Warner High School Racing Team Wins

Warner High School Racing Team Wins

The Warner High School Racing Team fields a competitive factory stock at Oklahoma dirt tracks. The team won earlier this year at Tulsa Speedway. This winning band of 12 high school students learning various subjects through racing was started by the school superintendent, and driver, David Vinson.

The Path to Creating the Program

“I raced through the ’90s and 2000s, and as a science teacher, I always talked about creating a racing program for high school students,” Vinson, of Warner, Oklahoma, said. “Then I got into school administration and the idea got put on the back burner.”

Vinson’s wife, Jennifer, an algebra teacher at the high school, brought up the idea again two years ago.

“Jennifer told me, ‘You need to start that program now — it will help a lot of students,’” said Vinson. “I had been superintendent for 10 years at the time, and I decided to go before the school board with my plan.”

Vinson explained the program teaches students math by changing shock ratios and spring rates. It teaches physics by the understanding mass and moving ballast, and how cross weights and side weight create levers. It teaches science from the engines, such as fuel and oxygen ratios, octane, and combustion.

“The board was behind the program 100%,” Vinson said. “So, we searched Facebook and found a $500 factory stock roller.”

What the Program is Like at the School

The program is taught every day of the school year during the fifth period by Vinson and Phil Branan, a former driver. Students apply for the program, with 12 making the final cut.

“Students had to have a strong interest in racing, having an idea that they would like to be part of the racing industry as a career,” said Vinson. “We had to cap the students at 12 because we were in a shop atmosphere. Teaching more than 12 students in a shop is difficult.”

The racing team is a hands-on program for the students.

“We stand by and instruct — the students do every bit of the work,” Vinson said. “We explain why or why not something works or won’t work.”

A total of 10 boys and two girls from grades 9 through 12 make up this year’s team. They are given paper and lab tests on setups, engines, and other race car components.

What the Program is Like at the Track

The 12 students must commit to working on the cars in the pits at the racetrack.

“Their excitement comes to life at the track,” said Vinson. “They are all engaged working on the cars in the pits.”

Vinson serves as the team’s race car driver.

“I give [the team] my feedback,” Vinson said. “They change stagger, spring rates, add or remove spacers. They learn how to make the car tighter or looser. There is constant communication on race night — and sometimes they have driving advice for me. I listen to them. We have a good time, we learn, and teamwork usually results in a good finish.”

The program’s original car, a roller bought for $500, is a Camaro. They now have a new metric chassis, a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which KDC Race Cars sold to them on a discount.

“The Camaro teaches an old-school build,” said Vinson. “The Monte Carlo is a car built to be competitive in 2024. It’s leaf springs versus coil springs. Both cars are student-built — everything added to the frame and cage is hands-on.”

The team brings one car to the track on a given night.

“We change gears a lot,” Vinson said. “We race at six different tracks — and the students have to make the adjustments from track to track. They get into it and do it.”

Community Support for the Warner High School Racing Team

To support its racing, the team grinds, grooves and sipes tires for other racers at a cost of $25 per tire. They also raise money selling pavement tire take-offs that they cut for dirt.

“The support from the racing community has been amazing,” Vinson said. “Three of our students are working through the summer, no more than five hours a day, preparing tires.”

People from the Warner community and members of the school board attend races to cheer on the Warner High School Racing Team.

“The six tracks have allowed the team members entry at no charge, realizing that we could not afford a dozen pit passes at each track every week,” said Vinson. “We are very grateful to them.”

Those Oklahoma tracks include Arrowhead Speedway in Colcord, Creek County Speedway in Kellyville, Outlaw Motor Speedway in Oktaha, Salina Highbanks Speedway in Pryor, Thunderbird Speedway in Muskogee, and Tulsa Speedway.

Vinson hopes the program they created at Warner carries over to other nearby schools.

“My vision is to someday have a traveling series with high school drivers racing against high school drivers in their high school’s cars,” Vinson said. “We have created a lot of conversation, and there has been interest from other schools.”