NHS teacher’s love of racing provides real-world experience for students 

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

From left, Naugatuck High School math teacher Andrea Fitzgerald, sophomore Medeea Ionescu and graphic design teacher John Forish are shown at the high school. Ionescu recently created a logo for the Connecticut Autocross & Rally Team, a sports car enthusiasts club that Fitzgerald has been a member of for about seven years. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Some teachers may prefer to take it slow when they’re not in the classroom, but Naugatuck High School math teacher Andrea Fitzgerald has a need for speed.

The 54-year-old Woodbury resident races sports cars as her pastime.

Fitzgerald is a member of the Connecticut Autocross & Rally Team or CART, an independent club of sports and performance car enthusiasts. The club sponsors several autocross and track events during the year. The club focuses on advanced car handling techniques and responsive driving, and also hosts events for charities.

The club has about 160 members. They don’t race head to head, rather drivers compete in time trails at courses.

Fitzgerald and her husband, Bruce, used to ski, but she said as they got older the sport took a toll on their knees. The couple was looking for another way to get their adrenaline going.

“We like speed,” Fitzgerald said. “We like to fly. We like to ski.”

About seven years ago, the Fitzgeralds attended a couple of CART meetings and were hooked. The couple is also members of the Porsche Club of America and Sports Car Club of America.

Fitzgerald said she bought a 2008 Porsche Cayman S before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and wasn’t able to compete with it last year. Before the Porsche, she had a late-‘90s Mazda Miata, where she hit about 92 mph at the Thomaston Speedway Motorsports Park. Her husband hit 103 mph in the same car.

Fitzgerald said she bought the Porsche to go faster and expects to break 100 mph.

The Thomaston course is a complete road course of about 2.5 miles. A fast driver can complete the track in about 1 minute and 25 seconds, Fitzgerald said. She’s completed the course in about 1:48 seconds.

CART typically holds about three time trial track days and 15 autocross events every year. The club generally races in Hartford and Thomaston and at the Big E.

The club was set to hold an autocross event last Saturday. The group is planning to compete in the first time trial of the year May 22 at the Thomaston course.

Fitzgerald said the members of the car club aren’t exactly the most creative bunch. So when it came time to design a logo for the 2020-21 time trials series, the club held a contest for Naugatuck High students to create a logo.

Members fell in love with sophomore Medeea Ionescu’s design.

“Her submission was unanimous. She did a really nice job,” Fitzgerald said. “You’d think it was professional. It was eye-catching.”

Ionescu’s design incorporates a race car with CART across the top and a lightning bolt in the background. Ionescu, 16, drew the logo on paper and finished the final draft in Photoshop.

Naugatuck High School math teacher Andrea Fitzgerald is a member of the Connecticut Autocross & Rally Team. –CONTRIBUTED

“For me, it was just very exciting to get my art out there,” said Ionescu, who draws in her free time and is taking a printshop independent study course at NHS. “It was always a dream to get my art to be recognized.”

Her design will appear on T-shirts and she also won $25.

Ionescu said she entered the contest because it was a great opportunity to expand on her art and learn something new.

“I think art is such a big part of my life. I don’t think it will ever really go away,” Ionescu said.

Fitzgerald, who has been teaching at the high school for 17 years, said the contest was an opportunity to showcase students’ talents and provide them a real-world experience.

“They (students) have a lot of fresh ideas,” Fitzgerald said. “They put themselves out there. You get a lot of good creativity.”

John Forish, a graphic design teacher at NHS, said his students do great graphic design work for businesses and organizations in the community. He said it was an honor for Ionescu’s design to be chosen for CART’s logo, noting that if she chooses to go into graphic design as a career it could be a piece for her portfolio.

Forish added, though, that whatever Ionescu decides to do she will be successful.

“I wasn’t surprised when she won,” he said.