DSR AND WTC TEAM UP TO TRAIN FUTURE NHRA CREW MEMBERS
Don Schumacher Racing prides itself on innovation in the sport of NHRA drag racing and in its latest brush with advancement DSR aims to mold the aspirations of future technicians who want to make a career working on 10,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars.
Two years ago, DSR hosted two interns from Western Technical College (WTC) in El Paso, Texas. Kody Throop and Josh Lerma spent the nearly a month of their summer working with DSR’s U.S. Army and Matco Tools Top Fuel teams during the demanding three-race Western Swing in July and August.
The students found the experience so rewarding that WTC, founded in January 1970, chose to expand the internship program and its involvement with DSR, which announced Western Technical College as the Official Technical College of DSR in early July 2014.
“The future of our sport is in the hands of young drivers, mechanics and technicians and that’s why DSR is excited to join with Western Technical College in this endeavor,” said Don Schumacher, who founded DSR in 1998 and since has won 13 NHRA world championships and 245 NHRA national event titles.
“Our sport of NHRA drag racing has become so technologically advanced that we need to train the brightest to be able to help manufacturer and tune these 320-mph race cars.”
The relationship between WTC and DSR cultivated from the Matco Tools Technical Education program. Antron Brown and the Matco Tools dragster first visited WTC’s main campus in El Paso in 2009 when Brown’s team was owned by Mike Ashley. The annual spring visits to El Paso continued after Don Schumacher purchased the team in late 2009. Brown, the NHRA 2012 Top Fuel world champion, has made seven visits to the WTC site located at 9624 Plaza Circle in El Paso.
“This partnership is a new and exciting endeavor for Western Tech,” WTC President Allan Sharpe said. “Being affiliated with such a prestigious organization as Don Schumacher Racing allows us to offer specialty training with the best in the world of motor sports.
“The DSR/Western Tech partnership stresses the importance of strong relationships. A spring visit from Antron Brown and the Matco Tools dragster in 2009, through our affiliation with Matco Tools, continued to grow and led to our school tucked away in far West Texas partnering with the flagship organization in NHRA racing.”
On February 25, 2015, Brown was joined by DSR teammate and 2012 Funny Car world champion Jack Beckman and DSR’s Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car as two of the more inspirational drivers in auto racing spoke to three large groups of WTC students about careers and the importance of education and ambition.
“We have worked with several of the Western Tech interns and it’s just been a fantastic experience,” Beckman said. “You don’t know how much comes from the individual or the experience they get from the vocational school. I was blown away at how big the Western Tech campus and shop is. The number of instructors the students have access to is phenomenal, and the equipment and components they have are just tremendous.”
The trackside internship program expanded last year as DSR hosted 12 students for three different three- and four-race swings during the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. The success of the trackside program led to six students from WTC’s welding program getting the opportunity to spend part of the off-season in DSR’s fabrication shop. Three groups of two WTC welding students supported DSR’s five-man fabrication department as the fab shop feverishly completed the new 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car body program.
“The goal of the off-season program with the interns was to have some of the Western Tech students from the advanced welding program come to DSR and learn and get some hands-on experience,” said DSR fab shop manager Joe Fitzpatrick. “We were able to get them heavily involved in some neat projects and I really think it helped them not only learn new skills like tig welding, but also working with peers and fitting in as part of a team. I was pleased with the results and we’re going to continue to host WTC welding students during the 2015 season.”
“WTC’s welding students participation in the DSR Internship program is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” added Richard Morris, WTC director of welding. “The experience gained will be an amazing addition to their resumes and has enhanced the welding training they received here at Western Technical College.”
The trackside internship program will continue during the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello season as the first group of WTC students will join DSR teams for June races at Englishtown, N.J., Epping, N.H. and Bristol, Tenn. DSR teams also will host interns during the Western Swing in July and August and the first three races of the Countdown to the Championship in September and October. There also are plans to continue the fab shop internship program with WTC welding students this year.
Always looking to advance its curriculum, WTC’s leadership has been working with DSR’s Director of Racing Todd Okuhara and former world champion assistant crew chief Terry Snyder to launch a Nitro Technology Course this summer.
WTC has leased from DSR a Top Fuel dragster and a Funny Car along with the necessary parts and Matco tools to prepare the next wave of entry level NHRA crew members. The Nitro Technology program will be an add-on course once students have completed their area of study, which includes welding, automotive, diesel and performance tuning. Western Tech’s auto and diesel programs are Master Certified by NATEF, the educational division for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
“The main focus of the nitro curriculum program is to train and prepare individuals to go to work directly for professional NHRA race teams,” Western Tech Program Director Jack Werner said. “DSR has been fantastic in providing us with the dragster, Funny Car, components and specialty tools needed to allow the students to be trained in the real trackside race environment.”
Potential students interested in the Nitro Technology program can contact Werner at [email protected] for more information on the six-month course.