How many young Mississippians can say they drove on an official NASCAR race track, competed with 17 other team cars from Colorado, Texas, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, California, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia or worked on the vehicles in the official pit area?

Not many, I am sure.

But members of the Choctaw Central Solar Car Project Team can truthfully say they participated in such a race.

The team members include drivers Jose Cruz (team captain) and Brandon Lewis along with other team members are Robin Routh, Justin Tubby, Hilowah Davis, Ozzie Willis, and Jada Sockey.

Mentors are Joey Long, Liddia Hughes, Dave Sanders, and Frankie Germany.

The Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, was the site of the 2012 High School Solar Car Challenge, an annual national solar car competition.

This competition, begun in 1995, is designed to motivate students in science, engineering, technology, and alternative energy.

The high school program teaches students how to design, engineer, build, and safely race a road worthy solar car.

The CCHS program was started in 2005.

Since that time, the team has competed in both track and cross-country races with very favorable results. Mississippi can be proud that all three division wins this year were captured by Mississippi teams.

The Classic Division was won by the Houston, Miss. Lady Racers, an all-girl team, with 334 laps of 501 miles.

The Open Division was won by the Houston Solar Race Team with 409 laps at 613 miles.

In 2010, the CCHS team won both the Advanced Division and overall competition in the cross-country race from Fort Worth, Texas to Boulder, Colo., running 853.5 miles in a little over 27 hours.

After a brief hiatus due to funding difficulties, the team repeated the previous win this July by achieving first place in the Advanced Division and capturing the overall win with 450 laps of the 1-mile track for a total of 675 miles.

Cruz, set a track record of 59 miles per hour for the fastest lap made by a solar car in the 17 year history of the race.

In addition, mentor Joey Long received the Special Teacher award for exceptional work with students during the Solar Car Challenge.

The CCHS team was an excellent ambassador for the youth of Mississippi, representing the state and the Tribe well.

The sleek aerodynamic beauty of the car and the excellent showing in the race made the team and car favorites among visitors and the media.

As a result of the team's outstanding race statistics, members were interviewed by both local Dallas televisions and radio stations.

Jose's track record was reported on a Dallas station newscast.

This year's team is made up of all first year members who performed exceptionally well.

Each student did his or her part to work together as a team which resulted in this amazing win and setting the track record.

But the story doesn't end here.

As a result of the two national wins, the team qualifies to race in the World Solar Car Race in Australia in 2013.

That race involves cars built by colleges and corporations from all over the world.

If they can go and complete the race, they would be the only high school team to ever finish the race.

The students and mentors of the only Native American solar car team believe they can do it.

They are working very hard to raise the money for the expensive trip by having fundraisers such as selling snow-cones, concession stands at ball games, bar-be-cue sales, golf tournaments and soliciting donations from businesses and individuals.

They plan to show the world what Mississippi high school students can do.

The CCHS Solar Car Project team is Austalia bound.

See for photos and further information about the Solar Car Challenge.