Life in the Fast Lane: A Conversation with GMS Crew Chief Joseph Cohen

Joseph Cohen of GMS Racing Image via Twitter.com

Joseph Cohen of GMS Racing Image via Twitter.com

Like any sports industry career, NASCAR is no exception to networking and hard work; in fact, finding success in this day and age in any career field requires a passion and doing everything it takes to get there.

GMS Racing crew chief Joseph Cohen is one of these people. Cohen, originally from Virginia, graduated from UNC Charlotte in 2006 with a mechanical engineering degree with a concentration in motorsports and racing technology.

Cohen, who has found his fair share of success so far, started out as an engineering intern at Hendrick Motorsports. After his time at HMS, he went on to spend time with Roush-Fenway Racing and JTG before he landed in his current role at GMS Racing.

At GMS, Cohen serves as a crew chief for Spencer Gallagher in the Xfinity Series and Ben Kennedy of the Camping World Truck Series.

“We were not what most people would consider typical college kids.”
— Joseph Cohen

For those interested in his work, he gave a very simple but often overlooked answer, "People that want to work in the NASCAR industry need to fully ingrain themselves in the environment and all the things external of the actual job they are looking to do."

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"Living in Charlotte, NC where most of the teams and industry partners are based puts one in a great position to network, intern and gain exposure in many different career paths," he added. "These advantages are so crucial in cultivating yourself before graduation because of the stress placed on who you know over what you know." 

“Sports cannot be setup to cater strictly to die-hard fans of 20 plus years. It’s now NASCAR’s job to grow and reach the next generation.”
— Joseph Cohen

Being a part of NASCAR, like other sports, means long hours and an unconventional season and work schedule.

"Hours can be long and travel can be strenuous during the season which runs for 10 months and 42 weeks per year," reiterated Cohen when stressing the commitment to working in a restless and fast-paced environment. "The largest thing you can do though is place yourself in the environment and be willing to gain exposure."

Sometimes, this means coming from out of state to the mecca of motorsports to gain such an experience.

Joseph Cohen with Ben Kennedy in 2016 (Image via LinkedIn)

Joseph Cohen with Ben Kennedy in 2016 (Image via LinkedIn)

For Cohen, he credits much of his early success to what he did in college and who he surrounded himself with.

"I wanted to be involved in motorsports and the professional racing industry so I grouped myself with friends in the engineering program."

At UNC Charlotte, his weekends consisted of traveling to races and working on various race cars in his spare time.

"We were not what most people would consider typical college kids."

If there is one thing to take away from learning outside of the college classroom, it's that you must limit distractions, indulge in the resources that surround you and have a discernible end goal in mind.

Coming into a year where NASCAR has made many changes, with the most notable being their title sponsor, Cohen believes everything that was done was for the better.

"I think the changes are a correct step for keeping up with the times and entertainment value required to capture the fringe fan," he said. "Sports cannot be setup to cater strictly to die-hard fans of 20 plus years. It's now NASCAR's job to grow and reach the next generation." 

Beyond the recent changes, Cohen sees NASCAR having the potential to broaden its horizons even more over the next 10 years.

"The next biggest push that could be coming in 10 years would involve more of an international presence for NASCAR," he said. "Having these guys racing all over the world."

An international race isn't as crazy of an idea as it might seem. In 1998, NASCAR held the Coca-Cola 500 in Motegi, Japan. While they haven't held a race outside of North America since then, as of now, Brazil and Russia are the front runners for expansion.

With the season getting underway this weekend, look for exciting new formats and some great racing. It's a new age for NASCAR, and with it comes much promise and hope. 

As Darrell Waltrip likes to say, "Boogity, boogity, boogity let's go racing!"

Be sure to follow Cohen all season long on Twitter at @Joey_Cohen

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