Summerland race car driver enters RACE 101

Car parts hang in a restaurant in Denver, North Carolina.

Summerland’s Sarah Cornett-Ching is enrolled in the RACE 101 program in Denver

Summerland’s Sarah Cornett-Ching is enrolled in the RACE 101 program in Denver

Car parts hang in a restaurant in Denver, North Carolina.

It gives visitors perspective of how much the sport of racing is loved.

Sarah Cornett-Ching, who was accepted into the Research, Analyze, Consult, Educate One-On-One 101 (RACE 101) scholarship program presented by Howe Racing Enterprises, discovered herself how everything in the city is involved and tied into the sport. The state has three speedways and is home to the NC Auto Racing Hall of Fame. She also discovered something else.

“There is a lot of fried chicken,” said Cornett-Ching with a short chuckle as she traveled to North Carolina in February and earlier this month. “They like their fried chicken and their waffles.”

Experiencing that culture and the people was fun for the 19-year-old who is among three Canadians accepted into the year-long program, which students apply for the same as they would college or university. Specially selected students aged 12 to 28 are chosen and the course covers areas such as teaching drivers better instincts, an understanding of the race car and how to communicate with a crew.

Cornett-Ching applied to the program last May and received notice of her acceptance in January.

“So far it’s been incredible,” said Cornett-Ching, whose interest in the sport started when she was nine-years-old. “My speaking skills have improved having done several interviews. We pull shocks apart. I have never pulled a shock apart before and you wouldn’t believe how many different things you can change inside a shock.”

Tony Blanchard, owner/president of RACE 101, said Cornett-Ching was selected into the program because she shows a desire and willingness to learn.

“She has a tremendous amount of ability,” said Blanchard. “She is a standout student and has a hidden ace in the hole. She is a young lady with tremendous knowledge for mechanics. That is a secret weapon.”

With a new season soon to start, students participate in online classes offered and there is a chat they participate in throughout the season every Tuesday.

Cornett-Ching, a second-year welding student at Okanagan College in Kelowna, said the course is a challenge and one of the assignments given was to write a press release. In one she recently sent out, Cornett-Ching said, “I’m excited to learn more about the industry. In just this short time I’ve already learned so much, I can’t wait to start to apply it throughout the upcoming season.”

Her father Joe, who has owned A.N.J. Automotive in Penticton for 21 years, said it’s “pretty huge” that she was selected into the program, now in its second year. The program rewards the top student among the 17 by being the premier driver in a super late model house car.

“To race it down south in the Carolina’s, that would be sort of a dream come true,” her father said.

Joe described his daughter as a hard working individual who doesn’t give up easy.

“I know she is working on her race stuff every night on the computer until 10:30 p.m. and she gets up at 5:45 a.m. to go to Kelowna for welding courses,” he said. “She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to work hard to get it.”

She’s always possessed the desire to learn as he would hang around her father in his shop. Joe recalls a weekend in which he was finished racing and Cornett-Ching, aged 10 at the time, stayed in the front yard and helped him pull the engine out.

“She was just right into it. Very exciting for both of us,” he said. “She was black from head to toe.”

Cornett-Ching loves racing and feels it’s a great family sport and loves the competitive side that comes with it. This season the former South Okanagan Youth Soccer Association player, intends to compete in the ARCA West OK Tire regional traveling series that goes across the province. Her goal for 2012 is to compete in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series that travels throughout Canada.

However, there is another side to Cornett-Ching. She values family and because her brother Kyle had Perthes (a condition that causes temporary loss of blood supply to the hip) at age 10. She is dedicated to support the B.C. Children’s Hospital, as he spent a lot of time there. Kyle, now 22, dealt with it for two years while it healed and will need hip replacement surgery.

Last year she raised $1,500 but wants to do more.

“I feel that wasn’t enough,” said Cornett-Ching, adding that the cause is important to her.

Having seen the Vancouver Canucks donate $5 million to B.C. Children’s Hospital, she stated she can’t compete with that. However, she wants to spend time at the hospital with children and would like to see other racers make visits and sign autographs.

“I feel like in my young life I have been given so many opportunities and so many chances at stuff,” she said. “I want to be able to give back, I want to help people.”