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Thank you to Chris Simmons '95, who landed quite the gig in his post-Penn years, for participating in this Q&A...

So you've got a pretty cool job (one that might be dubbed "an engineer's dream job"). Tell us a bit more about what you do, and how you got to this point in your career.
I work for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams (CGRT) as a Lead Engineer on the #10 Target Indycar. In a nutshell this means I am responsible for specifying all of the mechanical, electronic, and aerodynamic settings for the racecar. I am kind of the offensive coordinator for the team and I have a group of engineers, mechanics and technicians that I work with to get the most out of the driver and the car. To be honest sometimes managing the driver and his psyche is more important than the actual car setup, but it takes both to win. As a team we have had a lot of success, although we got off to a slow start this season... but we managed to finish the season by winning the three of the last four races.

I got started in racing when I was seven years old driving quarter midgets which are like go-karts, but with full suspension and a roll cage. I drove all the way through Indy Lights which was the series right below Indycars, kind of like AAA baseball. In 1998 I crashed at Nazareth, PA, and missed two months of the season with a neck injury. I finished out that the rest of that year, but couldn't find a team or sponsors to carry on driving after that. Luckily while I was still racing I earned a BS Mechanical Engineering and a BS Management as part of the M&T Program at Penn.

I got into engineering while my brother drove, and became his engineer in Indy Lights in 2000. I then moved up through the ranks until I became a Lead Engineer in 2008. We were able to win the Championship in 2009, 2010, and 2011 with Dario Franchitti driving.

The thing I like most about my job is we are a relatively small group working on a diverse set of problems. We get to work on everything from aerodynamics and wind tunnels to friction reduction, to electronics and software design. We have even been able to commercialize some of our work and have a group that does consulting and other engineering work for some of the big auto manufacturers now. It can be a high stress job with a lot of travel, long days, and a lot of stress. But it is also very exciting and there is little chance to get bored working on the same thing every day.

What has been the most exciting part of your career?
There have been a lot of exciting races through the years, but the most exciting was winning the Indy 500 in 2012. We got hit from behind and spun backwards on our first pit stop and went all the way to last place. After that it was a steady climb back through the field to win from last place. Dario was able to hold off a charge up the inside on the last lap. The work we did as a team through practice leading up to the race, recovering from the spin, and passing cars in the pits and on the track was even more rewarding having come from last. The Indy 500 is our superbowl and to win it in that exciting fashion is an unbelievable rush.

How have the skills and values you learned at SigEp helped you in your career success?
The Balanced Man philosophy has served me well through the years. As a team we are focused on accountability and continual improvement, but a big part of my job is mentoring also. Just like at Penn Delta, at CGRT we are only as strong as our weakest man, and we have to support each other and help each other improve.

At Penn Delta learned to balance time with and responsibilities to my brothers with time for studying and other personal responsibilities. Now I balance family and personal time with work and travel.

I also learned some tricks at the pool table with Jack Shores that I was able to use against some of our competitors on a day off on the road just a few weeks ago.

Have you come across any fellow SigEps on your career journey?
I have run into a few Sig Eps here and there on my career journey, and I also occasionally get to see some old brothers in my travels. Unfortunately our travel schedule is so hectic that I rarely get to spend too much time away from the track or the hotel.

Why did you join SigEp as an undergraduate?
I joined Sig Ep as an undergrad because I had friends that were already pledging there and it seemed like a fun and clean place. As time went on I learned more about the Sig Ep values and they were a really good fit for me.

What is your best memory from your fraternity days?
I have a lot of great memories, everything from late night studying, to parties, to dinner with Jack. I don't know if this is my best memory, but when I was the house manager one winter we had a pipe burst under the porch where the water came into the house. It took three of us to push the door open at the time the water was so high inside. I knew where the shutoff valve was, but with three of us in there with flashlights and icy water spraying everywhere it took us a good 10 minutes to realize that the pipe had broken before the shut-off valve. This was way before the ice bucket challenge, but we were all soaked in cold water. Once we realized there was nothing we could do we rescued everything we could from the basement (there was one bedroom down there back then) and moved it to higher ground. We called the university and the water company and of course there were hundreds of pipes broken across the city from the cold; it was hours before anybody could get there to turn off the water main. The water eventually spilled over the wall in the courtyard and into the driveway. It was about a week before we could move back into the house, and the basement took considerably longer to clean-up, but we all found places to stay and helped our fellow brothers out. It was one of those situations where everyone worked together to make the most of a bad situation.

In what ways do you stay connected with Penn Delta as an alum?
Unfortunately with my travel schedule I rarely get to visit for Homecoming or any of the other alumni weekends, but I still stay in touch with my brothers via email and the occasional trip together. A group of us went to Vegas for the first weekend of March Madness a few years ago and had a blast. There was a big mix of Tombstone quotes, which was one of our favorite movies back in the day and of course quotes from "The Hangover" which was out at the time.

Tell us more about your life outside of engineering race cars (family, hobbies, etc.)
I have been married to Joyce for 13 years and we have two daughters, Amelia, 7, and Arianna, 5. We have a wakeboarding boat that we do not get to use very often. We also enjoy camping, ice skating, and Colts games. Both girls have gotten into skiing and we try to take a ski vacation or two every winter.

What is the most rewarding part of your lifelong SigEp experience?
I think the most rewarding part of my Sig Ep life has been the friendships I made while I was at Penn Delta. I enjoyed my time there, and living off campus with six other brothers our Senior year. And I still enjoy reading about what is going on at the Chapter, and hearing what other friends and brothers are up to.

Reconnect with Chris at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..