GCHS automotive team places 13th in Nation

From left to right: Time Watkins, team coach; Jessie Brooks; Tristan Barnette; Dixie Stewart; Gavin Miller; Chris Lane and Sly Lumpkin.

A combination of brutal early morning practices, a dedicated team of students that always arrive willing to learn and an enthusiastic, knowledgeable coach has transformed the Gordon Central automotive tech program into not only one of the best high school engine building programs in the county or state, but in the entire nation.

Last week, the young engine building club competed in the 2016 Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge Dual National Championships at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, where they placed 13th overall against a large field of national competition.

The competition centered around a five-person team breaking down a small block Chevy 350 engine all the way to the engine block, except for the crankshaft and camshaft, and building it all the way back up while being timed.

The national event is spread out over three days, with the competition separated into three different runs. The recorded times of all three runs are averaged together for a final time that is scored and ranked.

Precision and composure is the key to success. The team must face the pressure of racing the clock while being judged every step of the way. Penalties are handed out for mistakes such as dropping parts and doing potential damage to the engine.

Gordon Central’s team had a mix of quicker runs and slower runs, but finished with an astounding overall time of 31:23.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the time and effort these students have put into this program,” coach and instructor Tim Watkins said. “They have put in a lot of practice before school, and I know that they give their best effort every time.”

The program has afforded the students the opportunity to travel and experience new things. To qualify for the Las Vegas show, the squad has competed in Hot Rodders of Tomorrow events at the Chattanooga Cruise-In Car Show, Motorama at the Atlanta Motor Speedway and the Lane Automotive Car Show in Watervliet, Michigan in the past year.

To meet the qualifications for the National Championship, a team has to register a time under 34 minutes. At the event in Michigan, the Gordon Central team finished with a time of 32 minutes.

In addition to the thrill of competing and the ability to travel, the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow competitions provide the chance for students to learn skills that can be applied to a variety of careers.

The SEMA event even included a Career Day where the students were given the opportunity to spend time networking with automotive companies and distributing their resumes. Technical colleges and universities were also present to interact with the students.

Scholarship money is also awarded at the national event, providing a much easier avenue for attending a college and jumpstarting a career.

“There are so many ways this event helps the students with their futures,” Watkins said. “It’s just really fun seeing the students excited about a career in this industry.”