NEWTON/GREEN TOWNSHIP-The sun wasn't the only thing shining at the northeast regional Junior Solar Sprints races last month. Six teams representing five middle schools in Sussex County outshone students from throughout a nine-state region in building the fastest and most well-crafted cars that run on solar energy. The list of winners was dominated by Sussex County schools, including the grand champion car, built by students at Green Hills Middle School in Green, and first-place for speed, built by students at Halsted Middle School in Newton. Students from Ogdensburg Middle School, the Sussex County Charter School, and Hopatcong Middle School also placed in the regional race, held June 13 in Springfield, Mass. A car called "Irony Strikes Back," built by Robert Corcoran and Artie Elwell, eighth-graders at Green Hills Middle School in Green, took grand champion honors at the race, placing second in speed and third in technical merit. Taking first-place for speed was "Kicker," a car built by Kevin Campana, Chris Campana, Thomas Aller and Kyle Huber of Halsted Middle School. The four-member team was one of three teams from that school to go to the regional race. "It's the most we've ever taken," said Jim Hofmann, the Halsted teacher who coordinates his school's solar car participation every year. "We got a lot of experience, saw a lot of cars and got great ideas for next year," he said. A team from Halsted School took first-place in speed in last year's northeast regional race and went on to represent the school in a national science fair in Colorado. Placing third in speed was "Racerx," a car built by Daniel Janes, Eric Vandenberg, James Welch and Thomas Reilly from Ogdensburg Middle School. In the craftsmanship category, "Lightning Strike," a car built by Chris Rosado, Matt Gregory and Sean Moyer from Hopatcong Middle School took second-place. Karl Hefele's car, "Prop-osition," took second-place for innovation. Hefele is a student from the Sussex County Charter School. Another Green Hills team, Carissa Gilligan, Ashley Stephens, Sara Rostea and Christia Chelsey Snyder, won honorable mention for technical merit for their car, named "Patriot." This month's northeast regional race was the third level for the middle school students. A Sussex County race in May sent winners to an inter-county race against Sussex, Morris and Warren county schools. Winners in that race went on to Springfield. The regional race had some 250 students from schools from throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. The fact that so many Sussex County schools placed in the race n- including all three places for speed -n was noted by Chris Mason, race coordinator for the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, the race's sponsor. "They have these multiple levels of races at the local level, which helps them to fine-tune their cars," Mason said. "It's the reason why competition is so good for education. They have the opportunity to rework what they've learned."