Jet Car Racing Engineer

USF engineering student speeds toward career in jet car racing.

By Katy Hennig

USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 12, 2013) - When you consider the speed in which Kat Moller travels down the racetrack, you understand why the University of South Florida sophomore is studying to fine-tune her mechanical engineering skills.

Moller pilots jet dragster race cars reaching speeds of 300 mph within a quarter mile stretch. Although she’s new to this type of driving, she has been racing traditional cars for almost 10 years. She grew up watching her father race dragsters and helping him tinker in his Sarasota auto body shop, Corvettes West. Moller says she's always known that she wanted to drive race cars, fast.

Kat takes the jet car for a test run.

“When I was 11 my dad got me a Jr. dragster and I started out in that, racing other kids. I've kind of worked my way up through door-cars and then the dragster and now to the jet cars,” said Moller.

Moller decided to pursue a degree in engineering at USF to enrich her knowledge about the dynamics of the race cars and what makes them go fast.

“I knew I wanted a future career in race cars so mechanical engineering is the obvious choice for that, to learn how the cars are built. I think a lot of my classes relate to my experience with racing which is useful,” said Moller.

Moller’s experience with racing has increased exponentially after signing a multi-year contract in August to race the jet cars.

“I was selected to drive a Larsen Motorsports jet car for them; I was a little surprised," said Moller. "I feel like my parents expected it more than I did. I was more skeptical but my dad was like, you’re going get this, and he believed the whole time.” Moller's parents have been with her every step of her racing career and according to Moller, never miss a race.

Piloting the jet cars takes extreme precision and practice and Moller will take several test runs before earning her license in the vehicle. Jet cars are engineered for speed, built aerodynamically with a jet engine for power and burn bio-diesel or jet A fuel.

“It’s the cars with the long pointy noses and the tires in the back are bigger than the ones on the front," explains Moller. "It just provides more aerodynamics and with the engine-powered cars it gives the traction needed to go that fast.”

“We are limited at 320 mph; we usually don’t run quite that fast because we don’t have time to shut off and slow the car down before the end of the track, so we usually run at about 300 mph.”

Moller is on an engineering track at USF, driven to have a career in racing and is determined to blend her passion and education. She is currently studying Dynamics of Movement, Physics 2, Statistics and Calculus and she is geared to enter the mechanical engineering program this Spring. 

“It’s that adrenaline rush when you go down the track. There is really nothing else like it.”

Katy Hennig can be reached at (813) 974-6993