By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
Chick, the 21-year-old from De Soto, Kansas, earned her first top-five finish in the ARCA Menards Series finishing fifth in the season opener at Daytona. On top of running full-time in the ARCA Menards Series, Chick is also a junior at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering with two minors; Economics and Entrepreneurial Studies. In addition, she is also pursuing her Master’s Degree in Engineering Management.
No easy task, especially when running as many ARCA Menards Series races on the schedule as possible as well.
” I think this is a great question,” said Chick. “I am pursuing my Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering, with two minors (Economics and Entrepreneurial Studies), AND my Master’s in Engineering Management at the same time. This is quite challenging to balance on top of a full-time racing career, but the support I have received from Rose-Hulman, my peers, and my team is incredible. I love what I do and I’m so thankful for the awesome people I have supporting me daily.”
Chick debuted in the ARCA Menards Series last season at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, finishing 18th after being involved in an accident. Chick bounced back in her second race at the Milwaukee Mile, finishing 16th. When the season started getting closer and closer, Chick was one of the only drivers who had known what she was going to be doing in 2023 and that was running a full season, that was until some things caused those plans to be changed.
“We had our plans nailed down rather early,” said Chick. “Since then, we ran into a few conflicts, like schooling, that will not allow us to race a small number of races in the tour. Therefore, we plan to race about 12-14 races this season.
“Still, we have a pretty solid plan and it helps with our planning for big races like Daytona, Talladega, etc. School is always going to be challenging for me since I am in a prestigious school with rigorous curricula, but I think having a plan that is fairly solid certainly helps me plan for my weekends away from school as I can work with professors to make up absences and complete assignments before I leave for my races.”
Though Mandy’s name may be new to your ears, Mandy’s father Steve Jr. managed Team Chick Motorsports in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series from 2001-06. When Mandy turned five, Steve Jr. shifted his focus from NASCAR to quarter midgets. As time progressed, Mandy shifted to “big” cars running dirt modified and ultimately to asphalt late models.
“Wow, where do I even begin?” asked Chick. “He did scale back his racing years ago to help me build for my dreams and goals. He has sacrificed a lot, worked hard, and made it all come together so I can have these opportunities. I am certainly thankful and proud of our small family-owned team. For him, he feels that a 5th place at Daytona was way more than he accomplished as a driver. We have spent many years as a family building to this moment and the Top 5 finish at a world-famous venue was surreal for us, especially since it was only our 3rd race in ARCA. We’re still learning how to process those feelings and return to normal life.”
“I think my Dad’s perspective is he wants me to be happy first and foremost. Past that, I know whatever goals I set in racing or life he will empower me to achieve those and do his absolute best to help me pursue those and be the best I can be. My goal has always been to make it to the NASCAR Cup series, and that has never changed, but I always thought it would be my primary and my Mechanical Engineering would be a backup plan.
“As I have progressed through both my education and racing careers, that plan has evolved. The more I dig into the technical engineering world, the more I learn I have such passion for the industry and will always want to be involved hands-on with something technical no matter what happens with my racing career. In the future, I think finding a way that I can be hands-on in my racing as a full-time career and still be able to drive at the Cup level would be my ideal situation. I know that’s a lot to juggle, but I have always been one to take on a large load!”
Chick runs the No. 74 in the ARCA Menards Series, a number that has been a part of the Series for many years. John Visconti and Visconti Motorsports ran the No. 74 from the team’s inception to its final race at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway in 2022.
Later in 2022 though, Chick made her debut at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, driving the No. 74. Despite not having a connection to Visconti Motorsports, other than the cars she drives, the No. 74 comes from her father Steve Chick Jr.’s truck team. The team switched to the No. 74 in 2004 with Eric Jones piloting the truck.
“I think that’s a great question,” said Chick. “We have changed the number font to be more ours, adding some shading, but we bought John’s whole ARCA program last year and there is no affiliation with Visconti anymore as the team is all ours now. John has been kind to us and helped provide information during our purchase of the equipment and transition to ARCA.
“Now, I am excited to field entries from our family-owned team, Chick Engineering. You did pick up on a vital piece of our history that many do not know about. As you mentioned, my Dad’s truck team did field entries in the No. 74 and to continue this history for our family with ARCA events is exciting.”
As noted above, Chick is native to De Soto, Kansas. The town is a slight suburb of Kansas City sitting 29 miles from the center of the city. Chick’s hometown is just 16 miles away from Kansas Speedway where the ARCA Menards Series races twice a year.
She’s also not the only a Kansas-born female NASCAR driver as Jennifer Jo Cobb is also from the state of Kansas. Other racing names from Kansas include Clint Bowyer, Rick Mears, Roger Mears, Jeremy Petty, Jim Roper, and Johnny Rutherford just to name a few.
“I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am to race at a track that is so close to home. Our fan base is strong in the Kansas City area because of our personal connections and deep involvement in the area, and to finally be able to tell them I am racing at a track like Kansas Speedway, so close to them is so incredible. Kansas Speedway is 20 minutes from my home, and the fact that I get to race at a place I have grown up dreaming of racing is so exciting. I am honored to join this list and show my pride as a Kansas girl.
“I’ll likely not be a resident of Kansas long-term, possibly needing to move as many of the drivers on this list have for their careers. However, I know that wherever I end up, Kansas will always be home to me. I have a lot of family and friends here in Kansas and I will always be excited to come back and visit when I get the chance, on vacation or as I compete at Kansas Speedway in the future.”
Chick also isn’t the first engineering student to race in NASCAR as Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Bill Lester, Brett Bodine, and Alan Kulwicki just to name a few known drivers with degrees in engineering.
“I’ve been working on my race cars hands-on since I was 10 years old,” said Chick. “Growing up in the race shop, I learned so much on the technical side and that sparked my passion for all things engineering, math, and innovation. I was good at math growing up, and that coupled with my ability to work hands-on turning wrenches made engineering a perfect fit for me. I have never looked back.
“My degree is the perfect fit for me, and learning about engineering has made my racing so much fun because I can take what I learn in the classroom back to my team for new ideas and things to try on our cars. Likewise, I think my experiences in racing also assist me in my professional education because I have real-life examples that can help me relate to and understand many engineering topics.”
For small teams, good runs can fuel great runs and great runs can fuel race-winning runs. Despite not running at Phoenix Raceway, Chick Engineering looks at Talladega as just the next opportunity to show just what Mandy Chick is capable of. Looking at funding and everything, the finish at Daytona can do wonders for an organization later on in the year.
“Our fifth-place finish at Daytona certainly has helped us in solidifying our plans for the rest of the year,” said Chick. “Our marketing partners are thrilled, which is always a good thing, and they are excited to continue supporting me and seeing what we can do this season in the ARCA Menards Series. It certainly has given our team confidence in our program, equipment, and strategies.
“We are not going to Phoenix due to a conflict that came up, as I previously referred to, but we will be at Talladega. We are excited and confident coming out of our fifth-place finish at Daytona that we can be a strong competitor for the 2023 Rookie of the Year.”