- The winners of the 2015 Ford AAA Student Auto Skills Competition spent the week of the Coke Zero 400 with Wood Brothers Racing and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Team.
- “The whole thing has been really great but being down here this close to the cars and drivers has been the cool part,” said Jay Saunders, a member of the winning team. “It’s been pretty awesome.”
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., July 5, 2015 – The winners of the 2015 Ford AAA Student Auto Skills Competition spent the week of the Coke Zero 400 with Wood Brothers Racing and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Team.
Although the weekend ended early for the No. 21 due to weather cancelling qualifying and putting the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion on the sideline, the team from Vale High School in Vale, Ore., was treated to plenty of behind-the-scenes activity.
“The whole thing has been really great but being down here this close to the cars and drivers has been the cool part,” said Jay Saunders, a member of the winning team. “It’s been pretty awesome.
“Through this competition I’ve learned a lot of valuable skills like communications and what hard work can do and how much you can learn,” Saunders continued. “The most valuable thing I’ve learned is building good relationships with people.”
Saunders’ teammate, Morgan White, was impressed with his hosts, Wood Brothers Racing co-owners Eddie and Len Wood. “The Wood Brothers have such a great relationship with each other and it’s just great seeing how nice they are considering how famous they are,” White said.
Saunders and White’s adventure began as two of 11,500 students nationwide who took the Ford AAA Student Auto Skills qualifying exam. They were one of 10 teams of two students in each state who competed in state competitions. As Oregon’s representative in the national final at Ford World Headquarters June 7-9, the Vale team matched wits and skills with 49 other state winners.
Their competition-leading 168 out of 200 on the written test score and 43-minute time to fix 10 problems in a Ford Mustang during the hands-on part of the event, won Saunders and White the event and the week with Wood Brothers Racing as well as tools and trade school scholarships.
The week began in the Charlotte, NC area where the team and its instructor, Drew Barnes, had a personal tour of the NASCAR Hall of Fame by Hall of Famer Leonard Wood, raced go karts at the GoPro Metroplex and toured the Penske Racing Facility in Mooresville. They finally toured the Wood Brothers Racing shop in Harrisburg and, while there, helped push the No. 21 onto the hauler for the trip to Daytona.
“That was worth the whole thing just being able to put my hands on the car,” Saunders said.
This was instructor Barnes’ second winner’s tour. He led the national champion in 2013 and finished fourth a year ago.
“These are great kids who put in a lot of time, even outside of class time to continue their learning and continue to advance in the industry,” Barnes said, not only of his 2015 winners, but all of the students he’s brought to the competition in his four years at Vale.
“We owe a lot to Ford, AAA and the Wood Brothers for making this whole thing happen,” Barnes said. “It’s something these two boys will never forget. The whole Wood family is incredible and the pit crew really made us feel at home, like you’re part of the team.”
In addition to hosting the winners for a week, the Wood Brothers also attended the national finals and awards ceremony in Dearborn.
“We enjoy the program because it’s young high school kids who work really hard to learn how to work on cars at a young age and are very talented,” said team co-owner Len Wood. “It’s amazing to see these guys get a car with 10 things wrong with it, diagnose and fix everything in less than an hour.
“Just being a part of a program as positive as the Ford AAA Student Auto Skills Competition is a good thing,” Wood added. “It makes you feel good that there are so many kids like that out there, when you include all 100 competitors in the national final in Dearborn. This is stuff you think about 25 or 28 year olds doing, and these kids are 17 and 18. It’s pretty amazing that they took an interest that early.”
White and Saunders’ immediate future is a two-year Mormon mission: White to North Dakota and Saunders to parts yet unknown. When they return, scholarships to Universal Technical Institute await. Then, at least for White, a clear goal, “Down the road a little ways, I’d like to open my own shop and focus on performance restoration,” he said. “I like to go fast.”
As part of their victors’ spoils from the Ford AAA Student Auto Skills Competition, Morgan White and Jay Saunders got a taste of life in the fast lane with Wood Brothers Racing.
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Wood Brothers Racing
Wood Brothers Racing was formed in 1950 in Stuart, Va., by Hall of Famer Glen Wood. Wood Brothers Racing is the oldest active team and one of the winningest teams in NASCAR history. Since its founding, the team won 98 races (including at least one race in every decade for the last seven decades) and 117 poles in NASCAR’s top-tier series. Fielding only Ford products for its entire history, the Wood Brothers own the longest association of any motorsports team with a single manufacturer. Glen’s brother, Leonard, is known for inventing the modern pit stop. The team currently runs the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion driven by Ryan Blaney in the famous No. 21 racecar.