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Firing on All Cylinders at Daytona 500

We had an amazing opportunity to talk about SkillsUSA, skilled trades and welding from February 20-24 during a week of racing at Daytona Beach, Florida. This was the SkillsUSA WorldTeam final Weld-Off  -  a competition taking 22 hours over four days – to select the final member of the WorldTeam. We had three finalists, Andrew Cardin of Massachusetts, Tanner Tipsword of Wyoming and Alex Pazkowski of Michigan. All of them did fantastic work, and Alex was named the winner on Sunday evening.

The other big winner was SkillsUSA. Thanks to an outdoor booth valued at $58,000 and donated by Larsen Motorsports, we had tens of thousands of people come by to talk, meet the students and examine their welding projects. Larsen Motorsports is owned by Chris and Elaine Larsen, and she’s one of only four female jet fuel dragster drivers in the world. She was in the booth signing autographs right along with the students when they were on break. The SkillsUSA flag was flying and the SkillsUSA and AWS logos were prominently displayed on a racing trailer in the booth. Crowds got progressively larger through the week. By Sunday, the crowds were four and five deep. See the photos at: www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152585499225591.959256.22208255590&type=1.

The connection to Larsen was made through Youth Development Foundation Committee member Paul Cleveland of Miller Electric Mfg. Co., Inc., and members of the Welding contest technical committee. The American Welding Society (AWS) was the main sponsor and, on awards night had a beautiful white tent with lights and a sound system right down on Daytona Beach. It was a beautiful setting and event to announce the winner and recognize each of our contestants. Thanks go to Brandon Muehlbrandt of Lincoln Electric Co., Nick Peterson of Miller and all the other participants for pulling this whole event together. I know Alex will do a wonderful job of representing the United States in Germany this July.

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