NASCAR pit crew member on pace to finish with management and technology degree from BGSU
Flexibility of online eCampus program allows Brandon Harder to fit classes into his busy lifestyle
By Bob Cunningham ’18
Brandon Harder works all week in the garage for Hendrick Motorsports — the New York Yankees of NASCAR — in North Carolina. Then, on the weekends, he is the gasman in the pit crew for NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson.
And yet, he still finds the time to earn a Bachelor of Science in management and technology from Bowling Green State University’s nationally ranked, 100% online eCampus — that’s how flexible the program is.
“It's an adrenaline rush, that's for sure,” said Harder, who graduated from Oak Harbor (Ohio) High School in 2001. “It's been a lot of work for so long. I work in the shop, going all week and then you go to wherever the race is, whether it's in Florida or out west somewhere. We got back from Homestead-Miami Speedway at about midnight (on Feb. 28), but we usually get back around 3 a.m. We fly in Saturday mornings and I’ll do the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports with our crew because it’s a part of Hendrick Motorsports.
“Then on Sundays we'll do the Cup Series to race the No. 5 car (Larson) and then we fly back home — a different city, a different racetrack and a different hotel every weekend. Just nonstop all season long.”
And yet he still finds time to study.
“I actually do,” Harder said. “It's been something that I've been looking to finish for a while now. I guess with my schedule, it's tough, but it's been flexible to where I can fit it in at night. Even on the weekends, I utilize that time in a hotel on a Saturday night to do my schoolwork. With everything being online, eCampus has been very beneficial for me because I can get it all done online. That's helped me out tremendously.
“I’ve had Dr. Shelley Waltonen Moore for a few of my classes now, and she's been awesome. She's a great instructor and has been a great help.”
BGSU offers an eCampus option for students that features seven-week courses year-round with six different start dates. eCampus offers 21 degree programs and 15 certificate/endorsement programs. Management and Technology is one of the most popular online programs at the University. Students can advance in their careers and obtain in-demand skills critical in any organization, including business, education, military, health care and manufacturing.
"We are so pleased to have Brandon in our eCampus family," said Sherri Orwick Ogden, director of eCampus. "Most students in eCampus-affiliated programs are working adults. The eCampus staff work as a team to help students like Brandon successfully complete their degrees from wherever they are."
"We are thrilled that Brandon has been able to meet his education and career goals with the management and technology program, said Paul Cesarini, assistant vice provost for online and summer academic programs. "With six start dates and seven-week sessions, eCampus programs such as this are ideally suited for post-traditional students like Brandon.”
Previously, Harder was the gasman for Jimmie Johnson for 11 years. Johnson, who retired after last season, won seven Cup Series championships, tied for the most with NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
When a driver as highly skilled as Johnson or Larson pulls into pit row Harder has to be careful to avoid the tire carriers and tire changers while being as quick as possible.
“When your driver pulls in, you’ve got 90 pounds worth of gas there,” Harder said. “We use a five-man pit now and it's anywhere from 12 to 13 seconds — these guys are running pretty quick stops now.”
Larson is one of the best young drivers on the NASCAR circuit. He won his first race as a member of Hendrick Motorsports on March 7 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Harder was there to celebrate the team’s win in Victory Lane.
“This team works so hard each day and puts in the effort,” Harder said. “Wins don’t come easily, and it takes everyone on this team to make it happen. We have a great group of guys. When you end up in Victory Lane, all that hard work is[JC1] worth it.”
It’s safe to say that Harder feels the same way about working toward his BGSU degree, which he is on pace to graduate in August. All of his hard work in North Carolina and from racetracks across the country is going to pay off thanks to the flexibility and versatility of eCampus.
Harder attended BGSU after graduating from high school, majoring in construction management, but he soon moved to North Carolina. He didn’t have a way to finish his pursuit of a BGSU degree until eCampus came along.
“I was always like, how am I going to finish that?” he said. “I've always said I wanted to finish school; I didn't know how to go about it. eCampus wasn’t offered back in the day.”
Harder said having a degree from BGSU will give him some security going forward.
“I want to honor a resolution to finish my degree,” he said. “You never know when I might need it down the road and or what door might open — especially after racing. Having a degree from a nationally respected university like BGSU in technology will be beneficial.
“Plus, I'm not getting any younger. The wear and tear on your body from doing this line of work for so long, you don't know what the future holds. I try to always look down the road and having this degree in my back pocket will help me have a better future.”