WALTZ: A New Education For Young Racers

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Keith Waltz
Keith Waltz

HARRISBURG, N.C. — In an earlier era of auto racing, it was virtually unheard of for an aspiring young driver to fully pursue his passion before graduating from high school.

There were even a few racers who ended up adjusting their class schedule so to not interfere with their racing schedule as they chased a four-year college degree.

Times have certainly changed and the evolution of the American education system is one factor allowing more and more teenagers to become full-time race car drivers.

Online classes give guys like 17-year-old Zeb Wise and 18-year-old Buddy Kofoid the opportunity to complete their high school educations while earning advanced degrees in high-speed competition at dirt tracks across the nation.

As someone who barely knows enough about computers to successfully prepare this column each month, going to school without physically sitting at a desk in an actual classroom is a totally foreign concept.

Fortunately, both Wise and Kofoid were willing to “educate” us about how they go racing and go to school.

Wise, a resident of Angola, Ind., who is profiled elsewhere in this issue, just finished his junior year with Indiana Connections Academy.

“You sign up at the beginning of the year and as long as you’ve got a computer and a keyboard, you’re ready to go,” Wise explained. “All of the classes are online, so you don’t have to go to a public school. I didn’t always do this. I started it in high school because my high school wasn’t going to allow me to be gone as much as I needed to be for racing.

“You still have teachers you can contact pretty much 24/7 if you need anything,” Wise continued. “It’s just like normal school with assignments every day, the only difference is you can do them anytime you want as long as you have them turned in by the due date.

“Indiana Connections Academy is 100 percent online. It is based out of Indianapolis and anyone in Indiana can do it. It’s super simple to set up and learn as the teachers walk you through everything. They also do what they call live-lessons and that’s where you can interact with the teacher.

“Traveling to all of these race tracks all over the country, it makes it easy. All you’ve got to have is  Wi-Fi and a laptop, or even a tablet. When you are cruising down the road to the next track, it’s easy to hop on the computer and do some school work,” Wise continued. “I’ve been really good with it and my parents are thankful for that. When I know we are going to be gone for a while, you can get ahead on work, so I’ll get myself two weeks ahead. That way I don’t have to stress on school and I can just go out there and race.”

For Kofoid, who recently celebrated his graduation from California’s Valley Oaks School, the situation was slightly different.

“They don’t call it homeschool, but what I do is called independent study. What that is, there are about 80 kids at this school that I go to. It’s called the Valley Oaks School and it’s near where I live,” Kofoid said in December. “I have scheduled days, which are currently Wednesday and Thursday, each for an hour or an hour and a half that I go to the school. I have a couple of teachers and I get work from them on those days and I have one week to complete the work.

“School doesn’t really limit what I can and can’t do because of how it’s scheduled. They have worked with me a lot so I can go racing.”

After the coronavirus forced most schools across the country to switch to online curriculum, it will be interesting to see if a new wave of young racers will continue their studies online instead of returning to an actual school building when classes resume in the fall.

n Sorry, but racing without fans in the stands simply doesn’t feel right.