LIMA — Colleges are designed to help students learn and grow in their respective field of study. The University of Northwestern Ohio not only provides opportunities academically, but it also gives students opportunities that reach well beyond their years in college. The UNOH Motorsports Team consists of 73 students and they’re led by head coach Paul Higgins. Will Norris and Brenden Rassel are drivers in the K&N Filter Modified division for UNOH. Both will be on hand for Fast Friday at Limaland Motorsports Park. The pit gates open at 4:30 p.m. and racing begins at 7:30 p.m.
Becoming part of the UNOH Motorsports Team requires being a UNOH student. It doesn’t matter the major.
“At the end of October we send out memos and stuff on social media about applying to our Motorsports Team,” Higgins said. “We then hold an informational meeting to tell them all about the team and what we do. The students then have to make a resume and get letters of recommendation. I receive all of those. We then conduct one on one interviews. Over 200 students normally apply. Then we pick out those who we feel will be a good fit. We officially start as a team in December. We put them in groups right away and assign them tasks. We try to find the strengths and weaknesses of each student.”
In order to even be considered for the Motorsports Team, students have to have at least a 2.5 GPA. Trying out to be a Limaland drivers requires at least a 3.2 GPA.
“When we conduct our driver tryouts, we take our cars to the track and run them through a series of drills. Then we pick the drivers. Everybody else get assigned responsibilities too.”
With beautiful facilities and a state of the art track to compete at, there are some people who think these students are spoiled. Higgins pointed out that the students earn every opportunity they get.
“Our students work a lot and have a lot of other duties that they have to do for our university,” Higgins said. “They mow the grass at the track, sweep the parking lots and even clean the bathrooms. It’s not all glory. They spend 11 months on the team and spend five hours per day Monday through Thursday. Many of them do extra hours because this is their life and it’s what they want.”
Higgins looks for three important things out of a prospective team member.
“The first thing that I look for is a good work ethic,” Higgins said. Then I look for professionalism because they’re always representing the university. The third thing is the willingness to learn. If you have those, we can teach you skills.”
Norris, who is entering his senior year at UNOH, hails from Bells, Tennessee. He is in ninth place in the K&N Filter Modified division at Limaland with 420 points.
“I’ve been around racing since I was 5 years old,” Norris said. “My dad was racing back then and seeing him race while I was growing up is all that I wanted to do. I started racing at the age of 12. I found out about UNOH during my freshman year of high school. Once I saw what they had to offer I knew that I wanted to go there. I’ve been blessed to get on the race team here. I raced stocks my first year and have been racing modifieds ever since.”
Norris hasn’t just learned how to be a better racer since joining the Motorsports Team.
“Being on the team is a lot of work,” Norris said. “I’ve been able to do a lot of PR work and learned how to market myself. UNOH has giving me a lot of opportunities. One of the best opportunities has been the opportunity to work with different people. This place is so diverse and there are people from all over the country. It’s helped me grow as a leader as I’ve progressed through the team. I can’t thank the school enough for all it has done for me. I get to race every Friday night. It’s a dream come true.”
Rassel, who is from Woonsocket, South Dakota, is in fourth place in the K&N Filter Modified division with 492 points.
“The opportunities have been endless,” Rassel said. “I’ve been taught to work on the newest equipment, and I’ve also learned new ways of thinking. I’m blessed to be a driver and a manager on the Motorsports Team. It’s helped expand my skills. I’ve been fortunate to go down to Florida with the team twice now. It’s been quite the ride.”
Rassel also enjoys competing at Limaland every week.
“The track itself is phenomenal,” Rassel said. “It’s action packed and as a driver, you can never relax. It’s a ton of fun.”
For Fast Friday results, pick up the Sunday edition of The Lima News.
Limaland Motorsports Park has rescheduled the Keysor Memorial for July 20. On the schedule that evening along with the Keysor Memorial featuring the Bud Thunderstock paying $1,000 to win will be the Non-Wing Sprints and K&N Filter Modifieds. Go to limaland.com for more information.
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0451.