Sundancer seeks 14th national title: Houston racers head to Texas for Solar Car Challenge

CJ-0716-SOLAR-Logo-2CHOUSTON – Houston’s best and brightest head to Texas this week seeking their 14th national title in the Solar Car Challenge – it won’t be easy.

The Houston Solar Car Team and their vehicle Sundancer will check in at the Marriott Hotel in Dallas on Friday and race in a new hybrid format that will see them compete on a closed circuit at Texas Motor Speedway for two days and then hit the road for two days on their way to Austin.

“We have a lot of new competitors this year and they are running what they are calling a hybrid race that is part closed circuit and part road race,” said Kristen Black, Solar Car team captain. “We’ve got a good team and I feel good about the car.

“It’s called racing,” said Black, a three-year veteran of the team. “We’re going to get in Sundancer and go.”

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 are 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 teams then head out on the road Wednesday on the way to Austin with an overnight stop in Waco. Sundancer’s pitcrew 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.

Financial constrains will only allow Houston to enter one team this year in the Open Division.

Houston has not sent a girl’s team to compete the last two summers. The Houston Solar Car team would like to travel to Australia to compete in the World Solar Challenge

The girl’s team won their division in 2012 with a spectacular last-day finish. That same year the boy’s team trounced all racers taking the checkered flag with a 250-lap lead.

Last year was a road race from Fort Worth to the outskirts of Los Angeles. The Houston Solar Car team had no flats, no major breakdowns and had no navigation errors to be the first across the finish line at 29 Palms, Calif., in 2013

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.

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