Dozens of third- and fourth-graders tried out the driver’s seat of a bright yellow race car at Frank N. Eastwood School on Wednesday as part of a program to promote drug awareness. That they had to get into the seat through the top of the vehicle made the adventure all the more interesting.
“It’s really small in there,” 10-year-old Kim Neebe said of the tiny interior of car. “And the seat is so low down to the ground.”
Neebe and 100 of her schoolmates not only explored the racer, known as a sprint car for its ability to run short races at high speeds, they also met professional driver Joe Custer of Fountain Valley, who came to the school to bring them an anti-drug message.
Using the 800-horsepower car as an example, Custer told the students that “drugs don’t fit” into his lifestyle.
“There’s no room for that in sprint car racing,” he said. “If you’re doing drugs or drinking, it doesn’t allow you to concentrate, and that could cause you to crash.”
Students listened to Custer’s drug awareness message, but their questions were mostly about his car: its speed, its design, its accidents.
Custer said the $50,000 car travels 160 mph and took about 400 hours to assemble. It runs in 15-mile races on half-mile tracks. His sponsor is Haas Machinery.
Custer, 35, was introduced at Eastwood by his sister, fourth-grade teacher Jeannine Allison. He said youngsters can relate to the dangers of drugs or drinking in the context of a sport, such as auto racing.
“If I took drugs I wouldn’t be able to do this,” Custer said.
School Principal Jill Sloan said that Eastwood school’s staff focuses on academics but occasionally breaks from the books to emphasize an important topic such as drug awareness.
“We encourage this type of activity,” Sloan said. “Any way we can reach the kids is important, so they realize they have a choice by seeing good models in the community and work force. They see lifestyles that are drug-free.”