Two Oregon Students Outlast 98 Others to Claim Top Prize in National Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition

Heather HunterAuto technology showdown matched top high school student teams from all 50 states; over $12 million in scholarships awarded to help refuel auto industry’s next generation of talent

DEARBORN, Mich. (June 9, 2015) – Students from across the country gathered in Dearborn today, to match wits and workmanship in a race against the clock – and one another – for the right to claim a national championship and be named the winners of the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals at Ford World Headquarters.

When the dust settled, the duo of Morgan White and Jay Saunders from Vale High School in Vale, Ore., claimed the crown of America’s top auto technicians, registering the day’s top score under the tutelage of instructor Drew Barnes.

With over $12 million dollars in scholarship prizes in the balance, state winners gathered in Dearborn to solve “real world” automotive challenges – both digital and mechanical – in a timed competition. A quick mind and steady hands were required as top automotive students worked with wrenches and computers alike. With new and innovative technologies becoming a bigger part of the manuthercturing process, contestants in the 2015 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition represent the next generation of auto technicians who will work on these vehicles.

The 2015 winning team from Oregon represents a long-running family tradition of participation in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition. Jay Saunders, is one of five Saunders’ sons to participate in the program, including two of his brothers who were also crowned national champions in 1992 and 2011.  Morgan White’s father, Randy Belnap, was the second member of the 1992 national championship team. The instructor from Vale High School, Drew Barnes, is creating a legacy of his own capturing his second national title in just his 3rd appearance.

Beginning with a shotgun start, the student competitors (all paired in two-person teams) raced to their identical 2015 Ford Mustang Fastbacks to review a work order that challenged them to diagnose and repair a number of purposefully placed “bugs” ranging from digital to mechanical and electrical. Once the repairs were completed, it was a race to shut the hood, fire up the engine and steer the vehicle across the finish line – where a scrutinizing judging team awaited.

To earn the National Title, White and Saunders earned a “perfect car” score by flawlessly repairing all the “bugs” without any demerits. Students are graded on quality repair workmanship and safety. Combined with the results of a written examination taken on June 8, their score allowed them to hoist the trophy as national champions.

The top-10 teams in the 2015 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals were:

State High School City Student Student Instructor
1. Oregon Vale High School Vale Morgan White Jay Saunders Drew Barnes
2. Alaska North Pole High School North Pole Cole Vinton Andrew Risner Gerald Million
3. North Carolina Watauga High School Boone Graham Roten Daniel Taylor Larry Jones
4. Hawaii Maui High School Vale David Casayuran Joseph Burger Shannon Rowe
5. Virginia Fauquier High School Warrenton David Manzella Michael Stevens Harlan Freeman
6. California Santa Barbara County Regional Occupational Program Santa Maria Danny Zamora Angel Torralba Michael Johnson
7. Florida Manatee Technical College Bradenton Timothy Thompson Dylan Jones Jose Cestero
8. Pennsylvania Wallenpaupack AreaHigh School Hawley Nicolas Schroeder Anthony Litz Mark Watson
9. Massachusetts Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School Marlborough Jonathan Sherman Nate Rand Paul Airoldi
10. Idaho Meridian High School Meridian Clint McKague Phillip Penrod Randy Mahler

In addition to scholarships, the national champion Oregon team will enjoy an immersive, weeklong job shadow experience with auto racing royalty, Wood Brothers Racing’s legendary No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion team and driver Ryan Blaney. The hands-on-experience will take place at the Wood Brothers Racing shop in Harrisburg, N.C. and also trackside in Daytona as the Team prepares the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion car for the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola in early July.

“The commitment necessary to make it to the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals was evident as I spoke with many of the students and instructors,” said driver Ryan Blaney. “Our team is extremely excited to host the Oregon team and show them behind-the-scenes at a race shop and then be part of our team in Daytona. It’s going to be a great experience for them to witness first-hand the adjustments that are made to a race car during an actual race.”

“For today’s automotive technicians, being able to diagnose and repair a computer-related malfunction is just as critical as fixing mechanical failures,” said Margaret Pittelkow, AAA Vice President, Automotive. “As a generation that has grown up with digital technology, these students are uniquely qualified to lead the auto industry forward and you saw their brilliance on display today in a high-octane atmosphere matching the nation’s best talent from coast-to-coast.”

“The automotive technicians of tomorrow must be well-educated and highly-skilled to meet the current and future technological advances in automotive technology,” said Steve DeAngelis, Ford’s Manager of Technical Support Operations. “The people at Ford are committed to training and retaining the best technicians in the industry, which is why we are so proud of our involvement in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition.”

About Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills

The Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills is a nationwide automotive technology competition that will award over $12 million in scholarships and prizes to high school juniors and seniors interested in pursuing careers as automotive service technicians. Approximately, 12,000 students from across the U.S. competed for the chance to represent their school and state in the National Finals. The competition tested students’ automotive knowledge, workmanship and problem-solving abilities. For additional information on the competition, visit

About AAA

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Michigan, manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 194,000 employees and 66 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit

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