Matt Borland ‘94 attended Kettering University with the expectation that he would work in the auto industry, but the thrill of speed quickly overwhelmed his passion for just the automobile as he began a long and successful career in the racing industry.
“In my first term (at Kettering), I ran into a guy who raced. He got me into racing and that took over my life from that point forward," Borland said.
Borland graduated from Kettering (then known as GMI Engineering & Management Institute) in 1994 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering which has led him to become the Vice President of Competition of Stewart-Haas Racing, a top-tier performer in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. In addition to serving as the VP of competition, he is also the crew chief of the No. 39 Chevrolet driven by Ryan Newman.
Borland’s co-op experience was at General Motors Truck and Bus in Pontiac, Mich., where he was able to learn more than he had initially expected heading into the program at Kettering.
“It exceeded all my expectations. I learned a lot about how to get a lot of things done,” Borland said. “The biggest thing that I learned at GMI is that when you are doing so many credit hours, you learn how to manage a lot of different projects at the same time and that pays off in the work world.”
After working for several engineering firms upon graduating from Kettering, Borland got his break in NASCAR in 1999 when Roger Penske recruited him to become his design/simulation engineer for the team's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series effort. Borland helped develop driver Ryan Newman in a schedule that saw him compete in the ARCA Racing Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series before being named his crew chief as the tandem entered the Cup Series full-time in 2002.
In the pair’s first full season, Newman and Borland secured six pole positions, 14 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes, and Newman went on to earn Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year honors.
After a brief stint with Michael Waltrip racing where he served as the crew chief for former Sprint Cup Champion Dale Jarrett in 2007, Borland joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009 and was named their VP of Competition in 2011.
“Racing still really excites me,” Borland said. “There are a lot of challenges there and I'm looking forward to hopefully winning a lot more races and championships.”
Borland emphasizes that the classes he took at Kettering not only prepared him for his internship experience but also for his career in the racing industry as they laid the foundation for what he would see years later while developing the mechanics for the race track.
“Racing, a lot of it is about mechanical engineering -- there’s a lot of physics involved, a lot of statics and dynamics,” Borland said. “A lot of the classes that you took at Kettering teach you the fundamentals of how the mechanical systems work and a car is nothing more than a mechanical system.”
The co-op model at Kettering provides a “wake up call with reality” according to Borland as the work experience forces students to be more attentive and alert in the classroom in order to gain the skills necessary to be successful in their professional placement.
"I think I would definitely recommend Kettering most over any other school mainly because of the heavy workload at school and also being able to alternate between work and school so you apply what you learn,” Borland said. “When you go back to school after working, you pay more attention than you would if you just were going to a normal four year school.”