New student organization to build, manage drag race team

November 3 2006

The drag race teams at the Terre Haute Action Track will soon have to compete against Indiana State University students for the checkered flag.

Through a new student organization, Team Sycamore Racing, ISU students will be operating, managing and driving a dragster at local speedways.

Kyle Neisen, a sophomore automotive technology management and business administration major, has been in high gear since January to make the idea of Team Sycamore Racing into a reality.

"Team Sycamore Racing is a student organization that I've been working to create that will be operating as a fully professional National Hot Rod Association team," said Neisen, who serves as president of the organization which he founded. "It will be completely run by students."

Neisen and faculty advisor, Randell Peters, met with ISU officials to discuss logistics such as copyright laws and insurance liabilities. The Student Government Association officially approved the team as an ISU student organization this fall.

Being a student organization, everything, from driving to car maintenance, will be done by students.

"The driver will be a student," Neisen said. "Everybody working with sponsors will be students. The people building the engine will be students."

Team Sycamore Racing isn't just for those students who are into cars.

"In order to be successful, Team Sycamore Racing intends to utilize students from many disciplines, such as finance, accounting, insurance, marketing, business administration, graphic design and sport management," said Peters, assistant professor of industrial and mechanical technology and coordinator of the automotive technology management program. "Also necessary are the more traditional racing disciplines of manufacturing, safety, physical training, mechanical engineering, electronics technology, and, of course, automotive technology."

Already, students with a variety of majors are leading the organization. In addition to his double major, Neisen has a double minor in motorsports management, and insurance and risk management. Ryan Koch, Team Sycamore Racing vice president, is an automotive technology major, with a computer-aided design minor.

"We cannot stress enough that this organization is not just for automotive majors," Koch said. "It is going to be something that will be very interesting for anyone who enjoys racing or building cars in general. We would love to have the whole campus involved with this car."

Neisen says involving students with business backgrounds will be crucial to the success of the race car.

"We'll actually be focusing a lot on the management, sponsorship and finance," he said. "An actual NHRA team calls itself an advertising firm. The team is advertising for its sponsors through the interesting outlet of drag racing. Using the car and winning with the car will be the best way we have to get our sponsors' names out."

General Motors is showing support for the team. GM has donated 28 engines to the university, including 18 2.8 liter turbocharged Saab V-6 engines and 10 Ecotec engines. The Ecotec engines will be used for the auto technology management program in conjunction with Team Sycamore Racing. The Saab engines will be utilized in the automotive technology management program and for the introduction to automotive engines course, a required class in ISU's new motorsports program.

This gift was made possible by 2006 Distinguished Alumna Sheila Powell and alumnus John Fletcher, both General Motors executives.

A 1977 graduate of the automotive technology program, Powell is regional manager of GM's aftermarket service and parts operations. Fletcher, a 1975 ISU graduate, is district sales manager of the Chevrolet Division for General Motors' North Central Region.

Team Sycamore Racing came at an ideal time, with ISU launching its motorsports management minor this semester.

Peters called the team the "grassroots student movement" linking the automotive technology management program and the three colleges responsible for creating the motorsports management minor - Technology, Business, and Health and Human Performance.

The classes Neisen is taking for his motorsports management minor are already helping him with Team Sycamore Racing.

"I'm currently in a class called Survey of Motorsports," he said. "A good portion of the class so far has been dedicated to drag racing, how it started, where it came from, who led the way in organizing it and creating NHRA. I've learned a lot about the sport and the history of it through that class."

Neisen, with his interest and background in racing, was the ideal student to get Team Sycamore Racing running. In high school, he started a supermileage team out of his basement. The team, coached by Neisen's father, designed and ran a car built to get the highest possible gas mileage.

By the second year, Neisen's team made a run of 2,000 miles per gallon, and they were named the national champions.

When transferring to ISU from Indiana University, Neisen looked for an organization that would combine his educational degrees and interests.

"Kyle continually expressed a desire to get involved with a singular project connected to his major that he could immerse himself in," Peters said.

Peters had been sitting on the idea of Team Sycamore Racing for about three years. When Neisen expressed a desire for the race team, the timing, Peters said, was perfect.

Neisen doesn't expect to be national champions within two years with Team Sycamore Racing, but he does hope to have the car on its wheels and on the track.

"By the end of this year, I hope we'll have the beginnings of a car," he said. "It won't be race-worthy yet, but I hope that by this time next year we might be race-worthy."

Note: The first meeting for Team Sycamore Racing will be Monday, Nov. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in room 137A of the Technology Building at Indiana State University.

Contact: Randell Peters, assistant professor and program coordinator, automotive technology management, Indiana State University, (812) 237-4962,

Writer: Megan Anderson, media relations intern, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3773,

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Story Highlights

Through a new student organization, Team Sycamore Racing, ISU students will operate, manage and drive a dragster at local speedways. The team is being formed as the university implements its new minor in motorsports, and is working in conjunction with the automotive technology management program, but the team is not limited to motorsports students.

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