USF student finds calling through Chicagoland Speeedway internship
BY Tina Akouris email@example.com September 16, 2013 6:00PM
Morgan Novak works at Chicagoland Speedway during pre-race activities Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. | Tina Akouris~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 18, 2013 6:22AM
Morgan Novak said she didn’t know anything about NASCAR when she was hired in the spring as an intern at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet.
Now, Novak knows just as much as the experts, and the internship has changed what she wants to do with her future.
Novak, a Minooka resident who is a senior at the University of St. Francis, ends her stay at the Speedway on Friday. She’s worked big events such as the July NASCAR Nationwide weekend and an even bigger one: the events leading up to and including the GEICO 400, the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
“I was up in Chicago for the Travis Pastrana and David Regan ice cream truck appearance (in June) and I did the Dale Earnhardt Jr. burnout (in August),” Novak said. “Those were probably the highlights of the internship. I did say hello (to Earnhardt) and we got a picture taken together, but I was a little starstruck.”
Novak’s main duty was tracking media, finding stories about the Speedway and its events on the Internet and in broadcast and print media. She also would handle donation requests and processing credentials. Novak also did a lot of writing, something that she didn’t expect to do when she initially was hired in May.
But it took her a while to learn the vernacular of NASCAR and the sport in general.
“My first week I Googled ‘NASCAR For Dummies’ and I learned what the difference was between the truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup series,” Novak said. “I went for a pace car ride, too, around our track and that gave me a better appreciation. Going 80 miles an hour in one car is different than going 180 with multiple cars around you. That was very eye opening.”
Novak got into the Speedway’s communication department through a school project. Novak interviewed the Speedway’s director of communications, Nicole Meagher, asking Meagher the details of her job and educational background.
On a whim, Novak asked Meagher if she could intern for school credit. Meagher did one better and helped to hire Novak as a paid intern.
It’s been a busy and educational summer for Novak, but there have also been bumps along the way.
“The most difficult part is being back in school now and working this internship,” Novak said. “With this (Chase) week being here, some professors let me come here to help.”
Novak is studying mass communications after switching her major four times. At one point she was in the demanding USF nursing program. She also plays basketball for USF.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better internship,” Novak said. “I love sports but I didn’t know if I saw myself working in sports. But now that I have, I can’t imagine not working in it.”