The weekend before beginning his second year at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, Brad Jaeger was behind the wheel of his Nissan 370Z and leading the field at the Virginia International Raceway near Danville, riding high after setting a new track record the day before.
That day, Jaeger
and his teammate, B.J. Zacharias, both drivers for Doran Racing, saw their luck turn on a dime as the car ran out of fuel with a lap to go.
That combination of highs and lows - the constant balance of strategy, risk and adversity - is characteristic of racing as a sport and of Jaeger
as a driver and an MBA student.
It is a tough balance, but one that he
feels privileged to experience.
"My racing career and my time at Darden are both very important to me," he
"I instantly took to terrorizing the grass," Jaeger
"It took me about six years to finally convince my dad to let me race competitively."
At 12, Jaeger
was racing go-karts in a competitive league.
By 16, he
was racing in the Sports Car Club of America
, behind the wheel of his
dad's old car, newly outfitted by father and son.
By 19, he had won the championship in his first professional F2000 series and matriculated at Vanderbilt University, where he studied engineering.
The championship convinced him to keep racing, even as the demands of his
kept in close contact with his
professors, committed to finishing his
work on or ahead of time and spent his
free time far differently than many undergraduates.
Fittingly, that period of challenge was followed by one of celebration: Jaeger graduated from Vanderbilt in May 2007 and, two weeks later, raced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Indy Pro Series.
"That was an amazing month, achieving two very big dreams of mine," he
After graduation, Jaeger
signed on with Doran Racing, building his
career as a driver while delving into the mechanics and strategy of the sport he
loves, often joining engineers and mechanics in the shop to work on the car he
was about to drive.
"Having an understanding of what is going on underneath the hood and being able to talk to our team engineers has definitely been an asset throughout my career," he
"A lot of people think of racing as a driver's sport, but so much of it is strategy and teamwork, involving everyone from the team owner, to the strategists, to the engineers and mechanics."
It was during one of those shop afternoons that Jaeger
met Charlottesville entrepreneur Oliver Kuttner, a chance encounter that eventually brought him from the plains of Ohio to the mountains of Virginia, where he
joined Kuttner's startup automotive company, Edison2
At Edison2, Jaeger started as an engineer and development driver for the company's entry in the 2010 Progressive Automotive X Prize for fuel-efficient vehicles.
Edison2's entry, which clocked in at over 100 MPGe, won the competition - a win that he
values just as much as any in his
career, especially since it drove him toward Darden.
After the competition, Jaeger became Edison2's vice president of engineering and operations and oversaw the design and building of a consumer prototype based on the prize-winning model.
"As I was progressing through Edison2
and helping them commercialize the technology, I learned a lot on the go, but realized there was a lot I was missing," he
"My engineering background gave me the quantitative understanding I needed, but I needed to know more about structuring investments and bringing in investors, and I felt that a formal business education would really help."
didn't have to look far for a top business school.
had already worked with faculty at Darden, designing a case study of Edison2
and speaking to students about innovation.
Applying to Darden was, as he
put it, "a no-brainer."
So far, the school has answered his
expectations and facilitated new opportunities, including a summer internship in Ford Motor Company's
marketing leadership program.
After graduation, Jaeger
is weighing a number of opportunities, including pursuing racing full-time while starting his
"The auto industry has been my passion for my whole life, and I ultimately want to end up there," Jaeger
"Darden has given me plenty of options.
It is just a question of what makes the most sense for me to focus on."
For now, though, he
is focused on this weekend's race, hoping for a final high point to end a season that is already among the highlights of his