FORT WORTH, Texas (July 12, 2019)
Day one of the 2019 Solar Car Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway wasn’t really the beginning. It was the beginning of the end for 31 high school teams representing 12 states.
“We’ve been working on our car since the fall of 2017,” Okemos (Mich.) Solar Racing Club Captain William Jones said.
More than 200 schools are involved in the Solar Car Challenge, putting hours, days, months, and even years into these full-size, street-legal projects, and the 31 at TMS are just those who made the first cut.
“It’s exhilarating. It’s insane,” said Maynard Reinhardt, captain of the first-year Bath County High School (Ky.) Solar Cats. “Just thinking about the teams that didn’t make it here, and this is our first year that we’re doing it, and it’s just insane to think that we’re actually here, and we’re actually doing it.”
Bath County High School in Owingsville, Ky., hasn’t been here before. In fact, no school in Kentucky has even tried before.
“We’re representing the entire state of Kentucky, and we’re here to do them proud,” Reinhardt said.
A walk through the NASCAR garage at TMS shows you other teams like The Winston School out of Dallas. They were part of the first Solar Car Challenge race back in 1995, and they’re still wrenching all these years later.
Somewhere in between Bath County and The Winston School lie most of the other entries. There are 15 from North Texas alone.
“It doesn’t feel real until you’re like, ‘Oh wait, other schools are doing this too,’ and ‘Oh wait, these schools are from way far away,’” said Wylie East Solar Car Team Captain Jaxson Hill. “I guess you could say it makes you feel validated because you know that you’re not the only ones who have struggled with motor problems, mechanical issues, and last minute motors blowing up and things like that. It’s just a great feeling knowing other teams are doing the same things you are.”
This weekend is all about passing the judging/qualifying process known as scrutineering.
“The judges will look at every single nut and bolt and drive the car on the track,” Jones said. “Everyone wants to make sure when these cars are out here racing that everyone’s going to stay safe, and there aren’t going to be any problems.”
Those that make the final cut hit the track at No Limits, Texas, for four days of grueling endurance competition in what is supposed to be temperatures near 100 degrees each day. The allure of actually competing at TMS means more than the heat to some.
“It’s exciting. Looking at it right now, it’s huge,” said All Saints’ (Fort Worth) Solar Car team member Mitchell Bothwell. “You drive by it on the highway all the time, and you never actually think you’ll be on the track racing unless you’re in NASCAR.”
The goal is to see which team’s car can harness the power of the sun the best and propel them to victory. Victory, though, isn’t the same for every squad.
“We’ve already won,” Reinhardt said of his rookie team from Kentucky. “The second we pass scrutineering and the second we get on that track we’ve already won.”
After all, as Okemos’ Jones reminds us, these teens are in rarified air.
“We’ve learned how to build a solar car, and there are very few high schoolers in the entire world who can claim to have done that.”
The Solar Car Challenge is an educational program designed to help motivate students in science, engineering and alternative energy, and teach students how to design, engineer, build, race and evaluate road-worthy solar cars. The Solar Car Challenge Foundation, based in Plano, Texas, is celebrating its 26th anniversary this year.
Solar Car Challenge Founder/Director Dr. Lehman Marks and the competitors have a Media Day Sunday, July 14 that will run from 10 a.m.- 12 p.m. in the garage area. Interested media planning to attend can contact the Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department at 817.215.8520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Solar Car Challenge routinely alternates its race format between the teams competing on Texas Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile oval to a cross-country excursion. This year, they will spend four days (Monday-Thursday) making rounds on the TMS track with most classes going from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and continuing from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. The Advanced Division will race solid from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day with a 30-minute break.
The Solar Car Challenge race officially begins at 9 a.m. CT Monday, July 15 with Opening Ceremonies at 8:50. The race start will be open to media.
The North Texas contingent competing in the Solar Car Challenge consists of 15 teams: Arlington Martin, Plano Green Team, Coppell, Covenant Christian (Colleyville - 2 teams), Prosper, Ben Barber Innovation Academy (Mansfield), The Winston School (Dallas), Wylie East, Greenville (2 teams), Libery Christian (Argyle), Harmony Science Academy (Euless), and All Saints’ Episcopal School (Fort Worth), and Byron Nelson High School (Trophy Club).
Also representing Texas are Harmony School of Innovation (Brownsville), Stony Point Solar (Round Rock), and Southwest Legacy High School (Von Ormy).
The other states being represented by teams are:
High school teams began preparation for these yearlong solar car projects during education workshops in September of last year. Additional workshops, on-site visits, mentor opportunities and summer camps helped the projects come to fruition. The teams will compete in four divisions - Classic, Advanced Classic (used their classic car for more than three years), Advanced and Electric-Solar Powered - in the closed circuit race.
Science & Technology magazine named the Solar Car Challenge as one of the top Science & Engineering programs in the country.
The Solar Car Challenge has 211 high school solar car projects in various stages of development in anticipation of an upcoming solar racing event. Teams are located in 37 states, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas.
For more information and race updates on the Solar Car Challenge, please visit solarcarchallenge.org.
Race Weekend Schedule Update
The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 race weekend has been rescheduled for July 18-19, 2020 as part of a triple header weekend with the My Bariatric Solutions 300 and the Vankor 350.
Ticketholders for any originally scheduled March NASCAR event should visit the Ticket Exchange Information Page for details on event exchanges, credits or refunds. Due to the ongoing pandemic, our walk-in ticket office remains closed. However, our ticket agents are working remotely.