HICKORY, N.C. – Logan Traxler grew up watching NASCAR every Sunday with his dad.
Now he's helping get those same drivers behind the wheel.
Traxler, a computer science major, just completed his first year at Lenoir-Rhyne University. He's also in his first year as an employee with Carolina Sim Works, where he builds racing simulators for enthusiasts and even professional NASCAR drivers looking to maintain that professional edge.
"Before everything happened with Coronavirus, it was what people would do for fun," Traxler said. "People could have a simulator at their house and play using a software called iRacing. That's what everyone in the higher tier of NASCAR racing uses."
Traxler has worked on installing a rig for NASCAR Spring Cup Series and Nationwide Series champion Brad Keselowski, as well as NASCAR truck series racer Austin Hill.
Not bad for a 19-year-old who just finished his first year of college, and it all started with a sermon.
A Hildebran, North Carolina, native, Traxler is a member of Warlicks Baptist Church. With the move to online services in the face of COVID-19, he helped the church live stream sermons and make CDs for members.
One of those members is a friend of Casey and Angela Mahoney, owners of Carolina Sim Works, who needed someone who was computer savvy and good with his hands to join the shop.
"I needed someone who could help with basic repairs, software installation and could do hardware repairs on occasion," Casey Mahoney said. "I needed someone meticulous with the work, and he came highly recommended."
Professional racing simulators are custom-made and can cost up to $50,000. They can come with as many as four monitors and as many custom additions as the buyer wants.
In Traxler's role, he steps in during installation to set up the shifter, wheel base and pedals, while connecting and organizing all the cables.
"It's an interesting service we provide," Mahoney said. "What I made clear to him from the beginning was that anyone can order a computer and steering wheel and put it together. What people pay us to do is take that extra step, go that extra mile and make sure it's perfect. That's our reputation. That's crucial to our business, and I think it's a testament to him that I can turn him loose."
Traxler also works on installing the software, iRacing, which is used by professional racers and has been featured in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, which was promoted when NASCAR Cup Series races were postponed due to COVID-19 and broadcast on Fox Sports.
He said learning how to program using C++, which he studied as part of a class at LR, helped.
"We sometimes have to hand make small buttons that they might use in a regular NASCAR car," he said. "We might have to make a button that we have to code. I definitely did not realize I was going to need what I'm learning my first year of college and that I was already going to be using it."
And that's opening more doors for Traxler.
"I'm not fluent in that language, but he is," Mahoney said. "I'm definitely looking forward to sitting down with him to work on new products."
About Lenoir-Rhyne University: Founded in 1891, Lenoir-Rhyne University is a co-educational, private liberal arts institution with more than 50 undergraduate degree programs and over 30 graduate degree programs. LR enrolls more than 2,750 undergraduate and graduate students and has had 11 consecutive years of enrollment growth. LR’s main campus is in Hickory, North Carolina, where both undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered. The University also offers graduate degree programs on its campuses in Asheville, North Carolina, and Columbia, South Carolina. The Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary is also in Columbia. LR is affiliated with the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and welcomes students from all religious backgrounds. The website is www.lr.edu.