(Stafford Springs, CT)—Throughout the years, there have been many rookie stories that will give cause to sit up and take notice of a driver. Stafford Speedway’s Limited Late Model division is about to have a rookie story that may just be the most unique rookie tale of them all. Southampton, MA native David Tefft is preparing to make his debut with a crew of students from Westfield Technical Academy in Westfield, MA. Tefft is an automotive instructor at the school and his idea was to create a race team that would get the roughly 50 automotive program students involved in the sport while also teaching them automotive skills.
“Over the three and a half years the students will cover hundreds of competencies that we expect them to become proficient in,” said Tefft. “I hope this program will deepen their knowledge of how a vehicle would operate and help them understand why certain changes are necessary no matter the application. We’re getting close with the car and we’re shooting for the 28th for our first race,” said Tefft. “My background is in heavy diesel and trucks and I’m part of the automotive program. This is an idea that I came up with a couple of years ago. Students at school have sports like baseball, football, and soccer to play so I figured why not a race team? We’ve had a few setbacks and some bumps in the road getting everything together, but it’s been a learning experience both for myself as well as the students. Getting qualified and finishing the feature will be a huge accomplishment for us.”
Both Tefft and his students have been hard at work going through a car that was formerly driven in the Late Model ranks at Stafford by Tracy Brouillette and Woody Pitkat. The best part of the program that Tefft has started is the applications aren’t just limited to the automotive side of things as Tefft has plans to get multiple departments involved to include hundreds of students that would be interested but not looking for a career in the automotive field.
“The car was here all during the school year and the duration of the summer,” said Tefft. “I’ve spent a fair amount of time working on the car with the students during the summer. It is an old Bob Fill car that was run by Tracy Bouillette and Donnie at R.A.D. built the engine. We’ve done the bulk of the work all in-house and have read the rules over and over to get a good understanding. While this is a program that is heavily laden with automotive, we’ve had our manufacturing technology department build some parts and brackets for us and it’s a great way for students to be able to work on and build something and then actually see it get put to practical use. Our thought is to get the graphics department involved to come up with some different paint schemes that we can use to represent the different areas of the school, and we can see if the business technology department wants to get involved with doing some of the marketing side. Part of the business technology curriculum is to learn marketing, so what better way to learn marketing than being part of the race team and learning how to market a sponsor? These are just suggestions of working between the different technical disciplines here, when looking to the academic side this program also is heavy laden in math and science also.”
Tefft will run just enough races this season to preserve his rookie status for the 2016 season. Once the 2015 season has finished, the next phase for Tefft and his student team will be to acquire sponsorship for the 2016 season.
“The goal is to fill our 5 race limit to keep our rookie status and then for 2016 we can look at some sponsorship and funding to really help get us off the ground,” said Tefft. “The students I’m working with are between 14 and 18 years of age and it would be nice to be able to pay for a certain number of pit entries for them. When you’re that age, their job is school and a $30 bill can be substantial for them. We’re starting to cross the sponsorship bridge now and rather than have a few setbacks, I wanted to get the car finished up so that we would be able to put it on display for a potential sponsors and in the fall, showcase it to our advisory board members and the community. Teachers and others work in the school system but it is always the community that really builds and fosters quality schools, and their input is important to us. Sponsors are going to be giving us money so the question is what can we do to give our sponsors a return. This will not be just a one way street. We’re looking at being able to give a sponsor some good exposure as well as promoting our automotive program and the different vocational programs that we have available here at Westfield Technical Academy. Also we hope this will open opportunities for our students to obtain intern and employment within their chosen field.”
As Tefft prepares for his Stafford debut, he has small goals in mind for his first foray into the world of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series short track racing.
“My goal is to get some seat time and to work out any bugs we still might have in the car and find a setup that will allow us to run competitive lap times,” said Tefft. “Everyone has been real enthusiastic about the program so far. I have to give a shout out to Bob Fill, who has donated both his time to help us out working on the car and he’s also donated the front clip we put on the car, and to the #3 SK Light team of Geoff Boisjolie. They’ve been helping us out and they’re going to let us use their trailer to bring the car to the track. Their support and team story is why we chose to run the number 3 on the car since that’s Geoff’s number in the SK Lights.”
Tefft and his team of students no doubt face a daunting task of getting a car up to speed against seasoned veterans, but if they can be competitive, it truly would be a rookie story worth paying attention to and rooting for.
For more information, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.