Houston Solar Race team out in front

Sundancer runs onto the track at Texas Motor Speedway Tuesday for the final day of racing on the closed circuit. The Houston Solar Car team now heads out on the road race portion of the Solar Car Challenge and finishes Thursday in Austin. (Courtesy photo)

Sundancer runs onto the track at Texas Motor Speedway Tuesday for the final day of racing on the closed circuit. The Houston Solar Car team now heads out on the road race portion of the Solar Car Challenge and finishes Thursday in Austin. (Courtesy photo)

By Floyd Ingram

Chickasaw Journal

FORT WORTH – The Houston Solar Race team took the closed circuit portion of racing this week and now heads out on the road race to Austin.

The Houston team had 285 laps and a top speed of 44.6 miles per hour on the last day of racing on the Texas Motor Speedway. They were followed by the veteran team from Walnut, Texas, with 232 laps and a top speed of 24.9 mph.

Road racing begins today from Fort Worth to Waco.

So far the Houston Solar Car has been working without a major incident.

The trailer hauling the Sundancer solar car had a blow-out on the way to Texas on Wednesday, but it was quickly fixed in NASCAR fashion by the pit crew and adults. The team considered it practice for solar racing that starts next week.

Houston’s Solar Car Team has won the Solar Car Challenge the last 13 years and is the perennial favorite to win the race. The car from Chickasaw County does it with planning, teamwork and a mechanically sound car.

Twenty-five teams – a competition record – were expected to show up at Texas Motor Speedway and start racing at 9 a.m. Monday.

Sundancer has traditionally done well on the paved NASCAR speedway, where consistency pays off. The team now heads out on those wide Texas roads on its way to Austin with an overnight stop in Waco. Sundancer’s pit crew will come into play in the Texas Hill Country, where flats and breakdowns are more common in road-racing.

The race wraps up Thursday with vehicles climbing The Hill in Austin to the finish line in front of the Texas State Capitol.

The Houston Solar Car team started winning the event more than a decade ago when only a limited number of schools were racing. Higher gasoline prices and a general trend toward “green” energy have sparked an interest in developing solar-powered vehicles.

The Solar Car Challenge was established in 1993 to help motivate students in science and engineering and to increase alternative energy awareness. The Challenge teaches high school students around the world how to build roadworthy solar cars.

The 2014 Houston Solar Car Team is: Kristen Black, Allyson Taylor, Cody Gordillo, Malik Lawrence, Matthew Hood, Greg Hollingsworth, Zack Mixon, Hayden Powell, Jackson Whitt and college intern Jacob Bridgman.

2014 Houston Solar Car instructors/advisors are: Keith Reese, BB Turman, Anita Ellison, Donna Turman.

The Sundancer solar car is sponsored by the Houston School of Science and Technology.