucial Pit Stop at the Cup Series Championship

Jan 12, 2022 ·
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The NASCAR Cup Series Championship was exciting — especially for NASCAR Technical Institute grad Brandon Harder, a member of Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson’s pit crew.

Brandon was able to help the team pull off a phenomenal pit stop during the final race of the series that helped Kyle clinch the win and the NASCAR Cup title at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 7, 2021. The win was just one of many incredible experiences Brandon has had since graduating from NASCAR Tech in 2008.24

Keep reading to learn more about the team’s winning weekend and how Brandon got to where he is today!

Quick Work by the No. 5 Pit Crew

Phoenix Raceway was all excitement and energy during the NASCAR Cup Series season finale on Sunday, Nov. 7, as the Cup Series champion was waiting to be crowned.

It would all come down to the final pit stop for driver Kyle Larson, where the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 crew provided seamless service that helped him move from fourth place to first on the final round of stops. This helped give Kyle the advantage he needed to pull out the victory.

Brandon Harder, a fueler for the crew, describes being part of the win as an amazing feeling. “It’s always good to accomplish a goal … each year we look to run for a championship, and to do it with the group of the guys we have and with Kyle was a good feeling.”

Hendrick Motorsports tweeted out a thank you to the crew, stating, “They are the reason why we are champions.” When asked about receiving this recognition, Brandon gave a lot of credit to the rest of the crew and team.

“It was awesome to be a part of it — we are just a small part of the big team we have, and everyone plays an important role. For us to knock out a stop like that was a good feeling … the guys were spot on and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone,” he said.

Brandon’s Path to Motorsports

The victory was one of many highlights that Brandon has experienced since joining Hendrick Motorsports after graduating from NASCAR Tech in Mooresville, North Carolina, in 2008.

Brandon grew up in Oak Harbor, Ohio, where he was always wrenching and working on cars with his dad in the shop. Despite his early love and experience with the industry, he ended up enrolling at Bowling Green State University, where he studied construction management.

After spending some time in school, Brandon got to the point where he wanted to be happy going to work and with what he was doing day-to-day. He says he wasn’t really enjoying what he was doing and had heard about NASCAR Tech, which sparked his interest.

He looked up the school online and decided he would head to North Carolina, where the racing community was centered. He remembers coming home to tell his dad and recalled their conversation:

“My dad was working in the garage and I told him my thought process about going to NASCAR Tech, and he said, ‘Yeah, and I’m going to the moon!’ It’s the joke to this day. He dressed up as an astronaut and sent me a picture a few years ago to keep it going,” Brandon laughs.

“It was just me and my dad cuttin’ up with each other,” he adds. “We had a more serious talk after and he has always been supportive. My family has been more than supportive, and I can’t thank them enough.”

Brandon followed through and made the move to North Carolina to start his training. He didn’t know what to expect on his first day, but he felt like he was in his comfort zone.

“I’m not a huge school guy, but if I liked something and was intrigued by it, I did really well. This was something I enjoyed doing and wanted to learn more about, so it was a good experience,” he says.

Brandon completed NASCAR Tech’s 48-week core Automotive program before taking the 15-week NASCAR Technician Training program, where he learned motorsports fundamentals, including pit crew essentials. He says he didn’t initially plan on doing the pit crew end of things, but it just fell into place.

Brandon ended up working at Hendrick when he was getting close to graduating from NASCAR Tech and started in the bottom of the pit department. He gained more experience and was able to move up to the shop in 2010, where he became a backup jackhand and worked in that role for about two years.

After that, the opportunity to fuel the cars presented itself to Brandon.

“In 2011, the new fuel system came out and the crew chief told me he wanted me to fuel the car and take the role head-on because he thought I would be a good fit. I’ve been fueling ever since, and it’s been one heck of a career,” Brandon says. “I’ve been very fortunate and have had a lot of wins and championships, and a lot of good people around me.”6

Brandon says his day-to-day tasks at Hendrick can vary, depending on the schedule for that week. He says he often starts his days in the shop, and then goes to practice and workouts with other members of the pit crew for three to four hours. Then, he heads back to the shop to get more work done.

“There’s not a normal, typical day and it kind of changes through the weeks. I’m typically off Fridays and Mondays and traveling on Saturdays and Sundays, because I’ll do the Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports as well,” he says.

Despite having a busy schedule with a lot of traveling, Brandon does something he truly enjoys — which was his goal when setting out for NASCAR Tech.

Working in the Industry and the Next Gen Car

For others thinking about pursuing a career in the motorsports or automotive industries, Brandon says there can be a lot of benefits.1

“You get to meet a lot of people if you like the team environment — it’s a good way to work with good colleagues. If you like to get your hands dirty and work with your hands, it’s definitely something to look into. Not everyone can do it, so if you get good at your job in the industry and have specific skills, it goes a long way,” he says.

There’s also a lot of potential for starting in the racing industry. Most likely, a NASCAR Tech graduate would start in the pit department or doing post-race teardown, Brandon says.

“Depending on your work ethic, you might start working your way into the shop and different departments, assembling cars, becoming a traveling mechanic for the road, etc. It really depends on how far you want to go and what you want to do,” he adds.

The biggest thing students attending NASCAR Tech or Universal Technical Institute (UTI) should keep in mind is to have a good work ethic, Brandon says. “Effort and attitude go a long way. That’s a big deal at our work.”

With NASCAR’s Next Gen car scheduled to debut in 2022, the racing world is about to look a lot different, but Brandon is excited for the change. He also thinks it will be a great time for new technicians in the field, since they’ll be entering right when these changes are set to take place.

Apart from learning the nuances of the Next Gen car, Brandon doesn’t have too many specific plans for the future, due in large part to the career path he’s already on.

“I’ve been so fortunate to be able to do everything in the sport you could imagine. I’ve been blessed in that way I guess, so it’s been sort of a surreal experience for me so far,” he says.

Training at NASCAR Tech

If you love working on cars and the racing industry as much as Brandon, NASCAR Technical Institute can help give you the experience and education you need to start working toward a career in the field.24

NASCAR Tech’s Mooresville, North Carolina, campus offers the 15-week NASCAR Technician Training program and is the only campus in the country to offer NASCAR-endorsed training. Those who complete the 48-week Automotive program are eligible to apply.

You can find out more by visiting our program page or by requesting more information here!

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1) NASCAR Technical Institute is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

2) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit www.uti.edu/disclosures.

6) UTI graduates’ achievements may vary. Individual circumstances and wages depend on personal credentials and economic factors. Work experience, industry certifications, the location of the employer and their compensation programs affect wages. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

24) NASCAR Technical Institute prepares graduates to work as entry-level automotive service technicians. Some graduates who take NASCAR-specific electives also may have job opportunities in racing-related industries. NASCAR Tech is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

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