Students get world-class education in high performance motorsports in Western Ohio
LIMA, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT)- At the University of Northwestern Ohio, students get hands on experience working in high performance motorsports.
We stopped by to check out what the students were working on. We watched as they tuned a race engine.
Krishna Majaraj was one of the students we talked with. Majaraj is from Florida. He says he received a scholarship to go to UNOH.
"You can't get this experience anywhere else. We cover all sorts of racing, drag racing, road racing, dirt car racing. It's really unique in what we do here and you can't find it anywhere else in the country," Maharaj said.
His classmate Sydney Shuman is from New Hampshire. She says she knew she wanted to get into motorsports at a young age.
"My teacher told me this was the school I needed to be at over any other school,” Shuman said. “Right now we're tearing apart a $20,000 transmission. How many times do you get an opportunity to do something like that?"
Students don't just work on repairing racecars and their parts, they put their skills to the test at the track at Limaland Motorsports Park as well.
We also talked with Will Norris, who is one of the drivers for the school's race team.
"I love it. I've been racing since I was 12. So being able to say that I'm a college athlete and I'm able to race a car for a college is a pretty cool deal. It's pretty fun," Norris said.
Jordan Sloss is also on the race team.
"We take them apart and make sure everything is okay, clean it up real nice and send it back out," Sloss said.
She's loved racing since she 12.
"I found out about (UNOH) through NASCAR. I watch it religiously, every weekend. Seeing UNOH all over Bristol Motor Speedway, I thought it's interesting there's a college for racing out there," Sloss said.
There are students from Canada and Sweden as well as 24 states on the team.
Paul Higgins has been an instructor at UNOH for 17 years. He says the racing team started more than a decade ago.
"We've got graduates in ARCA, NASCAR, NHRA Top Fuel teams. Any professional level of motorsports that's out there, we've got graduates in all of them. It's amazing. I can't watch a TV show with racing on it or a pit shot or something and not see a past graduate," Higgins said.
Higgins says past grads try to stop by during the season if they can.
"They'll walk in just like anybody and just start talking to people and it's wonderful when I have to tell the students who they're talking to. 'Well he was one of the first team members 10-years-ago on the team and tell them where you work at now,'" Higgins said.
The two women we talked with say they didn't think twice about getting into mechanics.
"I love being able to represent women in a male dominated field. I think that we absolutely need more females here. I really wasn't threatened in the least bit. Like I said, I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life and I wasn't going to let my gender or anything like that stand in the way," Shuman said.
"It's definitely different than working with females but I really enjoy it and I get along with them very well," Sloss said.
They both plan on working in professional racing.
"I'm looking into NASCAR teams or working with a SPRINTCUP team or any of the top three would be awesome but really anything in racing would be amazing for me just because it's a first for my family. No one in my family has anything to do with cars or racing so it's definitely going to be a new experience for my family wherever I go," Sloss said.
Shuman says she's going to Charlotte after graduation.
"There's a lot of performance shops. That's where a lot of the NASCAR and INDYCAR teams are located. So I'm going to send out my resume to those kind of places and engine builders and just see what comes back to me," Shuman said.
The school does more than just teach kids how to work with their hands.
He loves being behind the wheel but he wants to go back to his hometown in Tennessee and start his own shop.
Norris graduated May 5th, but is going to back to class to learn the business side of things.
"It gives you options. You can go straight into the technical side and as soon as you graduate you can go get a job or if you want to work in management you can get your education in management," Norris said.
Randy Lucius has been an instructor for more 21 years. He says the formula for success is simple.
"We tell them that it's really not that important that they have previous experience. What they just need to bring is a good attitude and a strong work ethic and we'll give them the skills they need," Lucius said.
Lucius loves seeing former students on pit row on Sundays.
"It's a really great feeling to know that I had a little part in getting these young men and women to their dream," Lucius said.