Texas Tech University

COVID-19 Doesn't Red-Flag Dirt Track Racer

By Leslie Cranford, Section Manager

A red race car holds a driver with a white helmet as it drives on a dirt road with a black race car behind it.

Landon Ellis takes a lap in his #68 micro sprint car.

A red race car holds a driver with a white helmet as it drives on a dirt road with a black race car behind it.

Landon Ellis takes a lap in his #68 micro sprint car.

Anyone familiar with auto racing knows when a race is red-flagged, everyone stops. But the current pandemic situation won't leave Landon Ellis with a DNF, especially not with his education.

Landon, 15, from the Wichita Falls, Texas area, hasn't been able to race since sometime in March, but that means he's been able to get lots of schoolwork finished, since Texas Tech University High School is self-paced. He appreciates that now, more than ever.

"I am working hard on my schoolwork right now, as we are staying home with COVID-19," he said. "Racing season hasn't started yet because of the pandemic, but when it does, I am excited that I will be able to travel and take my school with me. I can work on my assignments anytime, anywhere, and not get behind. If I need extra time on a particular subject, I can work on it until I feel comfortable with how to do it."

Now in his second semester with TTU K-12, the ninth grader chose the program to allow him to pursue his passion for racing.

"I enjoy racing dirt track and was always using every absence the school allowed to travel and race. There were many races that I could not attend because I was out of days," he explained. "I am really looking forward to racing and traveling. Now, I will be able to complete school from anywhere, and get a lot of 'seat time' at the racetracks."

Landon says he and his family also chose the TTU K-12 program because wanted to be enrolled in state-approved high school that would prepare him for college. And, he says it will allow him to finish high school a little quicker than he would being enrolled in a brick-and-mortar high school.

A young man rests on his stomach atop a bed next to a dark brown dog.

Landon Ellis relaxes with Duke, his chocolate Labrador.

A young man rests on his stomach atop a bed next to a dark brown dog.

Landon Ellis relaxes with Duke, his chocolate Labrador.

"I enjoyed regular school, and miss my friends, but this online program allows me to pursue my racing without missing school. I race dirt track from California to North Carolina. We enjoy traveling for races but were unable to attend all of them because of the state attendance policies," he reiterated.

Landon's mom, Shaney, believes he'll be ahead of the curve when it comes time for college.

"He has never really had to work hard in school, so this is good for him," she said. "The time management skills that he is learning have been great too. I love this program; I love this curriculum." Shaney admits though, that because she is a Texas Tech alumna, she may be a little biased.

Although there are challenges to online learning, Landon says he feels like it is better preparing him for the future. Having excellent support from his teachers was an unexpected and welcome bonus.

"It is very challenging, but I think I will be better prepared for college than I would be attending a typical program. I say that because I am learning how important it is to be self-disciplined and goal oriented. The work has to be completed, and it's up to me to make that happen," he said. "Also, I was surprised at how available the instructors are. I can get in touch with any of my teachers if I ever have a problem or need some assistance. The support system is better than I imagined it would be with an online program."

A young man wearing a white helmet stares intensely as he sits in a red race car.

Landon Ellis concentrates on the road ahead.

A young man wearing a white helmet stares intensely as he sits in a red race car.

Landon Ellis concentrates on the road ahead.

Of course, the age-old question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" is something Landon thinks about as well.

"I change my mind daily! I would love to race professionally, but I also have other interests. I definitely want to be successful doing something that I love and that I am passionate about."

Approaching the finish line of his first full year in Texas Tech University High School, Landon believes the program is a great option for students looking for something other than traditional school.

"I think the skills I'm learning with this program will better prepare me for a college education. It has the freedom and flexibility that I was looking for, yet the curriculum is very challenging. I'd tell other students to give it a try."

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