Harlem High School student Brandon Carpenter sped his way to an A on his senior project by building his own race car.
Brandon, 17, the son of Harold Carpenter of Harlem, has been driving race cars for the past three years, so when it came time to pick a topic for his senior project, building a race car seemed like the most natural thing.
Brandon's English teacher, Juliana Boatwright, did not have him in her class last semester and was unaware of what he was building.
"I did not realize the level of complexity and involvement that project had to have been for him to turn out such a good product. I was really blown away," she said. "Brandon's case is a good example of when you pick a topic you really like, you are going to put your all into it. That's what he did. It was real impressive."
Brandon's father took him to his first stock-car race when he was 10 and he's been hooked since then, he said. He got his first car when he was 14, and flipped it after three races. He wrecked his second car after five races. But the third car was the charm. In it he won his first race the weekend of his 16th birthday on Aug. 31, 2002. He earned the title of Rookie of the Year for that season at Silver Eagle Speedway, know known as Gordon Park Speedway.
Brandon Carpenter built a race car for his senior project at Harlem High School.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"I needed a new car and I was stepping up a class and I had to have a senior project anyway," he said. "I've been surrounded all my life by people who know racing, so I got a lot of help on it."
His car is a hobby stock car he built from the frame of a 1979 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
"You get a car out of the junkyard and strip it down to the frame," he said, pointing to a picture which shows nothing but a few bars of metal.
With a written report, log and several other required elements, his project also contains snapshots of his progress.
"Somewhere along the way it got to here," said Brandon, showing the final product, a boxy-looking red and white car.
In his first race of the season March 22, Brandon won third place with his new car.
But Brandon is quick to give credit. He didn't build the car all by himself. He relied on help from his mentor Pete Ousley and a long list of others who provided their expertise.
The car, he said, will do 110 mph on the straightaway and caused quite a stir with its roaring engine when he bought it to school for his English teacher to grade.
After graduation, Brandon wants to train to be a NASCAR technician at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C.
"I've got hopes and dreams of making it in NASCAR," he said.
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