July 10 2008
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Four Indiana State University students are indulging in their love of motorsports and the need for speed by captaining the university's super comp dragster.
The drivers, Derek Parkes, Bloomfield; Matt Williams, Avon; Brad Ada, Michigan City; and Nichole Stephenson, Williamsport; earned their Super Comp and E.T. licenses in April at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis. Parkes was named the primary Super Comp driver, with the others seeing action in E.T. events. In addition to O'Reilly Raceway Park, they have raced at venues in Norwalk, Ohio; Joliet, Ill. and Bowling Green, Ky. and will run a full schedule with the NHRA Super Comp Division 3 Lucas Oil Series.
Indiana State students, regardless of major, can participate in Team Sycamore Racing, said Randy Peters, motorsports coordinator for the College of Technology and professor of automotive technology management. Diversity is found throughout the group, from the student vice presidents to the crew members to the drivers.
"I enjoy being around people my age that share my passion for racing," Stephenson said.
Parkes, a junior liberal studies and pre-medicine major, has been racing for 10 years, cutting his teeth in the Junior Dragster ranks before moving onto the Super Pro class. In addition to racing a Super Comp dragster, he races his own 1972 Chevrolet Nova. While he plans on going to medical school, Parkes is hoping to return to drag racing after becoming a physician.
Williams, a junior recreation and sports management major, has also driven in the Junior Dragster ranks, primarily at O'Reilly Raceway Park and the Terre Haute Action Track. In addition to driving, he also has experience with the design and installation of vinyl graphics, working with clients such as race teams, fire and rescue organizations and private corporations. Williams, who also serves as the team's vice president of public relations, would like to continue driving or manage a race team after graduation.
Ada, a senior radio/TV/film major, rode go-carts, four-wheelers and dirt bikes growing up, but this is first opportunity to race. But don't think that he doesn't have the same level of competitive spirit as his colleagues. Ada has competed in competitive sports since he was a child and is a four-year varsity member of Indiana State's track and cross country teams and was named to the 2006 Outdoor Track and Field Missouri Valley Conference Championship team.
Stephenson, a sophomore accounting major, has been racing since age 16 with her family's racing team in the Stock class. She holds three racing licenses - Stock, Superstock and Super Comp. Besides racing experience, Stephenson brings with her an understanding of the inner workings of a car and a team, having worked on engines at her family's restoration business and as crew chief for her family's team.
Drivers for Team Sycamore Racing must be in good academic standing with the university, be enrolled in the motorsport management minor and a member of Team Sycamore Racing. They must have a valid driver's license and either currently licensed by NHRA or be willing to obtain licensure and pass the physical.
Drivers and team members alike say the team has caught the attention of other racing teams as well as the general public.
"People are surprised that this car is built and raced by students," Stephenson said. "When it's announced over the loudspeaker it gets everyone's attention and they come up to see us."
"The other drivers recognize us and talk to us like we belong. Everyone thinks it is a cool program," he said.
Upon close examination of the dragster, spectators are surprised to learn what powers Indiana State's dragster.
"No one has seen a Corvette motor in a dragster," Stephenson said.
Team Sycamore Racing began in 2007 at Indiana State. Students, together with guidance from faculty members, devised and implemented a plan to operate a drag racing business to compete in the NHRA Super Comp Division 3 Lucas Oil Series. Students are active in all areas of the team management and business aspects, including engineering components, acquiring sponsorships, marketing, creating graphics, event planning, and driving
"This is the ultimate hands-on learning experience for these students," Peters said.
The experience is unique if students are willing to devote the time.
"You probably won't get an opportunity like this at other schools but it has a price. You have to be willing to work hard and put forth a great deal of time and effort," Ada said.
In addition to the Team Sycamore Racing experience, students are also learning about the business end of the industry thanks to an innovative collaboration between Indiana State's colleges of business, technology and nursing, health and human services.
The collaboration resulted in a motorsports minor being offered. An integral component of the minor is Indiana State's four-year automotive technology management program, which provides the theory, laboratory, and practical experiences needed for careers in automotive and related industries.
For Ada, a fan on motorsports since age 12, the experience has him hooked.
"Motorsports is definitely in my future," he said. "If I can't drive, I'll pursue other avenues, maybe promoting a series, a race or a track. I just want to be around the sport."
Photo and cutline:
Team Sycamore Racing Drivers (left to right): Matt Williams, Nichole Stephenson, Derek Parkes and Brad Ada.
Contact: Randy Peters, College of Technology Motorsports Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications & Marketing, (812) 237-3783 or email@example.com
Four Indiana State University students are indulging in their love of motorsports and the need for speed by captaining the university's super comp dragster.