No. 04 doesn't have to win at speedway to be
By Bill Poindexter
Record Staff Writer
Published Friday, May 21, 2004
STOCKTON -- Steve
Foster envisioned a color-coordinated team in Franklin High
School green and gold with a big, menacing yellowjacket -- the
school mascot -- painted on his Western Late Model race car.
What he has is a
purple Chevrolet Lumina featuring a likeness of the Dragonball
Z character Goku.
"He's the most
powerful guy on the show," junior Hector Guerra said, striking
the pose that tells the story.
Guerra and fellow
junior Jeremy Akers stand and gaze up at the car, which is
resting on lifts waiting for attention. They are ready and
willing to oblige. It may be the slowest car in the Late Model
class at Stockton 99 Speedway, but it's theirs, and it serves
a more important purpose than any other car at the track.
The No. 04 car
isn't a top-five qualifier or finisher. It isn't spoiled with
thousands of dollars worth of parts, and it won't challenge
for a track championship this season. It's more a math
problem, science project and lesson in physics and chemistry.
teaches wood shop,
drives the car. The Lumina is maintained by students. Akers,
Guerra and senior Steve Girling supervise a crew of kids
from the basic and advanced auto, wood, metal and machine shop
classes that handles every chore -- from installing a new
engine for Saturday night's NASCAR Weekly Series double-points
program to checking tire pressure.
"It teaches you
that you have to work fast and work good," Akers said.
and Guerra are a talented trio. Girling has served as Foster's
spotter at the races, and Akers has worked with his uncle,
former Late Model driver John Graham. But Foster lets every
student get his or her hands dirty, including several special-
nothing but positives by doing this," said Foster, who has his
wood shop class building a mini-chopper, drag boat, hovercraft
and small airplane. "It's a very good instrument for learning
and demonstrating, as well as the motivational factor."
While the focus
of schools is on reading, writing and arithmetic, Foster and
his fellow shop teachers point to the fact some kids just
don't excel in those areas. They marvel at the initiative,
focus and performance those same students display when tools
are put in their hands and they are forced to use their
Richard Rocero, who has a Chevy Vega for drag racing ready for
his students to work on: "You get them
in here working with their hands, they're just as bright as
maintaining the race car is a daily lesson in several
subjects, and some of the kids don't even realize it.
"Racing is all
geometry. It's no less a science than rockets or something
else," Foster said. "It's weight and balance, gear ratios,
shifting on four points, centrifugal force, weight, matter,
"We try to do
whatever interests the kids," machine shop instructor David
Morelli said. "It gets them thinking and keeps them here."
The main tasks on
this day, according to Guerra, are to "rivet down everything,"
install a new power steering pump and fix a transmission leak.
"It's fun coming
to school to work on the race car," Guerra said. "That's all
we do in class is work on the race car. Everything in the car,
* To reach
assistant sports editor Bill Poindexter, phone (209)
546-8289 or e-mail
Speedway co-owner Ken Clapp said Wednesday that anyone from
Franklin High School with a student body card will be admitted
free of charge for Saturday night's NASCAR Weekly Series