Board Eliminates Racing for Autos Clubs

By Divitya Vakil, News Editor

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At the November 14th Board Meeting, a motion was passed to revise Autos Clubs affecting students at both Niles West and Niles North, effectively eliminating the racing component. Though three new clubs were described in the proposal, only one will be instated at West– Auto Competition Club: High Mileage Vehicle/ Supermileage Competition. Previously, students in Autos Club built and raced their own vehicle. This new competition involves building a vehicle that will go the farthest distance while using the least amount of fuel.

The other two clubs will be instated at North–Auto Competition Club: Automotive Restoration Project/Competition and Auto Competition Club: Engine Teardown Competition. West students will be able to join the North Clubs if desired.

The Automotive Competition Club first became a topic of discussion due to insurance cost, student safety, liability
concerns, and the trends emerging in the industry. The board has been working for over six months to find safer alternatives to racing. The Administration and Board have been collaborating with other high schools, community colleges, technical schools, four-year universities, and business/industry partners in order to formulate the three new clubs/competitions.

Earlier in 2017, the Administration placed a hold on this activity, leaving the club members frustrated and confused. Some students even petitioned to recover their ability to race. The Autos Club has the insurance to cover the racing and has never had any prior accidents or injuries.

An insurance proposal for the Automotive Competition Club received from Bill Danielak has been reviewed by the District’s insurance pool administrators.  The CLIC insurance pool administrator has recommended a minimum of $10M in total liability coverage.

“I’m sure the insurance will be cheaper than what it was originally quoted,” Danielak said. “I know that the 10 million is in there somewhere, but we just have to find it.”

The District Administration also recommended the purchase of a more modern vehicle to replace the 1968 Pontiac Catalina. The new vehicle would include front and side-impact airbags and other safety equipment with a cost estimate of $20,000.

While the motion eventually passed at the board meeting, many teachers, alumni, and students spoke in favor of allowing racing for the students.

“The club that Richmond had put forth was one of the best learning environments I’d ever had. I was able to apply things that I learned in the classroom into a place where I could see success immediately. Richmond was really the only person that pushed me to work harder in the class if I wanted to race,” junior Daniel Liston said.

Niles North Senior Emily Herczeg spoke about the measures she and several other members at both schools took to preserve the racing aspect of the club.

“I’ve [gone] around my school talking about it [Autos Club], getting people that didn’t even know it was a thing interested in it,” Herczeg said. “I have over 200 signatures for a petition for the racing club.”

Police Officer and D219 alum Mike Zahacky emphasized that racing with the Autos Club could prevent reckless behavior on the street.

“These kids need an outlet, somewhere to go to,” Zahacky said. “The idea behind the drag racing is to get rid of street racing. Obviously, once kids get their license, they think they have the keys to the road. That often leads to driving recklessly and getting into accidents. This club could prevent that by teaching them that they have to go to the drag strip and that’s where you’re driving faster than normal speed limits, that is where it should take place.”

Despite the huge turnout in support of keeping the racing aspect of this club alive, the Board’s decision is final, and the three new clubs will be created in the near future.