Last week, we introduced you to the Chavez Motor Sports Engineering team — a group of students from Chavez High School who put their math and science lessons to the test while working on a competitive race car.
The students in the after school program, led by ex-racer turned science and engineering teacher Greg Ditch, were on hand this past weekend in Beeville, Texas, for the Texas Mile competition. Ditch filled us in today on how the students performed under pressure while trying to get their stock 2006 Pontiac GTO into top speed condition.
According to Ditch, the students worked through a few issues with the car, including quick fixes to ensure the car would be ready to race. Ditch said one of his students, crew chief Eric Lopez, removed the muffler system in less than three minutes to get the car ready for its first run.
The problem was eventually fixed and NASCAR driver Ronnie Neuenberger, who helped the students solve mechanical and other issues, made a successful licensing run in the Chavez car at a speed of 150.0 mph. A subsequent run improved the car’s speed to 170.6 mph, Ditch wrote.
Despite having to fix a blown transmission seal, the Chavez team made additional modifications to the car to improve its performance. All the while, Ditch wrote, the team applied their lessons from math, science and other subjects to ensure success this weekend.
Eventually, the car reached a peak speed of 175.5 mph with Neuenberger at the wheel. Ditch made his own runs, achieving a license run at 147 mph and hitting a top speed of 172.2 mph.
The Chavez students used car-mounted cameras to gain even more data about the performance of the vehicle, Ditch wrote.
You can read Ditch’s complete email with more tales from the track below.
We did great at the Texas Mile. I do not know exactly where we “clocked in” on the overall results, but all in all it was a complete success. After tech inspection and the driver/crew chief meeting, we were able to inspect the racing surface. We found a few things we needed to adjust on the car after registration and tech. The crew arrived at the track at 6 a.m. on Saturday and began work on the car. We rolled off at 8:23 a.m. Friday and had a minor mechanical issue—a muffler bracket became damaged on the trailer and broke off at the starting line. I was driving the car at the time.
Crew Chief Eric Lopez was given a 3-minute warning and he was able to remove the entire muffler system from the axles back in order to get me back to the start line. We took it “easy” on the first run at 127 mph and did not experience any issues. We pulled the car in the pits, checked fluids and the tightness of the bolts. After that, Donnie Neuenberger took the car for his licensing run. You are required to make one pass over 140 mph and less than 165 mph to obtain your license. He checked in at 150.0 mph on his first run, putting us in the prestigious “150+ Club”.
Neuenberger took the car out for his second run and third overall for Chavez Motor Sports Engineering. He was able to improve his overall speed to 170.6 mph, bumping us up to the prestigious club. Our spotter, Orlando Sepulveda, noticed a huge cloud of smoke coming out of the car at the ¾ mile marker. We took the car back the pits and found a blown rear seal on the transmission. The extreme heat and pressure caused a part failure. The closest part was located at a GM dealership in San Antonio. We were able to get the part by 7am Saturday morning. The students worked all night to get the drive shaft and rear portion of the transmission removed from the car. The new part was installed by Briana Salas and Marina Solis and Car Chief Walter Campos made multiple suspension setting adjustments. Juan Rodriguez worked with Donnie Neuenberger to figure out a way to create more downforce on the front end using tape over the grille.
Saturday went off very well. The students noticed a major change in ambient temperature which affected the racing surface. Tire Specialists Jimmy Mosqueda and Karen Rubio noticed that with an increase in track temperature, the tire pressure went up 10 pounds. Crew Chief Eric Lopez was analyzing data and calculated that an increase in tire pressure would increase our overall top speed by giving the tires a greater circumference.
Greg Ditch made a licensing run on Saturday at 147 mph.
Sunday, the students woke up to a 15 mph tail wind and 50-degree temperatures. They reviewed the previous day’s data to see how they could “find” speed. The students worked with Neuenberger again to lose more weight from the car and remove the car’s mirrors in hopes to reduce drag. Juan Rodriguez placed several E-Go cameras on the car. He and Neuenberger were able to review several pieces of data from the portable car-mounted cameras. With the cooler temperatures, Donnie was able to maximize the GTO at 175.5 mph. Greg Ditch, who was nicknamed “Show Time” by the crew for his flashy take-offs, nailed a 172.2 mph (despite all of the flair!).