Pelino helps Toyota win NASCAR Sprint Cup

Mike Pelino shows off the NASCAR Sprint Cup trophy; he helped design the winning engine for Toyota.

by Rebecca Rudell

Published June 24, 2016

Mike Pelino (BS ME 2012), self-proclaimed gear head, scored a big win last fall when driver Kyle Busch took home Toyota's first NASCAR Sprint Cup with an engine Pelino helped design.

While he isn’t allowed to discuss exactly how they improved engine performance—and he mentions that racing engine design rules are very stringent—Pelino and his team worked on an exhaust development project that picked up some performance. When asked if it was the engine that helped clinch the Cup, he says, “There were many factors that came into play with that win. It’s a balance because the car isn’t going to win with a mediocre engine, a mediocre driver or a mediocre chassis.”

Pelino serves as an engine development engineer for Toyota Racing Development USA in Newport Beach, California, assigned to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and is involved in the design, manufacturing, testing and optimization of all aspects of the engines. His duties include meeting with designers, characterizing engines in state-of-the-art test cells, and analyzing data at the racetrack. “It’s the racing atmosphere, so you’re always busy. One day I’ll be working on a new exhaust system, the next day I could be working on oiling systems or durability testing.”

During his time at UB, Pelino completed an independent study with SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Joseph Mollendorf, regarding engine performance with various fuels, which evolved into an attempt to build an engine dynamometer to measure engine performance. While they were unable to complete the dyno, Pelino learned from the experience and wrote a report outlining exactly how the system worked and why the dyno could not accomplish what they wanted it to.

As an undergrad, he was also involved with the ASCE Steel Bridge Team, SAE Baja and Clean Snowmobile. He especially enjoyed the snowmobile competition. “It was one where you could really go crazy within the rules package,” he explains. And while the rigorous regulations of NASCAR are a big change from Clean Snowmobile, we’re certain Pelino doesn’t mind.