Interview with an AJFR twentysomething: C.J. Nielsen

May 16, 2019

 C.J. NIELSEN, 26, joined AJ Foyt Racing in 2016 as a data acquisition engineer. This is the last of the series of interviews with our twentysomethings. We asked him a few questions...


Q: What is your job at AJ Foyt Racing? Do you have an additional role on race weekends?

“My Job at AJ Foyt racing is the data acquisition guy/engineer (DAG) for the 4 car.  This means maintaining and help developing the electronics of the car and also the electronic setups of the car.  On race weekends, along with making sure the car and timing stand are all okay, I also take care of preliminary qualifying and race strategy, timing and scoring analysis, pit stop analysis, as well as do “dead man” for fuel (release fuel tank) and back up fuel strategy.” 


Q: How did you get started at your position?

“I got started in this position in 2013 as an intern with what was then Sarah Fisher Hartmann Racing (SFHR).  I then stayed until 2015 when I moved to the Nissan Nismo LMP1 program.  When that team shut down I started working at Foyt in 2016.  I have always had a passion for racing and knew from when I was a child I would end up being in racing in some way when I grew up whether it be as a driver or work on a team.  When being a driver never panned out I studied Motorsport Engineering at IUPUI which gave me a good starting point to get my foot in the door in racing.  Being a data engineer or "DAG" as they call it was never really in my radar.  As stated before I was just interning for a month or two at SFHR when the opportunity arose that they needed help in the electronics department and I was the person to fill that roll.”


Q: Greatest thrill of your job?

“I usually find myself keeping my cool and trying to avoid all the thrills of the job in order to stay focused, but I think it is always hard when standing on the grid of a race to not take a step back and think hey I made it, this is cool.  Then it's sunglasses on and eyes on the prize.”


Q: Tell us something that may surprise people about you and/or what your responsibilities entail.

“A lot of people don't realize the amount of sensors that are on the cars and how much maintenance and programming it takes to make sure that we are relaying the correct information to our race engineers such that they can make good decisions.  I always joke that our job just isn't punching a few numbers and building steering wheels, there's a lot behind the scenes that everyone underestimates.”