In my last blog post, I wrote about how I miss racing and that adrenaline rush you get when you’re putting your helmet on and strapping into the car. Little did I know I would fulfill that need sooner than expected!
Shortly after our family vacation, we took a visit to one of the local go-kart facilities where Adam raced last year with his LO206 kart. He didn’t have much interest in competing this year, however, so I jumped at the opportunity and got behind the wheel. I had never raced a go-kart before; growing up we stuck to Jr Dragsters and only drove karts for fun at rental places.
Going into a sport that was brand new to me; I didn’t have any expectations. I simply wanted to have fun being back in a race car, even if it only has 9 horsepower! We went to our local track and watched the first race of the season before we started testing so that way I could learn how the daily operations worked like tech and qualifying, and gauge the competition. After that, I practiced a handful of times before I entered my first kart race and I only had two goals for that event: Finish the race (aka don’t spin out) and make a pass. I think I had some beginner’s luck because I was able to accomplish both during the pre-finals and finals and finished 8th out of 13!
But the next race I competed in didn’t go as well. I wasn’t able to finish the finals because of tires going bad, and I got rear-ended which messed up the bumper. I’ve learned that karting takes so much skill and it looks way easier than it actually is! There is way more driver skill that goes into driving something through fast turns with multiple other karts on the track than there is in drag racing. Where drag racing is just two people that (hopefully) never collide, going in a simple straight line for a matter of seconds, karting is having at least 15 other people right next to you diving head first into each corner, usually knocking someone off the track, battling and rubbing and bumping at high-speeds, maxing out your heart rate for 10-20 minutes which feels like a lifetime. There is a lot of conditioning I need to do to strengthen my neck and forearms and increase my cardio and endurance to keep up if I want to finish in the top half.
With that being said, I love the challenge of karting and how it pushes me in new ways! I highly recommend visiting your local go-kart track with your kids and see if there is one there for you or them to try out, you’ll be hooked immediately! We are now planning on adding a second kart to the fleet so Adam can be more than just my mechanic and get to have some fun behind the wheel too.
Maybe the karting bug made me miss drag racing because again I had no intentions of getting back in the dragster this year…but when I heard that the Nitro Chaos series was coming to MoKan Dragway, one of my home tracks, I knew I had to jump at the opportunity. So I talked with my dad and he said he was looking for a driver and had full intentions of running both cars and try to take home the win. The only catch is I needed to find a sponsor to help pay for the entry, parts, crew, and everything else that goes into running a Top Alcohol Dragster. Here was my chance to practice what I preached, and I was able to work out a lead-generating deal with NGK Spark Plugs for their new Shop Squad education portal, and collaborated with my alma mater Pitt State and one of the local businesses that have supported me in the past, Pitsco Education.
Working together with Pitt State and Pitsco, we made a paper fold-n-roll dragster and did a public display right in the middle of downtown Pittsburg, KS. We had all kinds of families come out and kids got to make a replica of our dragster and meet some of the other Nitro Chaos racers. It was such a blast and a great way to kick off my debut and reunite with so many familiar faces!
But before I hit the track at MoKan for competition, I needed to make a few test hits to renew my NHRA license and get re-familiar with the car since it has been almost 2 years since my last race. We headed to Oskaloosa, Iowa where Matt Sackman and I drove against each other for Eddyville Raceway’s Night of Fire event held on the 4th of July weekend. Again this was a track I grew up racing on with my Jr Dragster, and my dad even did a handful of match races back in the day here, so it was very nostalgic getting to come to be part of the fun and bring out a family that has never seen me race before. I was a little nervous to be back in the car, but as soon as I started putting on the firesuit and helmet, it all came back to me, and images of winning and losing were flashing in my mind as I re-acquainted myself with the cockpit. Once the car started up and switched over to nitromethane, it was like riding a bike and I didn’t have to second guess any of my procedures.
I’m very thankful I got three hits at Eddyville before the big Nitro Chaos race; even someone like me who easily has over 500 passes in the dragster still needs a refresher. And let me tell you, the entire weekend at MoKan was simply chaos; getting to go head-to-head with funny cars, altereds, and front-engine dragsters was SO COOL and something I’ve always dreamt of! And to top it off there was a sold-out crowd, tailgaters lined up all the way down the 1/8th mile track, I had two videographers there to film for me (one was a documentary for Kansas Tourism that you can now watch >>> HERE), and lots of used parts and new merchandise to sell to the fans!
The one thing that helped me prepare for getting back into drag racing is training my reaction time using Blazepods. It’s a really cool system of pods that light up either randomly or in a sequence according to a program you pick through their app. I worked together with them to set up a unique racing tree that has 3 yellow bulbs flash then a green one, and you can either tap the green with your hand or foot and see what your reaction time is. What’s great about these pods is they are tiny and fit in a small travel case, it’s all operated on your phone with either a free trial or paid monthly membership, and I can practice with them during my workout routine either at the track or at home.
In case you need a recap, here’s a quick summary of how the weekend went. First qualifying pass I got to go up against one of my old Jr Dragster friend’s parents, who helped my sister and me race Juniors at the Kansas City track growing up. Back then his dad raced a Funny Car and took off some time but is back in it now with a Nitro Funny Car. The second qualifier was against Julie who secured the #1 qualifying spot and I took #2. First round I ran an altered and barely squeezed by for the win, and then for the second round I had to face Kebin Kinsley (former TF driver) who was also driving an altered — and by the way, just set the track record in first round running a whole tenth of a second quicker than me! We got lucky though because he turned on the red light moving me onto the finals where I got to face Julie again. We both had great reaction times, but she smoked the tires and I ran my best pass of the race and got to celebrate in the winner’s circle with new fans, my team, and most importantly, with Henry!
Henry was a champ trying to stay up all night long to watch us in the finals, and he got a second wind because I remember trying to put him down to sleep after that and the next thing I know he’s outside playing with his toys. He has been growing and learning so much lately; we recently celebrated his first birthday and a few days after that he began to walk steadily. He’s now on the verge of breaking into a run and loves to be chased; whether it’s because he’s in trouble or just playing around. He really is such a sweet and happy baby, and has the best laugh ever! We can’t wait for the day when he gets his chance at driving a race car; it could be a go-kart, a junior dragster, or maybe even a dirt bike like dad.