Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle: Youthful Enthusiasm Gets it Done

There are pieces of legislation that have been buried or squashed in state and federal governments for years with all sorts of political muscle behind them. Tuesday, June 21 saw a piece of legislation signed into law by Governor Bev Perdue at Charlotte Motor Speedway that designated stock car racing as the official sport of the state of North Carolina. While the act itself isn’t that great of a feat, the fact that this bill started as the idea of a group of grade-school students and moved from idea to law in less than two years time is a testament to the dedication of the kids and their teachers.

In Oct. 2009, teachers met with representative Grey Mills to first discuss the prospect of introducing a bill to have stock car racing named the official sport of North Carolina. Rep. Mills liked the idea but informed the teachers that no new bills can be introduced for the 2010 short session. In March 2010 the fourth-grade class of Lake Norman Elementary agreed to assume the project as a grade-level project.

In March, the students applied to be part of the project by writing an essay and in May, 11 fourth-grade and two fifth-grade students were selected to be a part of the project based on the essays they handed in. Later that month, the students who were selected were divided into research groups to study the following items: State Symbols, Mooresville, History of Stock Car Racing, People of Stock Car Racing, Racetracks of North Carolina and Economic Impact of Racing in North Carolina. At the end of May, students visited the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame and Roush Racing.

Then in July, the students visited the NASCAR Hall of Fame and also interviewed Dr. Craig Depkin, professor of Economics at UNC-Charlotte. Two months later in September, the students made trips to the NASCAR Technical Institute, the Mooresville Museum, North Carolina Auto Walk of Fame, Cotton Ketchie Landmark Gallery and JR Motorsports. As October rolled around, Rep. Mills visited Lake Norman Elementary to explain the process of how a bill becomes a law.

The Mayor of Mooresville, Chris Montgomery, also visited Lake Norman Elementary to learn about the project and professed the support of the community to the project. In December, Maria Meyerhoefer attended Dr. Depkin’s class to make a presentation on the project while Nicole Mitcham Kenney created a logo for the Pit Crew.

A month later as 2011 began, Dawn Creason, the Director of Public Relations for the Iredell-Statesville School System paid a visit to the school to explain how her department could assist in publicizing the project. On Jan. 20, the students made a presentation to the Iredell-Statesville School Board and received a unanimous endorsement of support. Just a few days later on Jan. 26, the North Carolina General Assembly convened once again and Rep. Mills presented the idea to the Legislative Services Commission Bill Drafting Division. The group also created a Facebook page to drum up support and keep supporters informed of the progress.

In February, the students visited the Performance Instruction Training Facility, and Dr. Daniel Pierce, associate professor and chair of the History Department at UNC-Asheville, visited the students at Lake Norman Elementary to learn about the project, discuss his book Real NASCAR and donate a book to the library in the name of the group. Momentum began building for the project as the students made a presentation to the Mooresville Town board, and News 14 Carolina and the Charlotte Observer featured stories about the effort. The board gave the group a unanimous endorsement of support.

On March 10, while the students made a presentation to the Statesville Civitan Club, House Bill 333 and Senate Bill 322 were filed in the North Carolina General Assembly. On March 14, the bills passed their first readings and were referred to the Committees on Rules and Operations for the House and Senate while the students made another presentation to Bulldawg Marketing. Less than a week later, the students once again presented their ideas, this time at Lake Norman Elementary Family Night.

On March 24, Bulldawg Marketing decided to sponsor the Mini-Outlaw Sprint Kart of Karsyn Elledge in support of the project. The following night, the students who had worked so hard on this project had the opportunity – one of many – to participate in opening ceremonies at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C.

Just a few weeks later, the PASS race ran on April 9 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, where the students again participated in pre-race ceremonies. April 12 saw the Rally to Raleigh held at Lake Norman Elementary, featuring Kelley Earnhardt and her daughter Karsyn Elledge. Finally, on April 20 the students made a presentation to the North Carolina General Assembly Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House. The bill was reported on favorably and just a week later, the Senate voted to pass the bill 46-3.

But it didn’t stop there: On May 9, the students visited Hendrick Motorsports just a few days before the Moorseville Race City Festival on May 12 to drum up more support for the bill. The students made yet another presentation to spread the word about their project at the Lake Norman Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast on May 20.

Then, the students had a couple more opportunities to tell the world about their project by visiting the track. On May 25, Elledge sported the Support paint scheme on her Mini-Outlaw kart at Millbridge Speedway, and on May 26 the students had the opportunity to participate in Windstream Pole Night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where they were honorary flag people.

Fast forward to June 15, the final voting day in the House of Representatives. The students attended to listen to the debate as well as the vote. The resolution passed and was sent on to Governor Perdue for her signature. Less than a week later, Governor Perdue signed the bill officially into law in front of students, dignitaries and members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway on June 21.

Stock car racing was born in North Carolina and the NASCAR Hall of Fame found its home in Charlotte, a city known as the center of the stock car racing universe. But the students at Lake Norman Elementary and Mount Mourne I.B. went a step further to have the sport recognized as the official sport of the state. The effort and commitment by the kids and their teachers, parents and civic organizations made the ultimate passing of the bill possible.

Stock car racing needs more young fans so that there is a future in the sport, and the kids who put in the long hours (staying after school an extra hour and a half two days a week for seven months) and tireless effort to inspire legislators to pass this bill will most certainly be fans of the sport for decades to come. Congratulations to the students and everyone associated with this process for getting this bill passed.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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