When I was 12, my father took me to my first race. It was at our local track and it was a test session for a late model car. I totally ignored the race we were at and begged to go see the cars racing on a straight track at the same complex.
A drag racer was born.
At the time, my dad was working at a delivery driver for a parts company. One of his customer’s happened to have a super comp dragster and raced at that particular track each weekend. We began going each Saturday to help and watch him race.
I was in love.
Not with a boy.
With drag racing.
I begged and begged to have a car of my own to race. When I turned 15, I wrote a letter to the head of Division 3 in the NHRA asking questions about what I needed to do to race in the high school bracket. The gentleman actually took the time to personally write me back and explain the rules and everything I needed to know.
When I turned 16, my dad gave me the 1979 Chevrolet Malibu that had been sitting in the driveway without an engine. It needed a little elbow grease and she purred… or roared, is probably the better terminology. Dad and I scrimped and saved and put our very hearts and souls in that car. I named her Molly.
Molly and I had a love/hate relationship. I loved her when I raced– on the track and on the street. I loved how she sounded. I loved her looks. I hated her in the dead of winter when there was no heat and I had to ride around with a blanket on my lap to stay warm. (That heater core was extra weight… it had to go!)
I turned 17 in August and we took it out to the track. I won my first race. And several after that. I had people rooting for me in the stands. I had people making bets on me to win. I had kids asking for my autograph on pieces of paper.
I qualified to go to bracket finals that year in the high school class. I lost in the third round at finals by 1/100th of a second. I was devastated.
A week later, my dad borrowed the car to drive to work and was t-boned by some kid on a suspended license. The insurance company totaled the car and gave us very little money for it. We eventually bought another ’79 Malibu, but it just wasn’t the same. In the first “shake-down” pass in the car, the transmission locked up and dad drove it through the sand traps and into the river.
I haven’t raced since.
Some days, it doesn’t bother me at all. Other days I feel that motor oil running in my blood and I can’t stand it. I was a damn good drag racer.
This time of year, it tends to hit me hard. Its almost time for bracket finals. The cars run well in the cool air. They motor down the strip and thunder in your head.
I no longer have my biggest supporters and fans– my dad and brother. I mention building an engine from scratch and my husband looks at me like I have two heads… plus, we have no car to put it in.
For the most part, my drag racing dreams have been put to rest and replaced by mommy things. My kids will be ready for their own junior dragsters in a few years.
Not saying the motor oil isn’t still pumping through my heart. Nah. Not that at all.
Besides, I have my eye on a 1979 Malibu parked in a side yard on the way to work.
It just needs a little elbow grease… and Molly will roll again.