Chandler Hull ’18 took an unusual path to get his education and ultimately choose his profession. After graduating from high school in Dallas, Texas, he traveled to Europe to begin his college career. Attending Franklin University in Lugano, Switzerland, was a new and exciting adventure that offered Hull the opportunity to explore the world and do some soul searching on what his next course in life might be.
During that time of self-discovery, Hull kept coming back to the same thing. That was his lingering ambition to pursue a career related to cars.
“In high school, I thought about being an automotive designer, but felt that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in life,” Hull said. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with cars. It started with collecting Matchbox cars as a kid, then it grew into building scale models and larger die-cast cars. When I was old enough to drive, I thoroughly loved getting behind the wheel of any car. I think the main attraction of cars for me is their speed and design. I think some cars are among the most beautiful works of art ever created.”
The desire to seriously consider a career in the automotive industry, in whatever form that may be, began to gain traction after Hull left Europe and returned to the States.
“I missed home and was yearning for family, so I transferred to Texas Christian University,” Hull said. “For my 21st birthday, I decided to gift myself a weekend at the local track. I just took my road car one weekend and drove with other enthusiasts. That experience immediately had me hooked.”
Soon after that first day at the track, without anyone else in the family knowing what he was doing, Hull began modifying his road car to perform better on track. And, for nearly a year, he attended every track day possible.
“I eventually let my mother and father know that I was racing and tried to convince them that it was safe,” Hull said. “With a little coercing, they came to the track to watch me drive and were impressed with my passion and enthusiasm for the sport.”
As a junior at TCU, Hull approached his father about trying to race competitively. Initially, he said their discussion about it focused mostly on the fact that most race car drivers start when they are 12 to 13 years old in competitive go-kart racing and working their way up the ladder to bigger and faster cars.
“I was 21 years old and only had weekend track time under my belt, so it was a valid point,” Hull said.
Hull’s passion was undeniable, so his parents finally agreed they would support him in trying competitive club racing. But, they had a caveat.
“They said I had to commit to finishing my degree, and agree to the condition that school would always come first,” Hull said. “I had no problem with that and agreed to devote myself to both activities. I immediately started looking at options to make it happen.”
Hull knew finishing his last 18 months of college as a traditional student wouldn’t afford him the time to focus on both commitments. Therefore, he decided to complete his degree online to give him more flexibility. What better place to do so, he thought, than at Ottawa University, the alma mater of his grandfather (Richard ’70), father (Jeff ’88), aunt (Cindy ’97) and uncle (Michael ’00). He enrolled in a full load of classes through OU’s Online, International, Professional & Graduate Studies program, splitting his time between coursework and car racing.
His amateur competitive racing career began in February 2018, when he entered a 12-hour endurance race in Buttonwillow, Calif. This type of race partners drivers together to cover long distances in a single marathon event.
“My teammate and I placed second and that was the beginning of an exciting partnership,” Hull said. “He was a very experienced club racer and he committed to helping me jump start my career.”
Throughout the rest of 2018, Hull competed during 19 race weekends in his BMW Spec E46. He completed his degree at OU in December 2018 with a 4.0 G.P.A., a different kind of checkered flag for which he’s proud.
“Having my business degree from Ottawa University gives me the confidence of knowing that I will be prepared for whatever may come my way later in life,” Hull said. “Granted, as a professional driver, my degree isn’t being used every day, but I have no doubt it will prove itself to be a more than worthwhile investment down the road.”
That was the sentiment his dad shared with him during the aforementioned conversations when the subject of a career in car racing first came up.
“As much as I don’t want to admit it, I know that racing is not something I’ll be able to do the rest of my life,” Hull said.
So, with his degree in hand and a year of club racing under his belt, Hull officially entered the professional ranks in February 2019, just 12 months after entering his first competitive race. He is a member of the Copart-Bimmerworld Racing team based in Danville, Va., and receives racing support from BMW in Munich, Germany. Hull made his professional debut in the TC America Series, driving a BMW M240i. With this car, the speed and design that has always fascinated him come together in the ultimate thrill of racing.
“The thrill is like nothing else,” Hull said. “I think only fighter pilots experience what drivers in the racing world do. When you’re driving a car on the ragged edge of adhesion the feeling is surreal. I often think to myself, ‘there is no way this is possible,’ and then the next time around, I go even faster.”
Hull said in the beginning it was hard to fathom just how far you could push the laws of physics.
“Most people can’t believe that a car that weighs 3,000 pounds can be thrown into a corner at 100 mph and come out the other side in one piece and ready turn again,” Hull said. “It’s a very delicate, yet brutish, game.”
In just his second professional weekend, Hull finished 2nd-place at Virginia International Raceway as the only American on the podium. He followed that up with a 4th-place finish in Sonoma, Calif., a strong 3rd-place finish at Portland International Raceway, and two 3rd-place finishes at the season finale in Las Vegas. In all, Hull completed 28 races over 17 weekends during his first season on the professional circuit. He finished in 3rd place in the overall point standings and was name “Rookie of the Year” for TC America. In early 2019, Hull also secured his Federation Internationale de Automobile (FIA) license that allowed him to race internationally at the world-famous Nürburgring in Germany and other tracks throughout Europe.
“I’m very much looking forward to what my second year of professional racing brings,” Hull said. “This is a dream come true, and I’m proud to say that I’m off to a great start.”
The Hull family has a longstanding tradition with Ottawa University and Braves athletics. His previously mentioned grandfather, father and uncle are included with more than 30 family members who are OU alumni. Four are members of the Braves Athletics Hall of Fame, including his father (football), his uncle (football & basketball), his uncle, Mike Stockton ’97 (baseball), and his great great-uncle Bob Lawson ’52 (football).
Hull began his sophomore season behind the wheel with two top five finishes in his first two races in TC America before the season was suspended due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Along with the suspension of the TC America series, Hull’s first season in European GT4 competition looks to be postponed as well.