SPEEDWAY, Ind. — The sweet sound of car engines roaring at 16th and Georgetown remind all of us Hoosiers that the month of May if upon us.
But its not just IndyCar drivers out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"My name is Lacy Barnes. I'm really excited to start racing."
Barnes is among a select group of young people between the ages of 11 to 15 who are part of the NXG Youth Motorsports organization.
The nonprofit serves as a driving force to motivate the youth, particularly those in minority and under-served populations, to be in the drivers seat of their own lives.
"I'm also really excited to be here," said Michigan's Gabriel Jones. "This is a lot of fun for me. This is what I want to do with my life."
The young, Nextgeneracers suit up and head head out to a road course created at IMS.
"I mean, tracks are always fun," Jones said. "The cart is really fun to drive, and the entire atmosphere, it's just great."
The organization provides classes and curriculum that is focused on STEM learning to the drivers. They also learn about safety and other life skills while part of NXG Motorsports. Then a select few graduates get the opportunity to take part in the Grand Prix which consists of 10 races.
"There's a lot of learning for life lessons in this program," Barnes said. "It helps me to manage my stress and stay calm while I'm racing."
The racers also work on their communication skills, discipline and decision-making under the direction of mentors who can help them gain skills for life.
"Like, you are looking ahead for what you want to do in life, what you want to see. What you want to accomplish," Jones said.
Michael Smith is the community engagement director for the organization and works with the young drivers.
"I was drum major at my high school marching band, so you know I'm all about being in line and ready," Smith said. "But that disciple, that structure, is going to help them, not only in their careers and life in motorsports, but in everything they do."
Smith says the program's STEM learning helps the driver put math and science skills to use in a hands-on way.
"We want you to be able to calculate your miles per hour. We want you to know about the radius. We need to tell you all the other elements as well as to what makes these go carts function, so the mechanical elements," says Smith.
When driver Jones is behind the wheel, he says many things run through his mind.
"What I can do, where I can go, how far ahead do I think this person is, how is the cart feeling, what can I do better," Jones said. "I'm just focused on the track, making sure I hit all my apexes, making sure I get all the breaking points right, the turning zones, all of that."
The racers suit up with helmets, neck braces and uniforms and participate in real races on a road course, putting what they learned in the classroom to the test.
NXG Youth Motorsports has been a part of the Indianapolis community for 17 years, and they are always looking for volunteers and community partners to help make these races a reality.
Sometimes their help comes from past Grand Prix racers like De'Vyne Wills who is a junior at Covenant Christian and now a crew member for NXG.
"It helps build character," Wills said. "It just became like my life."
Wills says the program helped her find her footing and community, and so it keeps her coming back for more.
Smith adds that its not just about the drivers in the industry, and that this early exposure and love of motorsports can transcend into future careers.
"You don't just have to be a driver," Smith said. "There are so many opportunities. Everyday when you come to this facility, there are people here working because this industry exists."
If you want to learn more about NXG Youth Motorsports and how to get involved, visit their website, https://www.nxgyouth.org/