Chapel Hill High School’s automotive CTE program lets students assist Southern Wake Automotive's racing team to teach them about car mechanics and gain real-world experience — including racing in the Capital 180 at Wake County Speedway on Sept. 15.
Through the program, students work together to build a late model stock car, Robert Ballard, the CHHS automotive instructor, said.
“I noticed that my level-three student population was decreasing because of interest, so me and the students decided that we wanted to do something different,” Ballard said in an email. “My students wanted to race and build go-karts. In all my years of teaching and working, I have done nothing small, so we ended up turning that go-kart into a late model stock car.”
Joe Fitzgerald, a driver and co-owner at Southern Wake Automotive, said the students take tire temperature and pressure measurements, along with other mechanical responsibilities for the SWA racing team.
"Of course, the first time, they don't know what to do, they're looking at you for every answer," he said. "And then now, when the car comes in off the racetrack, they know exactly what to do."
The program initially needed to develop a way to get sponsorships and money from industry partners, so the CHHS Adobe class developed endorsement stickers for the race car, Ballard said in an email.
He said the program started hosting Cars and Coffee car shows, and raised $25,000 this academic year from all fundraising operations.