Although the trip to Kansas City had its share of technical difficulties, the race at the Kansas Speedway went well for the Hoisington High School Electric Car Team, HHS industrial arts teacher Ty Coker said. “The car ran excellent. We couldn’t ask for a better day, even though it was rainy,” said Coker. “It wasn’t a concern to place; it was more of a goal to learn.”
Five students and two advisers made the trip to Kansas City on Sunday to compete in the second KanAm Electric Challenge in KC on Monday. The Hoisington team took 15th place overall out of 30 teams in the standard class at the race. Other divisions include experimental and open class. Colleges and professional teams may compete in the open class.
Casey Tuggle, TeeJay Janousek, Brooks Linsner, Darwin Brinkley, and Sjon Blakely make up the Hoisington team. Coker and student teacher Mark Bogner are the advisers for the team. They have been working on their electric car, No. 431, for almost two years as a project outside of school.
The hardest part was getting to Kansas City, said Tuggle. “My favorite part of the trip was the drive up there. We had to stop and change a tire.” The students put their mechanical skills to work, overseen by Coker, when they had to change a tire on the Suburban they were driving.
The team stopped in Ellsworth to check the trailer, because it was swaying badly, and found the tire pressure to be too low in the Suburban to pull the heavily loaded trailer. “We found a gash in the sidewall of one of the tires, so we had to change it,” relayed Tuggle.
“It was phenomenal just being at the Speedway,” said Coker about the venue of the race. “The students may not have that experience again, unless they stay with the team.”
After getting to the Speedway, the students checked in and registered. Then the drivers had to be weighed. In the rules, each driver must weigh at least 180 pounds. That means that if the driver does not, the team has to add ballast, or extra weight, to make up the difference. Janousek and Tuggle were the two drivers for the team. Upon weigh-in, the team found they had too much ballast for Janousek, so they had to go buy different weights to balance him out in the car. They used a 20-pound ballast weight when Tuggle was driving, but had to change that out with two five-pound weights when Janousek was driving.
Sunday evening allowed the students to unload the tools and welder from the trailer, check and charge batteries, and see the cars the other schools and teams had designed and built.
“I was really impressed with the car from Cloud County Community College,” said Tuggle. “Their driver was a tiny girl, who looked like she weighed less than 90 pounds. I was surprised that she could fit into a space that small.” Cloud Electric went on to win the open class division with a speed of 55.3 mph and 36 laps around the “Top Groove” of the Speedway, which is longer than the regular track, or “Bottom Groove.”
On Monday, the team competed in two races. Janousek drove in Race 1, completing 14 laps, for a total of 21.07 miles. The team placed 10th. The batteries started to die with 20 minutes left in the race, forcing Janousek’s car to slow down on the embankments.
Tuggle drove for the second race. “I was really nervous at first. Then it got fun until it started to downpour and I could barely see.” Tuggle drove nine laps, for a total of 13.5 miles. The team placed 18th in Race 2.
The other team members play vital roles in the race, as well.
Linsner and Brickley ran the pit for the team, having to change out the gear ratios when Janousek had to stop during the first race. They changed the gears and the chain size, allowing the car to pull a different amount of amperage. The team had two set-ups. One pulled 60 amps, which helped with the long track and embankments; another pulled 40 amps, which made the batteries last longer for the 70-minute races.
Blakely and the “off” driver were lap counters and spotters for the team.
“We brought back a lot from the race. We set some team goals, and we accomplished them,” said Coker. They even brought back some ideas on how to improve the car in the future. “We’re going to look into more gear ratios and aerodynamics.”
To prepare for the KanAm Electric Challenge, the team competed in the Frontier Rally in Hays on Sept. 30, placing seventh out of 13 teams. At that race, Hoisington won the Team Spirit Award.
The team and car are sponsored by Kansas Brick and Tile, Boxberger Automotive, Johnson Electric, Hoisington Co-op, Town & Country, Stoskopf Farms, McCurry Farms, Greta Foster, S&S Manufacturing, Cates CARQUEST of Hoisington, the Tap Room, Coker’s Body Shop, Southard Corporation, Great Bend Feeding, Fast Master Race Cars, Sunflower Electric, West Wind Energy, Dairy Queen of Hoisington, Superior Essex, H & H Motorsports, Manweiler Chevrolet and Walmart of Great Bend.
"We really couldn’t do this without our sponsors. They support us a lot,” said Coker.