Houston Students Build Race Car for NASCAR Driver

Chavez high school kids tune up their Pontiac before it races in the Texas Mile. (Laura Isensee/KUHF)
This weekend, hundreds of race car drivers will rev up their engines in Goliad, Texas, about 20 miles from Victoria, for the Texas Mile.

At Chavez High School, Walter Campos starts up an old black Pontiac.

"It sounds amazing. It sounds like a real V8 in here. Not as before when it would just stall and it sound nothing like this. But you can hear the cam and it goes, whoo whoo, whoo"

The car is actually an engineering project. Greg Ditch is the science teacher and has connections in the racing world.

“The goal was to take just a general car, make it a higher performance car and turn it into a land speed race car.”

Students will be the crew in the competition this weekend.

"Being the underdog I love it. We're just a bunch a high school kids and high school teacher with little or no budgets going up against some teams with two hundred or three hundred dollar budgets."

Former NASCAR driver Donnie Neuenberger will steer the car on the mile-long straight-away. That makes Walter Campos excited and a little nervous.

“He's a really good driver. And hopefully he reaches the top speed it can probably go and hopefully no wrecking and nothing falls off.”

They've been building the car for about two months. Brianna Salinas says it's not really work.

“Ever since I was little I'd see my dad working on his cars, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. In a way getting underneath the car and getting dirty is probably the main thing that I like the most.”

Brianna and other students want to study engineering in college and keep working on cars.

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...