Luge, the winter sport you’ll see during the Winter Olympic games, means plummeting down a winding, ice-covered track on a luge at 90 miles an hour for a race that will be over in under a minute. Stock car racing involves drivers racing car around an oval-shaped cement course, reaching speeds of 200 miles an hour for nearly for four hours. What do these two sports have in common?
"Speed is everything," says this year's Daytona 500 winner, Austin Dillon.
Austin Dillon with the new car design at Dow Diamond.
The need for speed
On Thursday, June 7, 2018, Dillon, along with Team USA Olympic Luge medalists Chris Mazdzer and Erin Hamlin, gathered together with Dow employees, veterans and racing fans to celebrate the partnership between Dow and these athletes, as well as honor veterans from the Great Lakes Bay Region with the unveiling of a newly designed race car.
Local kids talk with athletes at the event at Dow Diamond in Midland
Dillon explained that while from an outside perspective the sports of luge and stock car racing couldn't be more different, they both have important things in common.
"They want heat, we don't want heat - that the only difference” says Dillon. “Everything else is trying to lighten up the car or sled, making the car or sled flex like it's supposed to. Speed is everything. Going fast is where we get the adrenaline rush and why fans come out to see us."
Jim Fitterling, Austin Dillon and others unveil the new paint job to the crowd at Dow Diamond
You can view a video of Dillon's new car here
Erin Hamlin, a four-time Olympian and the first woman to medal in luge at a Winter Olympics, agreed.
"Athletes in both sports train hard and must know how to be fast with the vehicles we use to race. That and I'm sure when Austin hits a wall, he feels it, too!"
Erin Hamlin, four-time Olympian with her luge medal.
Dillon, Hamlin, and Madzer are also all fiercely determined competitors working hard to compete against the best athletes in the world, and they all highlighted the importance a strong mental game plays in winning races.
"To win you need to mentally stay focused over a long period of time, hit your marks, and have determination," says Dillon.
Ryan Ellis from Dow with Hamlin, Mazdzer and Dillon
Mazdzer added, "We need attention to detail. Patience. A lot of experience. At the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, there were two guys over the age of forty and both of them won Olympic medals because it's such an experience-based sport. It takes at least a decade to be competitive at the World Cup level. Our entire body drives the sled and things happen so fast that you can't think about what you're doing, you have to react. You're driving on instinct and it takes years of experience to be able to do that."
Improving equipment to compete with the best in the world
But world-class athletes require world-class equipment, and that's where the three athletes say their partnership with Dow allows them to be the best they can be.
Dow employees and community members gather to get a look at the new car design.
"Dow is an innovative company and that ultimately helps us get where we have to be as racers — which is faster than the guys around us each and every weekend. We need good quality parts, and they are helping take us into the future when it comes to science and technology," says Dillon.
Mazdzer said that having Dow in USA Luge's corner gives them a confidence they wouldn't have otherwise. “Luge has really come out of the Stone Age, where we were building everything by hand. Now things are consistent, we can test materials so much more efficiently and the partnership with Dow gives us confidence in our equipment so we just focus on training.”
Erin Hamlin and Chris Mazdzer with their Olympic medals.
“My medal, Chris's medal and the huge jump our team has made to be one of the top competitive teams in the world has a lot to do with advances in technology,” says Hamlin. “When you have equipment engineered to push the boundaries of different materials, creating ways to gain all those tiny bits of time, it makes a huge difference. You win and lose races that way, so partnering with Dow allows us to push the the envelope and be at the forefront of our sport instead of just along for the ride."
The new design features names of veteran Dow employees, contractors and immediate family members who have served.
Four years, 1,350 names and growing
Highlighting the day was the unveiling of Dillon's No.3 “Dow Salutes Veterans” Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 race car. This is the fourth year Dow has designed a car featuring the names of veterans who are Dow employees or contractors, members of the USA Luge Team and Richard Childress Racing, as well as immediate family members of employees and contractors who are actively serving or who have served — more than 1,350 names in total. The car is designed in coordination with Dow's veteran employee resource group, VetNet.
Ryan Ellis of Dow with the newly unveiled stock race car.
"It's my second year on the car," says Ryan Ellis, an information management lead at Dow and who also served as part of Michigan's Coast Guard from 1993 to 1997. "It's pretty surreal to be part of a company that honors their veterans like this and provides a venue to support them when they're out of the service by giving them an opportunity to use their skills within a profession."
Ellis says that Dow actively recruits people with a background in the military because of the value they bring to the company. "The qualities and traits they have really transfer to our organization, and once they're here, we want to retain them by giving them the kinds of challenging tasks they're used to."
Standing in front a the crowd gathered at Dow Diamond, Jim Fitterling, Dow’s chief executive officer-elect, congratulated the athletes and thanked veterans for their service.
Jim Fitterling, CEO-elect of the Materials Science Division addresses the crowd at Dow Diamond
"This is our fourth year with the “Dow Salutes Veterans” car, and it is just an amazing car to be a part of because of the strong military connection featuring some of the Dow family. It's been growing each and every year…remember this is your car, it's all about you guys, and thank you for what you do.”