Some of the nation's best young automotive technicians, as identified during the 59th annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, will spend a week with Roush Fenway Racing, learning about the team at the shop and at the track. David Ragan,...
Some of the nation's best young automotive technicians, as identified during the 59th annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, will spend a week with Roush Fenway Racing, learning about the team at the shop and at the track. David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, and Jack Roush, Roush Fenway Racing team owner, were among those participating in a press conference about the program at Talladega Superspeedway on Friday. The competition is the largest competition for high school automotive technology students in the country. The 2008 National Finals will be held at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., on June 24.
JACK ROUSH - team owner, Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusions
"The reason Roush Fenway is represented with me being present is to help bring attention to the wonderful program that AAA and Ford have partnered to further the interests that a lot of high school students have in the automotive technology industry, service industry, which, of course, includes NASCAR racing and the service of the race cars that we're involved with here at the Talladega race track. We, in our business and of course, our race team, value the skills that are represented by the interest that the students have. In Michigan, we've got a 3,000-employee staff that services the automobile industry. So, in addition to the race-team activities that we've got in Charlotte, we've also got great interest in what goes on in Michigan. I've been involved in some of the programs that these kids are destined for. We've got several mechanics, technically minded folks that are involved with our racing program in Charlotte. George Stone is a mechanic in our truck shop that was one of the youngsters that participated in the Auto Skills contest as a teenager. Wade Moore competed in the Alabama region for the Auto Skills competition and works in our fab shop. And, Sean Ballantine participates as a parts manager today, and he also was one of the graduates in one of the competitions. They have all acquired and developed the skills, the experience, that let them be successful today in our workforce, through this program. AAA and Ford are in a great project together. The grand prize is going to be to a two-person team. The prize will include an opportunity to job shadow David Ragan's pit crew in Concord, North Carolina, and then to fly with the team to the Joliet Sprint Cup race on the weekend on July 12th. That will just be icing on the cake for them, however; the main thing is that they're going to get scholarships to go to a college of their choice to study automotive technology in its purest form. I worked as an engineer for Ford for a while, and then in 1972 I started my own business in automotive technology and then, of course, running race teams simultaneously. And I taught junior college for three years at Monroe Community College, where I had an opportunity to work with youngsters in that context that had the interest in being technicians in the automobile industry - as well as going looking for their fame and fortune in the racing business. In the three years that I was there I had an opportunity to see a lot of youngsters with the same motivations that the folks have that participate in the program. Truth of fact, what winds up happening is these competitions are organized regionally where the teams will be faced with car systems that have known problems and they have to troubleshoot the cars and find the problem and return it to a serviceable condition in a competitive time or hopefully in the best time in comparison to the people in the contest with them. It's great thing competitively, it's a great thing for a career point of view.
"One of the things that I see as I watch the generations come behind me is that are a seemingly decreasing number of young kinds that are willing to go fix something, they're willing to take a mechanical or electrical problem in a complex system, like in an automobile, and the encouragement that AAA and Ford are giving them, this generation of youngsters coming through high school, is just amazing. I can't tell you how much respect I've got for what they're doing, what an important part I think it is in our national working society to be able to have people with those motivations to have a chance to really get ahead and further their education with some level of recognition and support from Ford and AAA."
DAVID RAGAN - No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion -
"When I was young, I ended up working in my father's automotive repair shop, and then when I was in high school, I was a part of the Auto Skills, not the competition that we're talking about today, but on a more local level, and I think that's a great opportunity for young kids to gain real-life experience in the workforce that they're looking forward to being in possibly one day. So, this is a great opportunity to go out have these guys here today. And I think it's great that AAA puts forth a lot of effort - and eight million bucks in scholarship money is a lot of money that means a lot to a lot of families around the country. So, I think that's a great, great program. Whether AAA is working on teen driving safety or putting their efforts into further the education of young students across America, they're always doing something to help our youth here in the U.S. So, I think that's a great program. I'm excited to be a part of it, and I'm glad to be here today on their behalf talking about the upcoming national event in Dearborn in June. I'm going to be there. I think it's going to be a lot of fun that day. And the winners, certainly it's going to be a lot of fun having those guys come and join our AAA race team in Concord at our facilities there and join us in Chicago at the Sprint Cup race that weekend. It's a lot of good things that are happening because of Ford and AAA putting forth a lot of effort into the program. It's going to help some young kids across America better educate themselves and hopefully have a better job that they can rely on for the future."
-credit: ford racing