Dropped insurance means no racing car for H-F High students

Homewood-Flossmoor High School has a 1997 Ford Mustang built for racing, but students can’t work on or drive the car because it has no insurance.

The car is the pride of the H-F Auto Club. Students have taken the car to Byron Dragway near Rockford. In the 2022 race season, the Mustang raced twice at Byron.

“Last year we had a great return to the track after being unable to go since 2019. We brought the car on two days, along with a full team of students who worked together to solve our problems,” H-F sophomore Charley Dieringer, director of communications for the Auto Club, told members of the District 233 school board at its October meeting. 

H-F is in a unique situation. It is the only known high school with a race team.

Members of the H-F High School Auto Club, from left, Eric Ray of Flossmoor,
Angelina Lopez of Homewood and Mike Pennick of Hazel Crest helped rebuild
this Mustang into a race car. (Chronicle file photo from January 2018)

This school year, the insurer who wrote the policy no longer offered the insurance, said Carla Erdey, director of communications for Homewood-Flossmoor High School. 

“The H-F Business Office has been working to secure insurance for the H-F racing team since last spring. H-F’s insurance broker has reached out to 19 markets that serve Illinois and all have declined to provide a bid because a high school racing team is too niche of a market,” she explained. 

“It appears that the other race teams in Illinois race as a corporate team that adopts a school. The insurance broker has also reached out to eight other states and none of those are interested in insuring a high school racing team,” she added.

The Mustang was rebuilt by Auto Club members who spent their Mondays in summers 2016 and 2017 under the supervision of teacher Ben May. It has a new engine, drive train, suspension, brakes and electrical system. The car can reach a speed of up to 100 mph. Students have raced it at Byron since 2018.

“Our school takes immense pride in being the only high school in the state with a race car,” Dieringer told the school board. “This unique program is not just about drag racing; it’s a comprehensive learning and teaching experience that empowers our students with a diverse set of skills and knowledge. 

“Racing involves and teaches STEM, geometry, physics, welding, fabrication, automotive mechanics, auto body, regulations/rules, budgeting, marketing, public speaking, mental and physical stamina, people skills, team building skills, and, of course, driving skills,” he said.

The Auto Club worked last year “to get (the Mustang) set up for the track. We can’t even physically touch the car now,” Dieringer told the Chronicle. The club is a separate activity from automotive classes.

The H-F Automotive Program has a full complement of classes. The set-up at H-F includes lifts and alignment machines and the same kind of diagnostic tools found in an auto repair shop.  Students who have graduated from H-F often complete internships at car dealers before they graduate.  Maybe go on to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale for their automotive program.

For now, students in the Auto Club are working on a tow vehicle that was donated to the program.

“We’re swapping out key components in the engine right now,” Dieringer said. “If we ever do get our insurance back we’ll be able to tow” the Mustang saving the club a $200 expense every weekend to rent a tow. “Eventually this will pay off, if we get to use it.”

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