Two seniors from Grafton High School in Wisconsin took top honors Tuesday in the annual Ford AAA Auto Skills Challenge held in Dearborn, Mich.
In addition to winning the national championship title and thousands of dollars in scholarship money, Justin Bublitz and Colt Morris, will spend a week shadowing 2011 Daytona 500 Champion Trevor Bayne and the legendary Wood Brothers Racing team leading up to and during the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona this July.
“It’s awesome,” said Bublitz, following the award ceremony during which his team received a trophy and gold medal. “This is probably one of the greatest feelings in the world.”
Two-person teams from all 50 states took part in the competition which included a written exam and a timed event where the students raced against the clock and each other to identify and repair deliberately-installed “bugs” in identical 2014 Ford Fusion SEs.
Bublitz and Morris were not the first to finish the hands-on event. They were, however, the first team to finish with a “perfect” car, which is very important since teams receive demerits for issues that are not repaired. They discovered a “bug” at the last minute, according to their high school instructor Carl Hader.
“They were sitting behind the wheel ready to go when they realized they forgot something. They popped the trunk and it didn’t pop,” he said. “So they put another ten minutes into it to perfect it.”
Morris said the last-minute repair made the competition more nerve-wracking, but it was well worth the extra time spent.
“People had already closed their hoods and went on to finish. I wasn’t too worried because I know if you’re too fast you’re not always right,” he said. “So we just calmed down and did what we needed to do. And it was all done well thanks to my buddy Justin. He pushed the trunk button and it didn’t work. Otherwise, we never would’ve known that it was bad.”
Bayne attended the Dearborn competition.
“I just want to encourage young people to think about careers in the auto industry,” he said. “Obviously my job is a little different racing cars but I work with people all the time at the races that have knowledge and can work on cars. These kids obviously have what it takes and we want them to stay that route.”
Frederiek Toney, vice president, Global Ford Customer Division, addressed the students prior to the award ceremony, also encouraging them to explore careers as auto technicians.
“Ford is a company that’s striving to be the best and we’re continuing to put more technology and features into our cars like many of our competitors,” he said. “So there’s a huge need for people with technical skills to actually work in the industry.”
Bublitz and Morris both plan to pursue careers as Certified Ford Technicians through the Ford Automotive Student Service Educational Training (ASSET) program in Wisconsin.
All of the automotive technology students who competed in the Ford AAA Auto Skills Challenge represent the cream of the crop. The road to Dearborn began in January with nearly 13,000 high school juniors and seniors taking an online exam. The top 100 then competed in Tuesday’s challenge. In total, the competition will provide more than $10 million in scholarships and prizes.
Here are the top 10 winners, along with their instructors:
1. Justin Bublitz, Colt Morris and instructor Carl Hader
Grafton High School, Grafton, Wisconsin
2. Andrew Chapman, William Eubanks and instructor Jim LaFevers
Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center, Choctaw, Oklahoma
3. David Dutton, Kolbe Clifford and instructor John Carmichael
Portland Arts and Technology High School, Portland, Maine
4. Kade Phillips, Tyrel Raven and instructor Drew Barnes
Vale High School, Vale, Oregon
5. Chayce Mimura, Devin Vea and instructor Neill Nakamura
Maui High School, Kahului, Hawaii
6. Adam Bancroft, Kyle Saintonge and instructor Dennis Theohasidis
Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School, Bourne, Massachusetts
7. Harry Moran, Nick Pennine and instructor Tim Durigan
Burrillville High School, Harrisville, Rhode Island
8. Glenn Comley, Nathan Gudenkauf and instructor Jason Guyer
West Delaware High School, Manchester, Iowa
9. Derek Voth, Carson Roach and instructor Bob Ziegler
Newton High School, Newton, Kansas
10. Zach Taylor, Mason Hoopes and instructor Tom Garrett, Jr
Arbor View High School, Las Vegas, Nevada