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Katelyn Bernasconi Cherishing Role at Roush Fenway

Katelyn Bernasconi looks ahead to her bright future with Roush Fenway's No. 16 XFINITY team. (Photo courtesy of Roush Fenway Racing)

For most young New Englanders, sports is a common field in which dreams of being the next superstar icon for the Boston Red Sox or Boston Bruins is frequent.  Few consider the prospects of being a part of the motorsports industry, particularly with NASCAR.

Much like that hockey star or baseball slugger in waiting, those chasing down a dream career in racing have to battle against the fiercely talented competition who also have their eyes on making it big.

In the case of 24-year-old Katelyn Bernasconi, her dreams became reality as a result of her father’s passion for this sport.  Cutting her teeth in go-karts against her brother, to say the least, her introduction into racing resonates for those who were bitten by the NASCAR bug.

“My dad grew up racing,” Bernasconi said.  “When my brother and I were old enough, he put us in go-karts.  We didn’t really know much about it as it wasn’t popular.  We started off small and local.  We learned about the regional races.  We went from there and it was all because of my dad and how he grew up.  It was fun.”

While New England may not be a place where racing is exactly as popular as it is down in the Carolinas or West Coast, it has slowly but surely become a region where the next young racer, or in this case, the next talented racing engineer has made a name for themselves.

Reflecting on her racing journey, Bernasconi, who serves as the lead race engineer of the No. 16 Lilly Diabetes/ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes Roush Fenway Ford team, pointed out to a helpful suggestion from her father.

Katelyn keeping track on the No. 16 team's progress during the race weekend. (Photo Courtesy of Roush-Fenway Racing)

Katelyn keeping track on the No. 16 team’s progress during the race weekend. (Photo Courtesy of Roush-Fenway Racing)

“It takes a lot to make it as a driver but my dad gave me the idea to go as an engineer,” Bernasconi observed.  “I wasn’t sure what that exactly meant or what they did but here I am and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Although most race fans may understand what a crew chief or car chief’s roles are during the race weekend, some might not realize what an engineer does from the time their team’s cars are unloaded from the transporter on opening day to the day of the big race.  Bernasconi walked through some of her responsibilities in her role, which definitely keeps her very busy throughout the week.

“We work with the crew chief a lot,” Bernasconi said.  “From the setup that’ll be put in the car and then doing a lot of simulation work, it’s a lot of computer work as you’d expect, and preparing notes.  We use the pull down rig in the shop and get spring packages ready.

Then I’m working with the team on race weekends, trying to make the cars go fast and fixing the problems that’s presented.  On race day, we’re on the pit box with the crew chief and car chief and those guys making the necessary adjustments and calculating fuel mileage.”

There’s a sense of camaraderie with the No. 16 team, starting from their driver in Ryan Reed, crew chief Seth Barbour, and their lead engineer in Bernasconi.  Joining the team heading into this season, to say the least, her first race with this hardy bunch was quite remarkable and memorable.

“It was my first race with Roush, my first XFINTIY race, and my first win in NASCAR,” Bernasconi said.  “It was a pretty big day.  For all of that to come in Daytona was extra special.  It was awesome to share it with these guys as I think it was everyone’s first Daytona win.  When that happened, it took a while to sink in but to look back now, it’s really special.”

Considering how the team welcomed her with open arms, being a part of the organization that celebrated a sensational victory at “The World Center of Racing” was like icing on the cake.  Maybe coming in a close second to the win at Daytona was last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“You have your friends and family here,” Bernasconi reflected last Friday at Loudon.  “It’d be special to go to Victory Lane and have them be a part of it.  It’s just so nice to be back home.  I grew up driving by this place and now to be able to drive in here and work with the No. 16 team is special.”

Finding herself at home with Roush Fenway and with a team that’s on the upward trend, the Granite State native can take pride with the fact that she’s making a name for herself in the sport while also serving as an inspiration to those who are climbing up the NASCAR ladder.

For those who aspire to be a part of the racing world, Bernasconi offered some honest and helpful advice which reflected on her own journey in this sport.

Katelyn conferring with the No. 16 team, the unsung heroes of a successful NASCAR effort. (Photo Courtesy of Roush Fenway Racing)

Katelyn conferring with the No. 16 team, the unsung heroes of a successful NASCAR effort. (Photo Courtesy of Roush Fenway Racing)

“All of the hard work and effort that you put into it…if you want it, you can get there,” Bernasconi said.  “The biggest thing is networking and making contacts.  That was huge with moving down South and meeting everybody.  It just takes that one person and once you get in, you meet everybody.  Keep working hard, chasing your dream if it’s there, and network.

Keep working at it.  There were points in my career, whether it was in school or graduation, in trying to get a full-time job, that you kind of make yourself think that, ‘Maybe this isn’t possible.  Maybe it’s too big for me.’  As long as you keep working at it, that’s really the biggest thing.”

When the going gets tough, that’s when the best rise to the occasion.  Time and time again, some of the most inspirational racing stories have come from those who’ve hailed from an unknown part of the country and have worked with absolute focus and drive to turn their dreams into reality.

Katelyn Bernasconi’s dreams have come true as an engineer who’s enjoyed that winning moment at Daytona and as an integral member of a team that’s on the rise.  Humble, friendly, and most of all, innovative, there’s plenty of chapters to be written and completed with her racing story.  Based on the way these first moments have gone, the potential for even more wonderful, winning experiences are definitely there, potentially with this weekend’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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