I think the answer that most people would expect is that I was daddy’s little tomboy that probably grew up at the drag strip along side my father, or brother, or uncle or some other relative. But that’s not what happened.
Truth is, my parents could hardly change a tire. They were a conservative, military family that based their automotive decisions on practicality and reliability, not on prowess and horsepower. So where exactly did I pick up this obsession with all things automotive? The honest answer is: I have no clue.
My earliest car memories started when I was about 7 years old. I remember sitting in the back seat of the painfully practical Chrysler K car, counting out loud whenever I passed a Corvette. (I can’t believe I just admitted that out loud… I was young and didn’t know any better) I remember Mami asking me what I was counting, and my answer was Corvettes. There was a look of complete bewilderment on her face, A) that I even knew what a Corvette looked like, and B) that I would be spending my time counting them on the highway. Although she had no clue what sparked my interest in a Corvette to begin with, I do remember getting a small RC replica of a little Gold Corvette for Christmas that year.
My next memory of automotive influence came at the expense of Mami’s lead-footed driving style. By now, the “yellow lemon” as I endearingly referred to our K-car, had been traded in for a 1988 Pontiac Grand-Am. I was at the dealership when they bought the car, listening to the sales person intently as he boasted about the QUAD-4 engine, and other features. Mami was more concerned with the color combos available, Papi was trying to keep the cost down and ensure that the warranty was fully protective. I was impressed and raving about the E.F.I. and QUAD-4 engine, even though I had no clue what that meant. What I did learn when Mami was driving and Papi wasn’t around, was that the car was much more powerful than the old lemon. And believe me, Mami quickly developed the reputation of having a lead-foot, mainly because I was quick to brag on her fast driving… something she referred to as “tattling”.
I believe if given the opportunity, Mami would’ve made a great stunt driver. Best example: I was sick from Asthma on a drive home from my uncle’s gym. There was a large hump in the road crossing a major intersection in my hometown. The speed limit, I believe was 30 mph. All I can say, is that Bo & Luke have NOTHING on Mami. We hit that thing doing 70 mph and were completely airborne for a moment. I might’ve been sick, but that was still a rush…
By the time I hit high school, I had come to my senses, and developed a love for Mustangs. That was around the time that the SN-95 retro-look mustang was introduced, and I really thought they were sexy. A kid in my class drove up in a yellow Boss adorned Mustang on his 16th birthday. I just was in awe of that car. It sounded mean, it looked great, and I definitely was envious. A friend of mine ended up with a V6 version of that car, and I managed to con him into letting me drive it one night after a volleyball game. I pulled out of the Taco Bell parking lot, and laid into the throttle. Ryan grabbed every “Oh Crap” handle in the car, and with a nervous laugh asked me to take it easy. Its funny looking back, because I didn’t know it then, but that was the first time driver’s instinct kicked in for me.
My first knowledge of drag racing came courtesy of my first love… Jason’s family was more of the traditional motorsports variety. Father and sons out at the drag strip every weekend. He grew up in it, and frequented the track with his father and older brother, who raced. I remember him telling me one Friday night that he was going to the racetrack. I asked if I could go too, and he turned me down. I think he thought that I just wanted to tag along as an annoying girlfriend and had no real interest in the sport. It’s ironic that I would see his brother and father again, a few years down the road pulling my own racecar into the staging lanes. He never said anything about it… but I secretly gloated in a “So there” moment at that meeting. And I also secretly reveled in the fact that my little “street car” eventually became faster than their racecar. But who’s keeping score, right?
Back to my own first experience… after graduating high school, I acted on my newfound adulthood freedoms, I bought my first car. It was a 1990 Mustang GT 5.0. By now, I had begun dating a fellow enthusiast (looking back, the only good thing about him was his car…. I’m a sucker for notchbacks) and he had a handful of Mustang driving friends. We formed a little car club… “Horsing Around”… I know, can we say “Cheesy”?!? Our first trip to the drag strip was in August of 1998. Dave, Chris, Aaron and I all were first-timers at the strip, and not being much of a spectator, I pulled my car in line in the staging lanes for street car drags. After some brief pointers from some young guy in a tricked out Supra, I bypassed the water box and staged the car for the first time. 15.8 seconds of idle-leaving, granny shifting later… I crossed the quarter mile finish line at a breakneck 91mph. I was hooked.
From there, the rest is history. But I still have that original time slip… my very first time down the ¼ mile.
What was YOUR first racing experience like?