Cabarrus

Eastern Cabarrus principals duel behind the wheel at speedway’s school bus race

Art students at Mount Pleasant Middle School have painted principal Tim Farrar’s bus for the Principal School Bus Race on June 9. The bus, parked near the school’s flag pole, has generated a lot of interest in the race and school spirit.
Art students at Mount Pleasant Middle School have painted principal Tim Farrar’s bus for the Principal School Bus Race on June 9. The bus, parked near the school’s flag pole, has generated a lot of interest in the race and school spirit. MARCIA MORRIS

End-of-the-school-year fatigue isn’t just for students and teachers longing for summer vacation. Principals are pretty stressed and worn out, too.

Fortunately, relief is in sight. Not only does the school year end this week, but some of them will spend the evening before the last day of school doing something guaranteed to relieve some of that stress: racing school buses.

“The end of the school year is pretty tough,” said Mount Pleasant Middle School principal Tim Farrar. “This is our chance to take it out on other principals.”

Principal School Bus Racing is part of the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Concord. On June 9, eight local principals – including Farrar, the defending champion – will race decorated buses to the finish on the front stretch quarter-mile track.

The buses probably only go about 35 mph or 40 mph, Farrar said, but it feels much faster because there is no windshield. “It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s a lot harder than it looks.”

Part of the challenge, Farrar explained, is that buses turn slowly, and can tip easily. So does the race occasionally devolve into a demolition derby? Farrar said no – but doesn’t deny that there will be a lot of bumping going on. After all, they are doing this to entertain their students.

“It’s all for show,” said Bethel Elementary School principal Kevin Blackburn. “And nothing says ‘show’ like a bus on its side.”

Blackburn will be the rookie driver in this year’s bus race. With tongue in cheek, he says he’s been trying for years to get in on the fun, but “had to wait for someone to get killed or leave” so a spot would open up.

According to Farrar, Blackburn, as a rookie, will get a tag on the back of his bus. Blackburn expects his fellow principals will get a good look at that tag as he crosses the finish line ahead of them. “The others are getting a little long in the tooth, and have a slower reaction time,” Blackburn said, joking.

Each principal has their own way of preparing for the race. Farrar said, laughing, that he’s relying on “lots of prayer.” Blackburn claims that navigating the halls of his elementary school helps. Each will put together a pit crew of supporters to help plan strategy on race day. And both principals are decorating their buses at their schools. Art students and teachers will make sure that each bus is painted in their school’s colors before it returns to the track.

Having a race bus definitely generates a buzz among students. Blackburn and Farrar both said their pupils are getting excited about cheering their principal to victory and about bragging rights.

But even more important than winning, the principals say this event is about building school spirit and encouraging students. Why would grown men strap themselves into old school buses and race around a track? Just because their kids enjoy it.

Marcia Morris is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marcia? Email her at EasternCabarrusWriter@gmail.com

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