Hands-on training takes on new meaning in a motorsports program offered by the University of Northwestern Ohio.

Here, students learn the usual—cam degreeing, cylinder head testing, racing transmissions, engine building, drivelines, suspension and steering, fuel systems, etc. But the learning doesn’t end on the shop floor.

Instead, the university actually owns a racetrack just a few miles up the road that gives students the chance to put their training to the test. The university, located in Lima, Ohio, was formed in 1920 and is now headed by Dr. Jeff Jarvis. It’s definitely an establishment that attracts youth to college who might never have considered advanced education.

Automotive hot rodding, racing, and modification activities that were considered frivilous by parents, can now be nurtured and broadened to provide a college diploma/degree and assurance of a motorsports occupation. The university has a huge equipment base to support everything it teaches. For many students, it’s like turning a hobby into a profession.

Graduates have ended up at places like Roush Racing, Jasper Engines, Summitt Racing, JEGS, Eagle Racing, and Petty Enterprises, just to name a few. Also, numerous racing organizations work with the university including ASA, Winston Cup, Busch Grand National, ARCA, IRL, and CART.

On Track

The fastest classroom at the university is just up the road at Limaland Motorsports Park, which is owned by the university. Limaland features a quarter-mile dirt track, a road course, and a drag strip.

Not only is the racetrack a training tool for the university, it’s also an active track, supporting professional traveling race groups like the ALMS Late Model series, the USAC sprint cars, and the All-Star winged sprint group. At the track, students can volunteer to be a part of a race team, being assigned to work with teams as they pull into the pits. As Jarvis explains, “Having pit crew experience on your resume certainly can’t hurt when you are trying for the motorsports industry.”

In addition to the Race Club, which enables students to become associated with race teams at the track, a relationship has been established with the ARCA stock car series. Northwestern students have traveled around the country following the ARCA series, volunteering on various ARCA race teams. The university hopes to broaden this activity with other stock car racing organizations.

The racetrack also has a driving experience, available to both students and university guests, that provides the opportunity to drive race cars on the dirt high banks. The cars used for the driving experience are NASCAR-style race trucks and Economy Modified open wheel stock cars, all of which were built by Northwestern students. Also constructed was a clear Lexan Modified, which enables viewing of the complete powertrain and suspension system. The car is used as a training tool, but also is a favorite at car shows and for student recruiting.

The Choices

There are no athletic teams at this two-year university, but no one in the high-performance program seems to care. Everything revolves around motorsports activities on both the campus and the racetrack.

There are two basic programs in the university’s motorsports curriculum. First, the 96-week High Performance Technician program is directed mostly toward technical basics. The 120-week High Performance Technology program adds more business education subjects and provides an associate degree.

After finishing either program, students can take the examination for ASE certification. Jarvis says that nearly 100 percent of the students attempting the exams pass them. Also, the university serves as a testing center for ASE. The university maintains a strong relationship with race-associated tool companies, including Snap-On, S&K, and Mac Tools, the latter of which sponsors a Best Student Award with a $500 certificate. The university is a member of the SEMA, PRI and AAIA organizations.

Driven To Race

Admission is open to all for the motorsports programs.

“We look at our prospective students very carefully,” Jarvis says. “Sure, high school performance is important, but we look more for desire and enthusiasm. We don’t want any loafers coming here. It’s interesting that many of the incoming students also have racing experience.”

In fact, students who have race cars are sometimes allowed to bring them to the school for refinements and on-track testing.

The love of racing is also found in the faculty. A number of the instructors have professional racing experience. Bill White, a fuel and ignition instructor, is a former IMSA, GTU, and SCCA F Production driver. Andy Pohlman, who instructs driveline and suspension, has driven Late Model stock cars, along with both pavement and dirt Modifieds.

The university has gained such a reputation that some motorsports manufacturers call on the university to perform testing. For example, Summitt Racing uses the university’s dyno for engine testing. Barry Grant Inc. has the university perform flow testing on its carburetors, ACCEL has had DFI manifolds and fuel injection systems tested, and Ray Franks Enterprises has had the university test cylinder heads and manifolds.

With all the training the University of Northwestern Ohio offers, the chance to put the lessons to test at a racetrack, and the chance to work with motorsports companies and sanctioning bodies, it’s easy to see why the high-performance programs have become a huge hit. And while the programs may be based in the Midwest, the university has staked a claim to being a major player in racing throughout the nation.

Want To Learn More?

University of Northwestern Ohio

1441 North Cable Rd.

Lima, Ohio 45805

Admissions: 419/998-3120