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Special feature
IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis

NXG Youth Motorsports fostering love of motorsport in Detroit

The NXG Youth Motorsports believes its expansion to Detroit is paying off, as it continues its push to attract under-represented communities into the racing world.

Roger Penske,  Owner Team Penkse, Rod Reid of NXG

NXG Youth Motorsports, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization “offering experiential learning programs to students from under-represented communities, ages 11-15, using go-kart driving and motorsports as a tool for STEM concepts and application, life skill development, and career options.”

The program was taken under the wing of Penske Entertainment Corp. in 2020, and after 15 years of being based in Indianapolis, NXG expanded to Detroit.

Following the pilot program in 2021, NXG has expanded its outreach and its presence in Motown this year, with support from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. At Detroit’s Cass Technical High School, NXG Detroit has hosted its first weekend experience for students in 2022 and two additional two-day classes are locked in for this summer, including later this month.

In addition, Detroit-area students who participated in the two inaugural NXG events last year and those who attend the first two weekend classes in 2022 will be invited to the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, June 4-5, for a behind-the-scenes experience and educational opportunity. 

“We appreciated the opportunity to bring NXG Youth Motorsports to Detroit in 2021 with the support of Blue Cross,” said NXG co-founder and chief instructor Rod Reid. “We are proud to offer students in under-represented communities a chance to learn about motorsports and connect the STEM lessons learned in the classroom with the real-world application on track in their careers and in life.

“In April, we continued the development of some of the Detroit students we connected with last year, and we’re looking forward to welcoming 20 new NXG Detroit students May 21-22 for our next MA 100 class.”

Ken Hayward is VP and special assistant to the president of community relations, at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit mutual insurance company with some 4.7 million members. He believes NXG’s arrival in Detroit has been “very successful.”

He remarked: “Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a proud supporter of NXG’s 2022 program and we look forward to see this year's cohorts thrive and excel in their program courses. 

“This initiative is a testament to Detroit’s namesake as the Motor City. We also appreciate this opportunity as it helps keep Michigan's children healthy and active, both on the track and in the classroom.”

NXG students will meet with the African American-owned and led Force Indy team in Indy Lights, with technicians from Firestone and engineers from General Motors, and a few select students will present the trophies for the Indy Lights races and the Masters Endurance Legends races.

“NXG Detroit provides an incredible opportunity for students to take the lessons they’ve learned about science, math and technology and apply it directly to racing,” said Bud Denker, chairman of the Chevrolet Detroit GP presented by Lear. “The experience also goes well beyond the classroom and even the race track. These young men and women learn valuable life lessons and they are also exposed to so many different elements and career opportunities in motorsports.

“We are excited to add to their journey with some meaningful engagement opportunities at this year’s Grand Prix and continue their growth and development.”

Reid explained that he was using this final Grand Prix on Belle Isle (Detroit GP moves downtown next year) as a recruitment tool for the program.

He said: “If there are girls and boys, especially in that middle school age range, who might be interested in doing something like NXG and being exposed to the kind of opportunities that might be available within IndyCar, we would welcome with open arms their inquiries, via our email info@nxgyouth.org .

“But I also think it is important to celebrate, just to be able to come back and celebrate, to say thank you to Blue Cross Blue Shield and to Penske Entertainment for allowing us to be in Detroit.”

In response to Motorsport.com’s questions about how to keep NXG expanding, Reid said: “We’ve been really blessed with sponsors, right back to 2006 when Lucas Oil came onboard, and now to have the relationship with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and others, whether they are automotive sponsors or individual sponsors. I think when people get the idea of what we’re doing and see the success, it’s not a hard sell.

“That said, in terms of expansion, our goal when we started back in 2006 was to have our activity at cities where IndyCar goes that have fairly large Black and Brown communities. There are other places, whether that’s St. Louis or Nashville or Portland or other cities, where we would love to think about going in the future, but right now our goal is to expand in Detroit with the same number of classes we have in Indianapolis. That would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15 classes a season. That would be a great success for us, and I think we’re well on our way, with the relationship that we have with Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

Reid explained that local sponsorships and partnerships were needed in any potential new venue.

“Yeah, I think it’s a benefit to not only us but also those communities,” he said. “Detroit has just been awesome in embracing the kind of organization that we have, and that’s in no small part because of the Detroit Grand Prix and other activities in and around the automotive industry. So it seems like a natural.

“But absolutely – local participation is key. We also certainly need larger organizations that feel comfortable with our mission, but yes, the local presence is huge for us.”

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