Bullring promotion ties racing to learning

On any day they can be in a war zone with gunfire blasting nearby.

They are underpaid, under appreciated.

They enlisted for a front-line fight that too often seems a losing battle, but they persevere.

Instead of Kevlar vests, helmets and automatic weapons, they march into the fray with books, chalk and a $250 federal tax deduction for supplies paid for out of their pockets.

They are America's teachers.

On Saturday, they will be recognized with Education Appreciation Night at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring by getting free admission to its weekly short-track races. All Clark County School District employees will be admitted at no charge with a work ID.

If each would get a couple of free passes, it wouldn't seem like such a mercenary marketing ploy to sell additional tickets. But in a community that lacks proper appreciation for educators, one free $10 ticket is better than nothing.

The special night is noteworthy as a salute and as a reminder of how racing can be tied to learning. Motor sports is an excellent tool for teachers and parents to help spur youngsters' interests.

Super Late Model driver Billy Mitchell is taking it to the extreme at Coronado High School. The veteran Bullring racer and former Navy SEAL is a computer engineering technology teacher at the school. He has created Team Coronado Racing with students helping to build, maintain and promote the team.

The program involves students with car construction and maintenance, graphics and Web site designing, media relations and sponsorship marketing.

Mitchell, a 1987 graduate of Las Vegas High, says the program provides hands-on experiences for applying computer-aided drafting, physical science and geometry to the real world. It brings obscure theories and equations to life.

As parents, you can stimulate your child's interest in various school subjects with racing, and you don't need to own a race car.

Not many kids rush to their atlas or Internet to hone geography knowledge. That could change if they are encouraged to use a map to plot locations of NASCAR, NHRA or Formula One races. Have them plot a course to get from home to a race. Research the cities hosting the races.

Mix in math by calculating fuel mileage to the racetrack.

History lessons can be taught through tracing a race's history. How did World War II affect racing in America? When was the first seat belt used?

Have preschoolers become familiar with art, colors and numbers by drawing race cars.

Like the Coronado project, these ideas can stimulate interest in school work.

If you're not a racer and your son or daughter is 16 or older and wants to become a mechanic, it might be worth talking to local drivers in the pit area after the Bullring races. See if any will allow a volunteer to work on their car during the week. Sweeping floors or cleaning parts has value.

The easiest and least expensive method to tie racing to learning is providing reading materials. Racing books no longer are hard to find in bookstores. Access to the Internet offers a free and near endless collection of motor sports reading.

Reading is the starting point for learning. It doesn't matter what youth-oriented material is read.

Motor sports is as good a place as any to begin growing minds.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com.