Going into the fourth day of racing, the team was showing the strain of many long and hot days, but everyone was eager to finish the race. With a renewed sense of energy after beating the track record for the total number of laps for an entire race late on day 3, the team pushed through one more early morning to get to the track and set up the solar stays on time.
The day began just like the other race days with half of the team moving supplies to the pits and the other half setting the car up to charge and catch the earliest rays of sunlight. This was even more important this morning as we had missed some of our prime charging time the previous night due to an overheating battery. Because of this, everyone took extra care to make sure to eke out every last ray of sunlight before racing began.
Our driver schedule for the last day included spots for all team members who wanted to drive again. Our emphasis for the day was to bring the car home safely and to ensure we drained the battery enough that we could safely transport Jimmy back to Seattle. So, we took most of the day at a slightly slower speed (～70kph) and changed drivers every 30-50 minutes. The morning shift started with Abigail Jawili (10) followed by Hagen Rankin (10), Opal Heltzel (11), Lucien Freemesser (11), and Hai Lin Truman (11) and was relatively uneventful. We kept the drivers entertained with jokes of varying quality (mostly bad: e.g., “What’s the leading cause of dry skin?” “Towels”).
When we took our mandatory 30-minute lunch break, we performed our routine tire tread and pressure checks. We noticed a precariously bare spot on our motor’s tire so we replaced the motor tire (and integrated motor) with one that had a fresh tire. After removing the motor, we noticed a minor fracture in the suspension. To alleviate this issue, we added a new bolt to the suspension; this additional bolt relieved some of the stress on the weakened area and ensured that we would be able to finish the race safely and without further damage.
In the afternoon, the clouds started to dissipate and the sun returned to full strength. The timing was fortunate: between 12 – 2 pm, only advanced cars are allowed on the track. With a less-congested track, we could safely drive at a higher speed. With the arrival of the last driving stint of the race, one of our seniors, Teddie Blahous, took the wheel for the final time. As he pulled into the pits for the last time, the entire team cheered and hugged (and emptied the ice water jug on Mr. McComb!). What a thrilling day; what a thrilling race!
We owe a tremendous thank you to our race day 4 judge, Criss Pearson, who was incredibly helpful and supportive throughout the day and was an inspiration to all.
As the race finished the entire team moved to help with the loading efforts. By 5:30, just an hour and a half past the race end, our trailer pulled away from the garage and we left the Texas Motor Speedway for the last time this year. While we were all in a good mood, many members expressed bittersweet feelings; in some ways, it feels like we just arrived and that the race passed too quickly.
This evening, our team attended the post-race awards banquet. Team captain, Alexis Lee (11), gave a short speech on how incredible it has been to work with this team and participate in the Solar Car Challenge. She described how it could not be possible without all of the teams from across the country coming together to support each other. Advisor Scott McComb and team member Maya Peña (12) received Order of the Solar Cell awards for their contributions to the team and advocacy of solar car racing.
The team completed 876 laps (1300 miles) over the course of four racing days, making them champions of the 2022 Solar Car Challenge in the advanced division. We smashed all records on the track, breaking the previous record (set in 2019 by the team from RAHS) by over 200 laps!
Tomorrow is a travel day; the team flies back to Seattle and the car begins the long drive back home. In a few weeks, the team will gather again to reflect on the trip. We are eager to continue to improve the car, ourselves, our team, and our community by harnessing the power of the sun and spreading the energy to future generations.
The team could not be more grateful for the support and generosity of our community and YOU. We hope that you’ll join us for the future adventures of Jimmy 2 (the sequel)! Until then, sunny skies and smooth roads!