UNOH Students Take on Florida During Speedweeks

Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2018


UNOH Motorsports Team Members at Daytona International Speedway

Written by Contributing Columnist Megan Fuller

More than sixty students from the University of Northwestern Ohio traveled south to Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park and Daytona International Speedway to take part in the 2018 Speedweeks!  Twenty Six students, including three student drivers on the UNOH Motorsports Team took their cars on the road to compete at the 2018 DIRTcar Winter Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.  Nearly 40 other students, all members of the UNOH ARCA Club arrived at Daytona International Speedway to serve as interns on ARCA racing series teams for the season opening race on February 10, 2018.  Whether it was behind the wheel or behind the wall, UNOH students could be seen all over the Daytona region for speedweeks.

Brenden Rassel from South Dakota (#01), Blake Spaulding from Michigan (#1) and Will Norris from Tennessee (#71) were each driving a modified car for 8 days of racing at Volusia Speedway Park.  Racing at Volusia has been and will continue to be a great opportunity for UNOH students on the Motorsports team. Not only did the drivers get to compete in the DIRTcar Winter Nationals against some of the best modified drivers in the country, but student crew members worked on the cars day and night in hopes of making a UNOH statement at the track. The first couple of nights would bring jitters and nerves for everyone, with tensions high and adrenaline pumping the cockpits of the freshly wrapped mods. The three drivers battled through the B-mains throughout the first couple of nights of racing. Making progress and adjustments through those nights; prepping the cars for the final nights of racing.

The last and final night at Volusia is the moment in time when all the drivers face their hopes and dreams; being crowned a champion and taking home the $5,000 Big Gator Championship first place prize. Leaving behind nothing but the blood, sweat, and tears it took to get there and the permanent title of the 47th Annual DIRTcar Nationals winner. The three UNOH divers would have their work cut out for them as they fight to make the big show; the university was in full force with all three drivers participating in the initial last chance showdown races. Blake would start 2nd, Brenden 12th and Will 17th. Only the top two would transfer out of this race, bringing high stakes to the forefront. Blake would take the lead right away and hold steady for the first several laps. Sporadic cautions would be a huge impact on the race-arguably a deciding factor. As Brenden and Will continued pushing through the pack, the cautions and the late red flag would put Blake in the second position, Brenden in the third, and Will holding strong towards the rear. The two would battle for several laps but Blake would own his position and get the last transfer spot. Brenden came up just a single spot short, and Will would finish 7th a gain of ten spots from where he began. Blake then went on to be locked in for the final Gator race of the week! Using every bit of his prior racing experience the #1 car came out with a top 20 finish making the entire UNOH family extremely proud, and thankful for another safe and educational Volusia county experience.

“We had a strong start and eventually worked our way up to 8th place before making contact with another car that sent us spinning” said Will Norris, driver of the #71, as he spoke of the first night at Volusia. Blake Spalding received the final transfer spot for the main Gator race and it was described as a “moment I won’t forget” by a fellow team member. “Everyone was focused on Blake and we were all just super excited for him” she went on to say.

Meanwhile at the big track in Daytona, UNOH students worked with their assigned ARCA teams, marking the beginning of a season-long partnership. UNOH is the “Official Educational Provider” of ARCA and the “Official Educational Partner” of Daytona International Speedway.  Many students gain the necessary work experience during these programs to find careers in the high performance motorsports industry. Peter “PJ” Childs, a High Performance Motorsports student at UNOH, worked with Hixson Motorsports for the ARCA race. “I enjoyed learning every step of the way from people who have so much knowledge. Mostly I learned about aerodynamics and the lengths you have to go to at a track like Daytona to be fast”.

Not only did the High Performance students spend the week in Florida, but some students had the opportunity to stay through the weekend to help promote the University during the events leading up to, and including, the Daytona 500. Brooke Raines, a Sport Marketing and Management student and member of the Motorsports Team at UNOH said the time spent at Daytona was unforgettable. “It was really cool to see people interested and excited about the guys tearing down the engine [at our UNOH Fanzone display]. The 6 of us that got to stay felt honored to lay a part in recruiting new kids. It was a huge plus to get to watch the Daytona 500 and see Austin Dillion – who is a huge supporter of UNOH – win the race!”

Next year there will be even more to look forward to as UNOH continues to partner with both Daytona and Volusia – giving students the hands-on experience they need to succeed in their chosen career field. 

Category: Applied Technologies

Keywords: Motorsports Team, ARCA, NASCAR, Volusia Speedway, Daytona International Speedway

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Last updated: 03/07/2018