Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and current Axalta Global Business Advisor to Axalta Chairman and CEO Charlie Shaver and his executive team, joined leaders from both organizations for the announcement at the Walter E. Wilson Student Team Project Center. Under the multi-year agreement, Axalta and U-M will collaborate on a number of business and research and development initiatives.
The first public display of the partnership will occur during the Aug. 28 Pure Michigan 400 race week at Michigan International Speedway (MIS). Axalta will host several U-M students for events including garage tours, reception dinners and prime views of races. Students will also take part in special panel discussions on the roles of engineering and business from a career perspective. Panelists will include Axalta executives, representatives from MIS as well as experts from Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR. During Sunday’s race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. now in his first year of an Axalta sponsorship agreement will have a special University of Michigan paint scheme on the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS. Design details will be released soon.
The partnership also includes a multi-year commitment from Axalta to support U-M faculty research through collaborative projects that aim to address future opportunities in the coatings segment. U-M, a top-ranked public research university, has an annual research budget of about $1.3 billion.
“Engineering is an integral part of the racing industry, as it translates into practical applications we use every day,” said Steve Markevich, Axalta Executive Vice President. “This partnership with the University of Michigan, one of the premier institutions in the world, will benefit current and future students and faculty while bringing invaluable assistance to the Axalta team. Michigan is the ‘leader and best’ in providing the specialized programs needed to prepare its students to be the future skilled engineers and business leaders.” Markevich earned a finance degree from U-M’s Ross School of Business.
Axalta and Gordon have a more than 20-year relationship. As a four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, three-time Daytona 500 winner and five-time Brickyard 400 champion, Gordon also has been a champion of STEM education for many years.
“Supporting STEM education and future business leaders is vital to our future,” said Gordon. “Every day the racing community depends on engineers to make sure cars are in top form, so linking STEM education to the technology behind successful racing is imperative. I am proud to be a partner with Axalta and the University of Michigan for this important program – a win-win for all involved.”
“At Michigan Engineering, we are focused on growing a creative community that can tackle the world’s biggest challenges,” said Brian Noble, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at U-M. “We are excited to be partnering with a team of champions in Axalta, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Thanks to this partnership, our students will have exciting career opportunities to explore at Axalta, and thousands of young NASCAR fans who flock to the Pure Michigan 400 this summer will see a block M on Dale’s car and learn about how they can pursue a career in engineering. Beyond the race and Axalta's valuable work with our students, we look forward to working with Axalta on challenging research pursuits that will develop new technologies to shape our future.”