A victory on the Purdue Grand Prix track carries more than just the honor of winning a trophy, but it grants the winner Purdue racing immortality.
Senior board members of the Purdue Grand Prix Foundation, junior Jade Crum and senior Alex Yaggie, both from the College of Agriculture, take a lot of pride in preparing for the race.
“As far as it goes for us, the Grand Prix isn’t necessarily about the drivers, but the race as a whole,” Crum said, following practice Tuesday evening. “It’s about the Purdue tradition and seeing the work we’ve put in all year come together.”
“And to make our event better than (IU’s Little 500),” Yaggie added with a chuckle.
This is Crum’s third year helping run the event, and it’s Yaggie’s second. They do everything from planning the race in the preceding summer to making sure everything is up to safety standards, a facet of the event that is of utmost importance.
“We want to make sure everything is up-to-date from seat belts to helmets ... (and) to the head clearances of the drivers and that all welds are up-to-standard,” Yaggie said. “Little things like that can be overlooked, but they make a world of difference.”
Preparations for race weekend are not only a concern of the board members, but for the drivers as well. There were many teams at Tuesday’s practice making changes to their karts and trying to squeeze every last bit of power from their engines.
One person who stood out amongst the best drivers present at practice Tuesday was reigning Grand Prix champion Jimmy Simpson. A junior in the College of Technology, Simpson is representing his fraternity Delta Tau Delta; Simpson and his crew mates are not taking this race lightly.
“It’s really important to us for our team to do well in this,” Simpson said. “We put a lot of effort in it, skip a few classes for it, spend a lot more money than we should just to have a shot at winning this thing.”
Despite last year’s win, Simpson and company had an unorthodox experience. Lackluster group attendance and being forced to build a new kart just weeks before the event led Simpson and his fraternity brothers to refocus this year, and they’re now having a smoother lead-up to this year’s race because of it.
Simpson notes that a common bond has led his squad to be a lot more prepared for this Grand Prix.
“We’re just a bunch of motorheads that like working on cars, so we’re out here trying to win this for our fraternity. We all just work at it together, and we’re all pretty darn good mechanics,” Simpson said. “I’d say we have a pretty damn good team this year.”