13-year-old Brit girl takes on US drag racers
Jul 18 2012
Paige Wheeler isn’t your average 13-year-old girl. Her idea of a summer vacation is going drag racing in the USA against 800 of America’s top junior competitors.
Paige is about to take part in the NHRA Junior Drag Racing League’s Eastern Conference Final, which happens in Bristol, Tennessee every summer. Attracting entrants aged 8 to 18 from right across the American continent, the event is a huge challenge compared to her usual hunting grounds at the Santa Pod and Shakespeare County Raceways in the UK.
Paige races a Half Scale Dragster, capable of 0-60mph in just 3 seconds. Each run lasts for an eight of a mile – instead of the more familiar quarter – yet speeds still regularly top 80mph at the finish.
This despite powered being provided by the descendant of an engine that originated 20 years ago in a lawn mower.
In Bristol Paige will be battling not just the other competitors – many of whom race every weekend, compared to her every few weeks – but also the weather, the racing conditioning and her car. She’ll have to adapt, and adapt fast.
Tennessee in summer is fiercely hot, for example, while even the famous drag racing start line ‘Christmas Tree’ lighting system is different in America – a significant issue in a sport where reaction times are vital.
Making matters worse in this regard, Paige won’t even be driving her usual car. Instead she’s borrowing a different Half Scale Dragster from the makers in New Jersey – creating yet another obstacle for her to overcome.
But Paige is one of Britain’s top young drag racers; having won the Junior Dragster trophy at Santa Pod’s FIA European Finals in her first full season, she currently lies fourth in this year’s UK national championship. 2012 represents her second crack at the Eastern Conference Finals.
Paige says: “I’m excited about going, but not at all nervous. I did race at Bristol for the first time last year, and managed to win a few rounds, so I know what it will be like.”
The challenge is so tough, however, that she and her support team – consisting of parents Andy and Dionne, sister Belle and sponsors Alamo Rent A Car with Oakley, Lucas Oil and JEGS – will be treating every race where she crosses the line first as “a shining individual triumph in itself.”
Eventually Paige has ambitions to become a 250mph Pro Modified drag racer, once she graduates from the Juniors. Her interest in the sport stems solely from a visit to Santa Pod four years ago, followed by a ride in the track’s Junior Dragster shortly afterwards.
But that’s not to say drag racing doesn’t run in the family – younger sister Belle is only eight, but she now competes in the UK Juniors as well.
Photo courtesy of Tog@Eurodragster (used with permission)
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