What one NASCAR team owner believes can brighten the futures of young people in the Piedmont

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Lights, cameras and action – it’s what one NASCAR team owner believes can brighten the futures of young people in the Piedmont.

Life and work have been good to Gene Haas. He made a fortune in business – heavy manufacturing – and wanted to find a way to help others do the same. But a lot of young kids, today, don’t seem interested in high-tech manufacturing but Haas saw that they did seem to love competing … and American Idol. So why not put the two, together?

“Quiet on the set, everyone!” shouts Josh Pies, the producer of this show. “Cameras are rolling …”

Pies and his team are putting on an event that has much of the American Idol structure – teams, competing in a performance event in which more are eliminated each round until we have a winner … with expert judges along the way.

The final round pits three teams from Randolph County, all with one task: to make a new sign for Nascar racer Kurt Busch’s shop.

“This is a real race car driver and this is a real task,” says Jeremy Bout, the host of the production. “You have 84 hours to make a sign for his shop. Your challenge starts now.”

With that, the three teams of students, some as young as sixth grade, others seniors in high school, go to work.

“It takes a lot of logical, real world thinking,” says Jacob Dolezeol, who is on the Trinity High School team. “Creativity and being efficient at the same time,” notes his teammate, John Wagner.

They get to use the machinery at the Gene Haas Machine Institute at Randolph Community College – an invaluable source – as is the guidance they get from some of the faculty, there.

“We know the other teams are going to have good designs but we feel pretty good about ours,” says Wagner. After all, the Trinity team is the oldest of the three.

All three teams present their final designs in the theater on the RCC campus, in front of three, expert judges and a full audience – just like the big results show on American Idol.

The winner gets their sign posted at Busch’s shop … see the whole process and the surprise winner, in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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