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The need for speed

December 02, 2000

Irma Lemus

MEDIA DISTRICT NORTH -- With a 622-cubic-inch, 750-horsepower engine

under their hood, Burbank High School auto shop teacher Dennis McCarthy

and his students say they will leave the competition in the dust.

Their partially built black, two-door 1996 Chevy truck may not look

impressive, but McCarthy said the heavy metal can reach speeds of up to

130 mph.

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Twenty-eight auto mechanic students have been assembling the truck for

the past two weeks in preparation for the Feb. 3 Avi 250 amateur race in

Laughlin, Nev. Some of the students will travel to the desert community

to see McCarthy cross the finish line.

The last race was Nov. 5 at the SNORE Reserve 250, where McCarthy took

first in the desert near Las Vegas, his second win since September.

"[The students] really enjoy working on the truck. They really get

into it," McCarthy said.

A speed enthusiast since his teens, McCarthy said having his students

disassemble and rebuild the truck is a way of giving them hands-on

experience. His students presently are giving the Chevy a new

750-horsepower, V-8 engine, he said.

The racing truck assembly is a new to the school's curriculum since

McCarthy joined the Burbank faculty in September. Prior to teaching,

McCarthy owned an auto shop in the city.

"Racing is a hobby I've always really loved, ever since I had a

license," the 33-year-old teacher said.

The need for speed is shared by McCarthy's students.

"It's fun," said Daniel Heisler, an 18-year-old senior. "It's also a

family thing -- my dad has fast cars."

To prove his love for hot rods, Daniel pointed out he's the owner of a

1967 Camaro and a 1993 Mustang.

Luke Dieonato, a 17-year-old senior, said his auto shop experience at

the school has convinced him to seek a career in the field.

Luke said he plans to enroll in auto mechanic classes at Cerritos

College after his June graduation.

The countless hours the students spend after school building the car

is well worth it, said fellow senior Paul Anderson, 17.

"It's cool to take it apart," he said.

For McCarthy, gaining students' interest is his goal.

"If you make it fun for students, they become much more interested and

really learn," he said.

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