The best of the best: Troup High GreenPower wins first National Championship in program history

Published 6:13 pm Friday, May 24, 2024

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It was just a matter of time before the Troup GreenPower team won a national championship. With Long Cane Middle, the feeder school for Troup, stacking national championships left and right, eventually all the talent coming up to Troup would lead to a breakthrough. It all happened in the 2023-24 season as the Flying Tigers won a National Championship.

“When they weren’t announced to be second place they started screaming and we had to calm them down,” said first-year coach Devon Lassetter, laughing.

“We knew that we beat them barely race-wise, so then it came down to our presentation that we went and submitted so the suspense was unreal,” team member Aniya Smith added 

Troup trailed Oxford in the regular season standings all season, but once you get to Talladega for the national championship races all that goes out the window. It all comes down to one performance. The Tigers handled the pressure and proved themselves as one of the best-emerging racing teams in the country.

Some teams might roll up to a race event, 20-30 students deep, but not Troup. The team consists of just six team members and four coaches. It is a small, tight-knit group that has really come together as the season has unfolded.

“Second place went up there at least 40 Plus kids out there and then whenever they call us for first it’s our six kids going up there,” Lassetter said. 

It was far from sunshine and roses day in and day out. The team faced its fair share of obstacles on the way to this championship.

“got a phone call from one of the rice officials that are tire on [one of our cars] exploded so when we showed up we had to change out a tire,” Lassetter said. “The car is supposed to be ready to go and to borrow a tire from Mr. (Matthew) Graham to make the race and then we ended up having to borrow a second tire because the first tire went bald while on the track.

“There was one race this year Aniya made it out of the car before the recovery team and started figuring out a way to repair the car.”

Every race day was a team effort and no one on the team was immune to filling the shoes of another if need be.

To take on Talladega Motor Speedway was another challenge entirely. For the first time ever, the course took the cars onto the actual track and not just the infield, marking a new era of GreenPower racing.

“I felt there was much more pressure because everything had to go the right way, there was no next race,” team member Preston Strickland said.  “It just added another level of pressure.”

Strickland and Clint Tanner have now been a part of four National Championship winning teams as the duo helped Long Cane to three straight national championships. To bring one to Troup, especially the first in program history, was special.

“We are on bigger teams in middle school, so it feels better to do it on a smaller scale team,” Strickland said. 

“We are not just standing around watching, we are fixing and driving the cars,” Tanner added. “It just felt different when you have to be a part of every part of getting the car on the track and during the race.”

Winning a national championship does not happen overnight. To win it all with such a small team requires a lot of sweat and manpower from all those involved.

“Everybody here put in at least 300 hours,” said assistant coach Brandon Lassetter. “It’s at least 300 and some more than that. Some of us probably put in over 500 hours.”

“Unless you are there day in and day out you don’t realize how much effort went into the car,” team member Rachel Gibson added. “Spectators at the races just see the cars on the track and not all the work we put in to get them there.”

All that effort and hard work led to the history books being rewritten. The trick for this team now is to keep rewriting the history books and make it back-to-back national championships.