An Indianapolis-based nonprofit that uses motorsports as a teaching tool for STEM concepts is continuing to grow. NXG Youth Motorsports, which launched in 2006, uses go-karting to give young people in underrepresented communities an opportunity to learn not only STEM applications, but also life skills and potential careers in motorsports. The organization has also expanded into Michigan and recently hosted its second annual series of events culminating at last month’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, with another session set for September.
NXG President Rod Reid discussed the program in an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.
“The idea here is that we take kids and use go-karting as the hook or the lure to get them to understand some math concepts [and] how does that relate to driving on the track because racing is all about geometry and physics, and we bring that out,” said Reid. “The whole idea is that you and understand that. You don’t have to be a daredevil to be a racecar driver; you just have to be a good mathematician and maybe a good scientist, and at the same time, just a good thinker.”
The nonprofit has been bolstered by a partnership with Penske Entertainment Corp., which owns INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Reid says he sat down with Roger Penske in June 2020 and “The Captain” was not aware that NXG was conducting classes at the Speedway.
“He thought this would be a great to have a partnership where we have a local, community-based organization can be connected to his national, if not worldwide, organization,” he said. “So, we made an agreement that we would work together to see if we can’t bridge that gap between the community and the motorsports world.”
The program targets youth between the ages of 11-15 and since it’s inception, has seen participants move into motorsports careers.
Reid is also the team principal for Force Indy, a racing team designed to develop diverse talent in motorsports. Two of the team’s first hires, Stu Kelly and Derrick Morris, were part of the inaugural NXG class in 2006.
Force Indy also became the first African American-led team to win an INDYCAR-sanctioned race in 2021 with driver Myles Rowe.
“And that just goes to show you what we can do in terms of influencing young people,” said Reid.
The team has expanded into the Indy Lights series with driver Ernie Francis Jr.