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Luke Lambert was destined to wear the Catâ logo. His dad is a civil engineer who had always worked in construction, which meant Luke grew up around heavy equipment, including running a backhoe on the family farm where he grew up.
“A lot of what’s cool about race cars is also what I love about construction equipment – trying to create the best mechanical solution for a problem.”
A Seed of Speed Planted in STEM
But the future crew chief felt more passionate about putting the pedal to the metal than he did about digging in the dirt. He wanted to be a fighter pilot or a race car driver and spent much of his time racing go karts as a kid. Luke eventually became interested in math and physics. “That led me into figuring out how to use those disciplines to work on cars and make them better, and that’s ultimately what led me into a career in motorsports.”
Luke graduated from North Carolina State with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. In fact, his senior year team engineering project was one sponsored by Caterpillar and involved designing a granular material spreader to fit on a skid steer loader.
“That piece of equipment already has a powerful hydraulic system, so we tried to develop something that would incorporate right into that.”
His team’s unique design included a bucket edge at the top of the spreader to allow an operator to fill it with material in one motion. It took first place with a Caterpillar engineer present for the final demonstration.
However, not all engineers work in an office and while that was an incredibly rewarding experience, Luke credits the time he spent working on projects through Formula SAE – a student design competition run by the Society of Automotive Engineers – as the engine that got him on track for his first job in racing.
Working for Richard Childress Racing
He started at RCR in the fall of 2005 doing general engineering projects, eventually progressing to work as a race engineer on the competition side of things.
“With engineering, you learn physics, you learn math, you learn technology and the concept of engineering is just applying all that to solve problems in the real world. And that’s what we do in racing – we’re constantly working to build a better race car, optimize that car and adjust to the given conditions.”
Today as a crew chief leading a team in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, he takes great pride in not only being responsible for the technical decisions that are critical to track success, but also overseeing a team of about two dozen crew members and making sure communication and teamwork are just right. And he’s proud to wear the Cat logo that seemed to always be around since he was a kid.
“Growing up with my dad being in the construction industry, I’ve always understood what the name Caterpillar means, so it’s been really special to me and dad as well. It’s definitely a company that I’ve been proud to represent.”