Avid readers of Circle Track will remember back in the Aug. '07 issue a story chronicling the Urban Force Racing team. The local race Wisconsin race team was made up of a group of high school students led by their automotive technology instructor and funded by the founder of ABC Supply Company. The idea behind the team was to create a program using racing as the carrot to keep troubled kids in high school.
A lot has happened in the two and a half years since that article first appeared. Several drivers climbed behind the wheel of the Urban Force team looking for the right combination. Ken Hendricks, the benefactor of the team, passed away in a tragic accident. And the initial single team concept gave rise to the ASA Educational Series.
The brainchild of auto technology instructor Pete Raskovic, the ASA Educational Series pairs high school students interested in pursuing a career in the automotive field with a local race team. Students are required to work a minimum of three hours in the team's shop during the week and at the track on race night. The end of season reward is a guaranteed scholarship valued from $1,500 to $25,000 to Ohio Technical College (OTC) in Cleveland, Ohio. The program was piloted at Madison International Speedway (MIS) in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2008 and was run full-swing in 2009.
Recently, the hard work of the individuals involved in the program culminated on a rainy Saturday night at MIS. A group of more than 100 race team members and their families gathered for the presentation of the ASA Educational Series scholarships to OTC.
More than 30 students from area high schools participated in the 2009 ASA Educational Series working as crew members or drivers at Madison. A point system similar to the MIS weekly racing points system was used to determine the winning team members. Just like the actual on-track competition, students in the Educational Series accumulated points over the course of the season which ran from May 22 to August 7. By the time that August date rolled around more than $250,000 in scholarships were earned by the students in the program.
Rain forced the ceremony indoors but didn't deter the crowd of more than 100 families and
ASA Educational Series director Larry Pond spoke to the students and their families about the values they will take with them from this experience. "The discipline, hard work, and intelligence that you put into racing is what brings success. That's what brings success in life and you guys have a great start. It's great to get the passion for racing and this is where it starts. If you're passionate about what you want and you're willing to work hard to get there, you will be successful. Nothing comes easy in this life. If you work at it . . . you can do whatever you want. It's passion, hard work, and dedication."
Pond's words really outline the core principals of the ASA Educational Series and that is an important factor in the success of both the participants and the program itself.
MIS General Manager Dave Grueneberg couldn't say enough good things about the importance of the program. "This program was brought to the speedway by Steve Einhaus and Pete Raskovic. It's a great program. There are a lot of things out there for kids to do today but racing is something you can do as a family. This is great because it brings a family closer together and you know what your kids are doing. For us to have this at MIS is a great thing. Where else can you get a scholarship doing something you enjoy?"
But more than that, Grueneberg said the program also helps promote racing not just at his track but beyond. "It's all about getting kids involved in racing which is a great thing to do because it keeps enthusiasm in racing. I think it's great that this program is going nationwide since there are a lot of kids who can benefit from this. You people are the founders of this program . . . teams that have taken a student on their crew are the ones who deserve the credit."
Daniel Harried was one of the big winners walking away with a $25,000 to OTC.
Series Co-founder Peter Raskovic directed his message to the race teams that have participated in the program the past two years. "We couldn't have put this together without race teams willing to make this work. We are going to be able to help a lot of children across the United States in the future. It's so great for me to go around the pits to hear comments from teams like, 'this kid is working out great.' This is truly a family affair."
Raskovic and Grueneberg both alluded to the biggest announcement of the night which involved the future of the ASA Educational Series program. "It's the success from what's happened at this fabulous racetrack (MIS) the past two years that will allow us to take this program nationwide," said Pond. "We will be adding tracks next year and have already begun the process. We also have to really thank Ohio Tech which is going to give out a couple hundred thousand dollars in scholarships tonight and has made a commitment to the future to ensure the program's success."
Beyond scholarships and expansion, a real significant benefit of the ASA Educational Series lies within the values of the relationships that have been established through the participants' involvement. "Look around and see who your mentors are on your team," Raskovic said to the students. "This is a big part of all of this. Mentorships are lifelong relationships . . . always value this bond you have developed. These are people who believe in you." Raskovic even described how he still consults his mentors regarding some of the racing challenges he comes across from time to time. "It's important for all of you to keep these contacts."
Series Director Larry Pond addresses the crowd.
One of the drivers from the Late Model division at MIS, Zack Riddle of Brooklyn, Wisconsin, shared his feelings about having Educational Series members working on his team. "This is our second year in the program. The students we have had working with us have been outstanding. We couldn't do it without them. They learn from us and we learn from them. On behalf of all of the drivers I would like to thank MIS and ASA for giving us this opportunity."
However, the opportunity for a winning race team to work with the students is just one aspect of the program. Perhaps one of the winners of a $25,000 scholarship put it best. Aaron Moyer of Eden, Wisconsin, a driver in the weekly Pellitteri Waste Systems Legends division, said, "Without this program some of us may never get the opportunity go on to college. It lets us stay connected to a sport we love. The dedication from ASA, MIS, and Ohio Tech to keep growing this sport from the grass roots up is awesome."
Moyer's father, Tony, echoed the appreciation felt by his son. "I can't think of a more positive way to give kids an opportunity to further their education than having it connected to something they love and have a passion for," said the elder Moyer. "This is just that-an opportunity-not a hand out. They will still have to work hard to meet their goals as young adults."
Aaron Moyer says that his $25,000 scholarship will be a big help in going to college. "Man
Beyond the scholarships the evening also recognized the hard work of the people who made the program a success in 2009. Raskovic presented a special ASA Educational Series recognition award to Dave Grueneberg and Terry Kunes for their dedication and involvement in promoting the growth of the series. The plaques were presented on behalf of Dennis Huth, President/Pete Raskovic, Founding Partner/Larry Pond, Series Director; the three principles in the American Speed Association Educational Series.
He also awarded three scholarships in honor of the late Ken Hendricks of ABC Supply. "Ken had a way of believing in people. He believed in himself, in other people, and what people can accomplish. He was a visionary and a great mentor . . . he led me to this idea to bring people together in racing," said Raskovic. Winners were Zack Driver, Darren Wittman, and Daniel Herried. "These awards are to kids who have gone above and beyond. The ones that drivers or crew members will say 'Hey, take a look at this kid.'"
Driver Zach Riddle speaks at the ceremony. His race team had two scholarship winners: Mich
Of course the very core of the program is the scholarships from Ohio Tech. "You kids are going to have a very positive experience at Ohio Tech," said OTC's Randy Dziadowicz as he handed out scholarships ranging from $2,500 to as high as $25,000. "We are an award-winning school. You are all quality kids who come from quality parents. We're excited to be part of the new national program and have made a commitment to see this program grow."
By the time you read this, 13 of the scholarship winners will be sitting in the Fall semester classes at Ohio Technical College with more planning on beginning in the winter.
With the expansion of the program and the support of OTC for 2010, the ASA Educational Series has a bright future. The program teaches that hard work, discipline and dedication pay off in a big way, and what parents wouldn't want that for their children?