Correction: A previous version of this article contained an error regarding whose decision it was to eliminate racing from the Autos Club; the administration was responsible for this decision, not the board of education.
At this past board meeting, many concerned parents, students, and alumni fought hard for their right to race the cars that they have built in Autos Club.
There was an overwhelming abundance of support, especially by alumni, to allow the racing to continue. While the board was very clear that the club would not be disbanded entirely, the racing aspect of Autos was what originally drew many students to the club.
According to district director of communications Jim Szczepaniak, the decision to end racing was made by administration.
“The administration decided to discontinue the auto club from racing as a school-sponsored activity due to concerns about student safety, liability, and costs,” he said in an email to the NWN.
Former members of the Autos Club were devastated to hear about the discontinuation of racing, as it is quite safe and takes people off of the street. One alumnus offered to help with the safety of racing, as he has multiple qualifications and certifications that are valid in multiple states. He even offered to cover the insurance out of his own pocket.
“I’ve been a state qualifier for track as a sophomore and have run out of that tunnel with the crowd cheering, and I can tell you that none of it compares to going out the race track with your friends with a car you guys have been building for a purpose, and watch it go down the track,” Bosco said. “I assure you that it is a safe environment: there are EMTs at the race track and thick concrete walls for protection. It is more beneficial to get kids off the street, where my friends have died, by offering them the safer alternative.”
Alumnus John Wheeler agrees that the Autos Club has benefited many students and kept them from racing on the streets.
“When I was in eighth grade at [Curriculum and] Activities night, I was walking around and saw pictures of the racing team. I thought that I would get to be a part of that one day. To take that away from someone is wrong. There will always be racing; we’re just hoping that it will be on the track rather than on the streets,” Wheeler said.
Current Niles West sophomore Daniel Liston gave a candid view on why Auto Club means a lot to him.
“I had no idea where I was going, but then I found Auto Club. I thought it would be like Nascar, but it was just a straight shot down a track. It was one of the safest things I’ve ever seen, but honestly, I’ve seen more dangerous driving on the highway,” Liston said.
Several parents were outraged that these opportunities were stripped away from their kids. Stephen Herczeg spoke for himself and on the behalf of his daughter, the first female racer in Auto Club’s history.
“The club has allowed this singular girl to break through a glass ceiling and become the first female racer. I find it a tragedy in a horrible way of not allowing a young girl to reach a new status,” Herczeg said.
“The pride that you have when your child goes to Indy [Indianapolis, location of national competition] with a car that they built is incredible. These boys are owed the chance to see their car go down [the track],” mother of former race car driver, Stephanie Denalak said.
The board said that they will consider the comments for their next meeting but were currently unable to change anything.