CPA enjoys the rush of stock car racing
Rebecca (Astmann) Machinga ’92, a partner at WithumSmith+Brown who also serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council for TCNJ’s School of Business, spends her free time tearing up racetracks at 180 MPH.
Rebecca (Astmann) Machinga jokes that, had she known she was being interviewed by a partner from WithumSmith+Brown (WSB) during the on-campus recruiting event she attended her senior year, the outcome might have been a little different.
“They told me I’d be meeting with a staff accountant,” the Class of 1992 grad recalls. But when she finished her interview the person with whom she had been speaking handed her a business card that read “Partner.” “I thought, ‘I’m really glad I didn’t know that ahead of time,’” she says now with a laugh, because it likely would have unnerved her a bit.
Nonetheless, the interview went well and Machinga landed the internship. Almost 20 years later, she’s still with the firm and is now a partner herself. A licensed certified public accountant in three states, Machinga heads the firm’s real estate-services group and also works with closely-held companies, mainly in the service industry through attest, tax, and consulting engagements. She also co-leads the firm’s Women’s Leadership Development Group, and serves on TCNJ’s Dean’s Advisory Council for the School of Business.
Over the years, Machinga has also learned to keep her nerves in check—a useful skill for someone who spends her free time tearing up racetracks at 180 MPH.
Since 2003, Machinga has been fine-tuning her skills as a stock car driver. She came to the sport almost by accident—if you’ll excuse the pun—while looking for a Christmas gift for her husband, Jarod ’92. She read about Pocono Speedway’s “StockCar Racing Experience,” which teaches anyone with enough courage to get behind the wheel how to race Sprint Cup–style stock cars. It was the perfect gift for her thrill-seeking husband—and sounded like so much fun that Machinga booked herself a spot.
Although her racing career got off to an inauspicious start—her first time on the track her car ran out of gas and had to be towed back to the Pit area—Machinga was hooked from the get-go. “I absolutely fell in love with racing,” she says. “It was so different from anything else I have ever done. It’s such a rush, and an absolutely amazing feeling—the thrill, the noise, the power. It’s hard to describe.”
One might wonder how a CPA—who by the nature of her work must be careful, thorough, and deliberate—can excel at racing, an inherently risky sport focused on speed. Machinga says the skills needed to be successful in both areas are not as mutually exclusive as they might seem at first.
CPAs do need to be methodical, she says, “but we also have to be a little creative while still working within the boundaries.” Those familiar with racing can understand how such skills would come in handy on the track. And while it’s true many of the other drivers are only concerned with going as fast as possible, Machinga says speed isn’t the first thing on her mind when she’s behind the wheel.
“In some sense it is very deliberate what I do when I’m racing,” she explains. “I’m always looking for when to go to the bottom of the track, when to speed up, when to slow down. I’m trying to hone those skills that will make me a better driver.”
Still, to be successful as a driver one can’t be afraid to put the pedal to the metal. And while the birth of her daughter four years ago briefly slowed her down, Machinga’s driving skills have developed to the point that she’s posting speeds even her driving instructors sometimes find hard to believe. That’s when the accounting background comes in handy again.
“The cars we drive don’t have a speedometer, only a tachometer, so to determine your speed you find your ‘tach’ reading on the chart and convert it,” Machinga explains. After one of her track sessions, an instructor asked Machinga how fast she had been going. She told him 180 MPH.
“He said, ‘That’s not right. You can’t be going that fast. Go check the chart again,’” Machinga recalls. She did, and when her numbers worked out the same, the instructor again told Machinga she must have done the calculations incorrectly. As politely as possible she said, “That speed is right. I’m an accountant. I’m pretty good at math.”
Posted on August 19, 2010