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Wis. student techs win Ford/AAA contest

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(Ford Motor Co./AAA Auto Skills Facebook photo) Justin and Colt get some hands-on experience helping the Wood Brothers Racing polish the team’s No. 21 car after practice.

DEARBORN, Mich. (Aug. 5, 2014) — Two teenage student technicians from a Wisconsin high school picked up top honors in the recent Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals at Ford Motor Co.’s headquarters in Dearborn.

Justin Bublitz, 18, and Colt Morris, 17, recent graduates from Grafton High School in Grafton, Wis., won the contest with a perfect score in the hands-on part of the competition. They and their instructor, Carl Hader, got to spend a week recently at the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway with Wood Brothers Racing to get an up-close look at how race teams prepare for and manage a Sprint Cup race.

Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills is a nationwide automotive technology competition for high school juniors and seniors interested in pursuing careers as automotive service technicians. The series of contests—culminating in the finale at Ford—tests students’ automotive knowledge, workmanship and problem-solving abilities with a written test and a hands-on race against the clock to diagnose and properly repair an intentionally “bugged” vehicle, according to contest organizers.

The winners’ unique job shadowing experience with Wood Brothers was part of the Grafton High team’s prize package for winning the 65th annual technology showdown with teams from each of the 50 states.

Messers. Bublitz, Morris and Hader toured the Wood Brothers Racing shop in Harrisburg, N.C., the Roush Fenway Racing shop in Concord, N.C., visited the NASCAR Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte, then spent the race weekend at Daytona.

Eddie Wood, co-owner of Wood Brothers Racing and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion driven by Trevor Bayne, said his team was excited to be part of the Student Auto Skills program.

“It’s been fun having Justin, Colt and their teacher, Carl, with us…. We think it’s important to reward achievement in young people and maybe interest them in a career in racing in the process.”

Mr. Morris said the week spent with Woods Racing “has been amazing. To be close to everything and watch the magic happen is a great experience,” while his partner called the experience “insanely fun. It’s mind-blowing the things we’re seeing.

“It’s so different from working on a normal car. This definitely makes me want to get into racing. Before this I was never a NASCAR fan, but now I’ll probably be a huge NASCAR fan.”

Mr. Hader, a teacher for 35 years, has taken 15 teams to the Auto Skills national finals and has chalked up two wins. “I expect the kids to take back to their everyday lives the idea that you should be organized, plan things out ahead of time, and that nothing happens by chance,” he said. “These race teams do everything they can think of before the race to put their drivers in a position to win.”

Wood Brothers Racing—the oldest active NASCAR team and one of the series’ winningest—was formed in 1950 in Stuart, Va., by NASCAR Hall of Famer Glen Wood. Since its founding, the team said it has won 98 races—including at least one race in every decade for the last seven decades—117 poles in NASCAR’s top-tier series, and fielded only Ford products for its entire history.

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