Four-member RHS auto team splits $3,000 top prize in national hot rod competition
By PIXIE SULSER
“Communication was the key to their success,” Ramona High School auto teacher Robert Grace said of the junior class auto team’s first-place win at the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) competition held at the Pomona Fairgrounds.
Team members Ryan Hall, Mike Jones, David Taft, and Brandon Arthur put forth a “total team effort” to earn top honors out of 17 other teams, said Grace. The team took home a $3,000 check and another trophy for the RHS auto program showcase.
The RHS junior and senior teams prepared for weeks, studying during class and after school under the direction of Grace and fellow ROP (Regional Occupational Program) teacher Mike Saavedra. A week before the competition, the teams attended a qualifying event designed to select only the top eight qualifiers to battle in the main event at the Pomona Fairgrounds. When the dust settled, both Ramona teams had earned a chance to compete.
On the day of the 24th Annual NHRA Career Opportunities Fair, the Ramona teams went head to head against six other top rated groups in what Grace described as a “very difficult” written test on auto industry standards. The studying paid off as RHS had two of the four teams in the semi-final round.
The semi-finals found each team focusing on electrical trouble shooting as they raced to diagnose problems and rewire a turn signal.
“It was a think on your feet, go as fast as you can kind of event,” said Grace.
The RHS juniors were the only team to end up with a fully functioning turn signal, putting them right into the finals against the second-place team from Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. The RHS senior team placed third in the contest.
“Basically,” explained Grace, “the final competition consisted of working on a non-operational T-bucket roadster. The teams had to crank it and then get it to run. The team that could do it first would be the champ.”
Ramona walked away victorious.
The NHRA event is the only competition that pays the winners directly, so the four-man team of Hall, Jones, Taft and Arthur will split their $3,000 in winnings. Grace said that usually the awards are in the form of scholarships rather than a direct payment.
“Watching the team work under pressure and complete the project is really the highlight of the challenge,” said Grace. “These types of situations, whether they win or not, creates a workplace confidence and gives these students an edge in the job market some day. Just like any other competitor, the auto athlete walks away with higher self-esteem, a sense of pride in a job well done, and the knowledge that he or she proudly represented Ramona High School.”
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