From Fayetteville to Indianapolis: Local teen excels in the unique sport of car racing
By Hayleigh Gowans, Staff Writer
Sixteen-year-old Devin Wojcik does not yet have his driver’s license and is not able to independently drive on roads — but he’s no stranger to driving. Wojcik, of Fayetteville, has been involved in go-kart and car racing since he was 11 years old and has been moving up in the ranks of car racing with the dream to eventually become a professional Indy Car racer.
“I guess I’ve always like things that go fast, and I’ve always enjoyed racing other kids in my neighborhood on our bikes,” Wojcik explained. When he was 11, he participated in a go-kart race and found he has a talent for racing. Through participation in Cherry Valley Motor Chub winter and summer series, Wojcik was awarded two overall first place finishes in his first year there.
By the time he turned 14, Wojcik decided to make the switch to formula cars because at that age, he was already over six-feet-tall and the weight distribution on the go-karts would make it difficult to compete against his peers, many of whom were smaller. He learned of the Skip Barber Racing School, an organization that Wojcik said produces some of the top talent in the car racing world, and began taking the school’s racing programs.
“A lot of people think that driving karts and cars are pretty much the same — but it’s not,” said Wojcik. “There’s no suspension in a kart and the chassis rebounds. A car is a lot different in terms of transmission and suspension…But the transition was easy after the first Skip Barber course.”
Skip Barber offers a variety of racing programs for all different types of racers — those looking to do it as a hobby and those looking to compete. Students of Skip Barber are given both classroom and on-the-track experience, which Wojcik’s mother Brenda Wojcik said attracted them to the school.
“Safety is a big priority of ours and we had heard about Skip Barber and we liked the way it was set up,” Brenda said. “Everyone supports each other and it’s a family-friendly environment.”
Brenda also explained Skip Barber has an impressive record in training more motorsport champions than any other organization of its kind. She said Skip Barber alumni race and win in every major racing series championship, and since 1983, the school has trained over one-third of all Indy 500 competitors and a quarter of the NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors.
Getting to travel across the country is another perk of being involved in this unique sport. In 2015, Wojcik participated in the Skip Barber Karts to Cars Shootout, where he placed sixth overall, and the Skip Barber Winter Series, where he placed third overall. Currently, he is competing in the Skip Barber 2016 Championship series, which is comprised of eight racing weekends at tracks across the nation and has a first place scholarship prize of $200,000.
Besides Skip Barber, Wojcik is getting noticed in other organizations within the racing community. In March, he was invited to test a USF2000 car with ArmsUp Motorsports. He did extremely well and was invited to race in a Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 event at the Road America track in Wisconsin, where he finished 14th against 24 competitors.
A few of his biggest accomplishments, Wojcik said, was placing third in last year’s Skip Barber Winter Series, and his clean-sweep at Roebling Road Raceway last August.
Though racing takes up a lot of his weekends, Wojcik is still very active in his community and manages to balance school, where he takes AP and Honor-level courses and is on the honor roll, being a member of the F-M varsity crew team, working toward his Eagle Scout award, being a member of the Young Life non-denominational Christian youth organization and working a part-time job with DeNoble Construction.
By participating in racing, Wojcik believes he has been able to mature and become a responsible young adult, especially since he has learned to prioritize important things like schoolwork when a racing weekend is coming up.
“I’ve made a lot of friends through Skip Barber that I would never have gotten the chance to meet if I wasn’t involved,” said Wojcik. “And I’m definitely a lot more organized than I was before.”
Since racers are limited in the amount of time they can actually spend practicing in the cars on the race tracks, Wojcik was gifted a custom made racing simulator last year for Christmas that he uses to practice his sport on.
After Skip Barber, Wojcik’s goal is to begin the Mazda Road to Indy driver development program in 2017, starting with the USF2000 Series and progressing through the ranks of Pro-Mazda and Indy Lights with the ultimate goal of driving in the Indy Car Series. He also hopes to earn a degree in mechanical engineering.
Currently, Wojcik and his family are working toward finding businesses to form “partnerships” with in order to help him cover the costs of racing as he progresses through the levels. Wojcik can also win racing scholarship money if he continues to excel at the sport and proves to perform well in the various races he participates in.
“It’s not a cheap sport,” said Brenda. “But I’m a big believer in letting my kids follow their dreams, and this is what Devin seems to have a passion and a talent for.”
As for advice he would give to other young people who have an interest at excelling at racing — or any other sort of activity — Wojcik says, “You have to believe in yourself and keep trying. There might be people who say you can’t do it. Don’t listen.”