HUDSON (FOX 13) - After building a car from scratch, a group of teenagers and young adults in Pasco County is headed to the Daytona International Speedway to put their skills to the test.
J.R. Ewing is one of nearly 75 people who helped build a race car over the course of three weeks. He and the majority of the crew who worked on the car are high school drop-outs.
"I'm the tire changer. I'm going to be doing the front tires," said Ewing.
Their graduation status won't matter come Saturday at the Arca Series. Through a program called Students Survival, the group learns mechanical skills, and completes their high school diploma through Penn Foster.
"These kids that we've been working with are ones that have dropped out, just didn't fit in, family circumstances, you name it. They tend to need that little extra push to finish school," said Jamie Maloney, founder of Students Survival. "As part of our program to work on the race car, you also need to have touch points in school, and be enrolled in the [Penn Foster] program to finish your diploma."
Through their mechanical training, students like Ewing will earn a diploma with a career specialization.
"It's really nice to see their eyes light up when you teach them something new on the car, because they've never learned this before. You're teaching them how to work on cars and how to just enjoy the good old days of using your hands," said race car driver Cody Lane with New Age Motorsports Driver Development.
Lane will drive the car built by students at the Arca Series. At just 21-years-old, Lane says he can related to the young people he's worked with to get the car ready for Daytona.
"We want to change the game of how the racing has been played over the years and really show that a small team with kids can pull it off and can do good team work," said Lane.
In addition to opening new opportunities for their future careers, students say they've gained close relationships with their peers through Students Survival.
"It's definitely been great to work with this team. They're all really good friends, and I consider them all family," said Ewing.