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Purdue Grand Prix

Purdue Grand Prix
First-year student Jacob Peddycord celebrating his team's win after crossing the Grand Prix finish line.

Purdue University welcomed back “the greatest spectacle in college racing” this spring with the 64th running of the Purdue Grand Prix. First-year student Jacob Peddycord, representing Harrison Hall, won the race.

With his interest in racing dating to childhood, it was natural that Peddycord would be interested in competing in the Purdue Grand Prix and he found his opportunity through Harrison Hall. After attending a Cavalier Club meeting, he was made director of the hall’s racing team. His task was a tall one – to revive a racing team that hadn’t participated in the Grand Prix in three years. Peddycord put up flyers and interviewed students in the hall to gauge interest as he assembled the team.

Just getting access to the hall’s racing shop took until late in the fall semester. There was a lot of cleanup work to do in the shop – Peddycord estimates that he and the racing team spent more than 30 hours getting it ready – and they still needed to find a kart to race. Fortunately, Peddycord was able to connect with Jimmy Simpson, a racing driver from Indianapolis and four-time winner of the Purdue Grand Prix, to procure a kart. Facilitating the loan of the kart took another eight weeks and approval of the paperwork came down to the final deadline.

“At that point, I was sweating bullets because we got it done just before tech inspection,” Peddycord says. “If we hadn’t gotten that done we couldn’t have passed.”

There were many late nights spent getting the kart ready for practice, qualifying, and ultimately, race day. The team practiced pit stops in the basement of Harrison Hall, with each team member taking turns performing different duties to find the best fit. Conversations with experienced drivers led to the selection of the appropriate tires. The team also had to overcome two blown clutches at various points leading up to the race.

“The first two or three practices were just working out the kinks of the track and the kart, then getting all of the mechanical gremlins out of the way,” Peddycord says. “We really only got to try new lines on the track once because we blew another clutch right before qualifying – but that just means we’ll have more to try for next year.”

The hard work paid off on race day, with Peddycord completing the 160-lap, 60- mile race in one hour, 13 minutes to top the field of 32 student drivers. The team started from pole position after earning the top qualifying time. Another driver raced out to an early lead, but Peddycord stayed patient, knowing that the pace he had set would close the gap. Peddycord led the final 153 laps, including when the team took its only pit stop. Winning, Peddycord says, produced a mix of emotions.

“It was almost more of a relief because, as soon as we led after the first practice, all I was hearing from my team all month was ‘you better win this,’” Peddycord says with a laugh. “They put in so much work. There were so many late nights we were working on the kart and would be in the shop until two in the morning working on stuff. It was nice that I could do that for them because of all the work they had to put in.

“Obviously, the driver gets the spotlight but it’s the team that gets the job done,” Peddycord says. “It’s 100 percent a team sport and everyone has to make sure they’re accountable for each other. I truly believe with the amount of work our team put in, there was no outcome other than us winning the race.”

The Grand Prix Foundation is a university sponsored student organization, led by students to raise funds for student scholarships. An executive board of 14 students leads the execution of the event and serves as ambassadors to the community. The Grand Prix Foundation worked with Student Activities and Organizations and in accordance with Protect Purdue guidelines to execute this year’s race. The 65th running of the Purdue Grand Prix is scheduled for April 23, 2022.

Members of Calvary Racing celebrate their victory.