By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
The University of Kentucky graduate participated in the internship program during his senior year of college. Rahman, who graduated high school at 15-years-old, used the internship program to network once he reached North Carolina. The program gave the Mechanical Engineering undergrad the connections, and friends, that he still has today within the NASCAR industry.
“The biggest thing with that internship program was really just getting me out to North Carolina because senior year of college, I was trying to figure out what I could do to either get like a full-time job or something on the engineering side,” Rahman explained. “It’s just hard. At the time teams weren’t really hiring. With the college schedule, sometimes it’s hard to get in at the right exact time if you’re graduating later in the year or whatever.
“So, it’s hard to find something, but the diversity internship program helped me commit something earlier in the year. By February or March of 2019, I kind of knew that I had that lined up. The biggest thing out of that was just being able to network and meet people like the internship itself was overall short, about 10 weeks, but I met so many people during that time period.”
It was those connections that Rahman made that aided his journey to Venturini Motorsports. While the Drive for Diversity Internship program did place him with a team, the program was only 10 weeks. There was no guarantee that once the 10 weeks ended, that he’d still have an opportunity.
That’s where the networking and the connections that Rahman had made came in. First, he worked with Rick Ware Racing. During that time, he was named the recipient of the Outstanding Intern Award at NASCAR’s Diversity Awards banquet in 2020.
From Rick Ware Racing, Rahman joined Venturini as a race engineer. Working both behind the scenes in the sim and at the track, he helps verify the data that the team is working on. There’s also been four races to date in which the Frankfurt, KY native has served as the crew chief.
“Whether it was NASCAR with teams or just making other friends trying to make it into the sport,” Rahman said. “It just helped me build a network out here. I still had to find my own path after that and that’s not to say that people didn’t try to help me or anything. But it wasn’t just like an automatic ‘you’re going to be able to immediately place with the team or whatever.’
“There’s still a lot of legwork to figure out how to get from that internship to a full-time engineer position or engineering job as a whole, but being out here with that network and that support group is really helpful.”
Though Venturini has four cars in the national ARCA Menards Series tour, they also field a full-time entry in the ARCA East and ARCA West divisions. That’s in addition to part-time entries in each division.
Venturini has recently returned to form with an uptick in performance over the past two-three years. Rahman was quick to say that it’s a team effort, nor that the team was far off from where they needed to be. The 15 to 20-person crew also makes the championship-winning ARCA squad a small family type of feel.
“Our fundamentals were never crazy off or anything, but it’s let us find so much more speed and just be so much more consistent across all four of our cars. We’ve learned well from it, so for me right now, this engineering role’s really been the best of both worlds because it’s let me learn a lot about setup.
“It let me learn a lot about how the Toyota tools work and how simulation in general works and how you need to be able to manage that and correlate it to realize with a really short turn around. The best thing here too is since we are relatively small and mostly small, I mean we’ve probably got like 15 to 20 people max working across all four cars.
“It’s been a way for me to get so much more hands-on experience and really learn way more than just sitting at the computer and doing engineering like I’m on the set of play and I’m helping them figure stuff out.”
As an engineer, Rahman has been given the space to learn and develop his skills. In three of his four races on top of the pit box, Rahman has earned top-five finishes. Most weeks, he serves as a race engineer.
His ultimate goal though is to be a race-winning crew chief in the NASCAR Cup Series. Although that is down the road, in Rahman’s career to date he’s already notched his first career victory with Hingorani at Kern County Raceway Park.
“They’ve been really huge in terms of just letting me learn and develop me on all that,” Rahman stated. “Being the best engineer I can be is going to help me out longer if being crew chief is my goal. But it’s been awesome to get the crucial experience as well just to start being able to understand how to manage that and how to look at it from an overall perspective rather than just focusing on engineering.”
That victory with Hingorani at Kern County was history in two ways. It marked the first time that one organization won two ARCA races at two different tracks on the same day. Rahman also became the first graduate of the Drive for Diversity internship program to become a race-winning crew chief.
Others that have been in the internship program have won races as crew members, but Rahman’s the first to being leading the team. He’s also the first to have South Asian heritage, complimenting Hingorani becoming the first driver of Indian descent to win an ARCA race a week earlier.
However, the historic achievement that Rahman accomplished hasn’t quite sunk in for the 23-year-old. After celebrating the win in victory lane, he was already focused on the upcoming races at Dover Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway, as well as Hingorani’s progress behind the wheel.
“I haven’t gotten a chance to really think about it because as soon as we finished (at Kern) it was like ‘alright, we got to start figuring out Dover and Kansas,” Rahman admitted. “It’s been hectic here for sure, just with running the full main schedule and with Sean running the full East and the full West schedule and adding a couple cars here and there with the East Series. So, it’s been hectic for us this year for sure, but it feels good.
“Sean’s really refreshing to work with just because although he has a straight up lack of experience in terms of stock car racing and just racing in general since he doesn’t really come from that background. It’s been nice to work with him and just see his speed potential. He’s been getting a lot better every single race we’ve had with him from practice to qualifying to the race.
“He’s gotten better with us and we’re four races into the season, so I feel really good about where his potential is. I think we can work with him for sure and see where we end up at the end of the year.”
Rahman is one of the only crew members with South Asian heritage in the NASCAR or ARCA garage. While there is not a lot of representation of people from South Asia, he is not fazed by the lack of representation. Rahman knows that the cultural difference drives some to other fields of study and work.
His parents recognized his drive and determination to be in NASCAR. They instilled a competitive attitude and a drive for perfection in Rahman, though they were quick to make sure that he knew exactly what he was signing up for, long hours, good and bad days, and ultimately, success.
“My parents came from Bangladesh back in 1992, 1993 and they moved to Kentucky a little bit after that,” Rahman recalled. “You don’t see a whole lot of South Asians in NASCAR, but it’s never really phased me too much just because I’ve wanted to do this so bad. From a cultural perspective people from South Asian kind of go for more traditional engineering or medical field jobs.
“I’m really lucky that I’ve had parents who really wanted me to do what I wanted to do myself, but they wanted to make sure I did it right. They want to make sure I was competitive; they want to make sure that Iknew what I was doing before getting into it.
“They were so instrumental growing up to make sure that from an educational perspective, I learned as much as I could and from a competition standpoint, they pushed me so hard in academic competitions and whatnot. A lot of that comes from them in terms of the pressure to succeed and trying to like trying to find perfection.”
As part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity, the representation of men and women with different backgrounds is important. Like others throughout the industry like Rajah Caruth, Hailie Deegan, and Ryan Vargas, Rahman is representative of a group of people and someone that they can look up to.
Though currently Rahman’s work is more behind the scenes as an engineer, he is still making appearances on top of a pit box as a crew chief. Earning his place in the industry, he hopes to be able to give back to the Drive for Diversity internship program that helped him out so much.
“I’d love to see more South Asian representation for sure,” Rahman admitted. “It’s hard because I think sometimes people don’t understand how much it means to have other people who’ve had the same background as you, be your colleagues and stuff because you’re able to share so much more when it comes to how you grew up and some of that.
“The biggest thing I want to prove is if you’re good at what you do, and as long as you’re working as hard as possible to maintain that, then the results will always come. That’s been what’s driven me. With everyone at the diversity program helping me out, when I first stepped foot in North Carolina, I want to pay that back. I definitely want to do good for them and show them that that program can be successful coming to the team side.”
Though the weight of that first career win as a crew chief is still sinking in for Rahman, he’s focused on helping his Venturini Motorsports team at the next ARCA race at Dover.