BRISTOL, Tenn. — Students at Avoca Elementary School learned that it takes more than driving skills to be a professional race car driver when drivers Alex Laughlin and Josh Reeves visited them Tuesday.
Laughlin, the defending Pro Stock winner at Bristol Dragway, is the driver of the Fitzgerald USA Chevy Camaro Pro Stocker in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. He told students that what they are learning today will help them in the future.
“It took math to build my car,” he said. “Each piece of my car is made to be aerodynamic, and we wouldn’t know how to build it without math.”
Reeves, who drives the Lopez Wealth Management Pro Late Model in the Short Track U.S. Nationals, said he uses art and engineering in addition to math in his career.
“Art was my favorite subject because I loved designing stuff,” he said. “All the parts on my car are made on a 3D printer, and to make the parts, you need art, math and engineering.”
Laughlin added that math is needed just to figure out how much air to put in the tires.
“Josh’s car is a lot different than mine,” he said. “And the tires take different amounts of air pressure. Without math, we wouldn’t know how much air to put in.”
The drivers visited the school ahead of the Short Track U.S. Nationals, a late model stock car race that will be held May 18-20 at nearby Bristol Motor Speedway.
After listening to Reeves, first-grader Ava Aldridge vowed to be a better student.
“I’m proud of myself because I’m already good,” she said with a grin. “But I learned today that the cars go very fast because of the way they’re shaped, and I want to do better in math so I can use a 3D printer to make the shapes.”
Second-grader Aiden Rose said he didn’t know he needed to learn math to be a race car driver.
“I want to drive a car like that,” he said, pointing toward Reeves’ car. “So I guess I have to get better at math.”
Laughlin said hearing the kids get excited about school was the main reason for his visit.
“To be able to impact as many kids as I can is everything to me,” he said. “When I was 3, I met Dale Earnhardt. He put me on his lap and drove me around a parking lot in his car. I never forgot the impact that moment had on me — and hopefully, the time we spent here today will leave the same kind of impression on these kids.”
Avoca Principal Vonda Beavers said exposing students to people with different careers helps them understand the connection between school and life.
“Today, the students made a real-life connection,” she said. “And for some of them, that connection will be a reminder of why they need to do well in school.”
Laughlin said he was figuring gear ratios when he was a kid.
“I didn’t know I was using calculus to do that until high school,” he said. “I just knew I loved racing and I needed to figure out how to go faster. So helping these kids understand that what they’re learning now is the foundation for what they need later is important.”