Mid America Dragway, a Division 5 NHRA member track outside of Ark City, Kan., made some history Monday by hosting the first NHRA Youth and Education Services event at a non-NHRA national event track.
The YES program, a staple of NHRA youth outreach since 1989, has hosted tens of thousands of students each year in cities local to the 24-race NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, helping to teach students STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) lessons and career opportunities through drag racing, but the Mid America Dragway event was the first in the new pilot program to expand the reach of the YES curriculum and could serve as a template for other member tracks that may be passionate and interested in doing a similar program.
All schools and students registered for the NHRA Virtual YES program online and watched the online content prior to coming out to the Career Day at the Races at Mid America Dragway. This is similar to the manner NHRA is currently conducting virtual YES programs on the national event level due to the pandemic.
Mid America Dragway Marketing Director Kenny Ault and track owner Jim Maybrier welcomed 370 students from Arkansas City, Winfield, Udall, Cedar Vale, Caldwell, Sedan, Belle Plaine, and Peckham, Okla., as well as Cowley College and High Plaines Technology Center, of Woodward, Okla., to their track for the event. Schools were assigned seating in grandstands to ensure social distancing between school groups.
Students rotated through various learning stations and were able to get close to and, in some cases, sit in several race cars on display and talk to the drivers and their crews.
After lunch, the students returned to the grandstands to watch exhibition passes by Carson Wheeler's Top Alcohol Dragster, the Top Alcohol Funny Cars of Dan Butherus and Mike Buchanan, plus bracket cars, Jr. Dragsters, and Jr. Street machines.
For more information about the NHRA Youth & Education Services Program or to participate in the Virtual YES Program curriculum, visit www.nhra.com/virtualyesprogram.
Photos by Thomas Carver