Craftsman NHRA Scholarship winner named

Sarasota, Fla., student receives $25,000 grant. MADISON, Ill. - The sixth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals drag race at Madison's Gateway International Raceway, near St. Louis, doesn't get underway until this Friday, but one winner has already...

Sarasota, Fla., student receives $25,000 grant.

MADISON, Ill. - The sixth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals drag race at Madison's Gateway International Raceway, near St. Louis, doesn't get underway until this Friday, but one winner has already been chosen. Shane Whitbeck, of Sarasota, Fla., is the recipient of this year's Craftsman NHRA scholarship. The award will cover Whitbeck's future education as an automotive technician, up to $25,000.

Each year, 21 deserving students, three from each of NHRA's seven geographic divisions, are awarded scholarships of $1,000 under a program administered by the NHRA and funded by Sears Craftsman tools as an incentive for graduating high school seniors to continue their education. Winners are selected based on academic achievement, citizenship, extracurricular activities, community service and work experience. Scholarship preference is given to applicants planning a career in automotive technology or motorsports.

From that group, one student is selected for a larger scholarship to cover all expenses, up to $25,000. Whitbeck, a June graduate of Riverview High School in Sarasota, will receive the honors for 2002 during ceremonies at the Sears Craftsman Nationals June 28-30.

Whitbeck is typical of the more than 2,600 students who applied for a Craftsman NHRA scholarship this year. The high school honor student - Whitbeck was named Most Outstanding Student in his school's Automotive Service Technology program - stayed active in school and church activities while working part-time at an automobile dealership.

He even had time to pursue his automotive interests on the race track. A racer since age eight, Whitbeck currently drives in the mini-stock division at DeSoto Speedway in Bradenton. Whitbeck stands third in the points, with two victories this year.

Whitbeck has been accepted at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C. The school is a joint venture of NASCAR and Universal Technical Institute, which trains professional automotive technicians. The Mooresville facility starts with the UTI core curriculum and adds training specific to race car construction and maintenance.

"I like working with my hands, and I like the automotive field," Whitbeck said. "I want to be a technician because it's a good career. There's always a demand, it's good pay, and I'll be able to continue my racing on the weekends. At the NASCAR Technical Institute, I can further my education toward being a master technician, and also I'll be learning how to build my own race car."

"At Craftsman, we supply the tools for the best auto mechanics in the world, at the race tracks, at auto dealerships and in neighborhood shops," said Touré Claiborne, motorsports marketing manager for Craftsman. "Shane Whitbeck represents a group of young people we can all be proud of, the high-quality, highly skilled auto technicians of tomorrow."

The presentation of Whitbeck's scholarship will occur during pre-race ceremonies prior to the Sears Craftsman Nationals final eliminations on Sunday, June 30. Whitbeck and his parents, attending the race as VIP guests of Sears and Craftsman, will be joined on the start line by Claiborne and noted ESPN racing commentator Dr. Jerry Punch, Grand Marshal for this year's race.

Also in the photos will be 20-year-old Caleb O'Connor of Sandwich, Mass., recipient of the 2001 Craftsman NHRA scholarship. But O'Connor can't stay long - he has to get back to work. The University of Northwestern Ohio sophomore will be at the Gateway drag strip as a crew member for driver Dale Creasy Jr. and his Creasy Family Racing Craftsman Funny Car.

Craftsman funds the NHRA scholarship program as part of a motorsports program designed to make the excitement of racing available to race fans and customers nationwide. It includes sponsoring Dale Creasy Jr. and the Craftsman Funny Car in NHRA competition, presenting the annual Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals drag race at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis, and title sponsorship since 1995 of the popular NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

"The Craftsman NHRA scholarships are only part of Craftsman's emphasis on encouraging and rewarding talented young people," said Claiborne. "We also support the Urban Youth Racing School, a motivational and training program for inner-city youngsters in Philadelphia, and the Craftsman/NSTA Young Inventor Awards Program which challenges students in the second through eighth grades to invent a new tool or re-think an existing one."

Since it began, the Craftsman NHRA scholarship program has benefited more than 200 students. For more information, or applications for 2003 scholarships, contact the National Hot Rod Association's Youth and Education Services Department at (626) 914-1491, or online at nhra.com.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2002, Craftsman is the Official Tools of NHRA, NASCAR and CART. According to a 2001 EquiTrend survey, Craftsman is rated the number-one brand in the nation for overall quality. Sears sells more than 1,800 Craftsman hand tools, all made in America and guaranteed forever. Sears offers Craftsman tools, merchandise and related services nationwide through its full-line stores, Sears Hardware, Sears Dealer Stores and Orchard Supply Hardware stores as well as through specialty catalogs and online at www.sears.com.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Dale Creasy Jr.