The Day a “GIRLIE-GIRL” drove my dragster!

Newt's Fiat body Front Engine DragsterWe built a new 496 c.i. engine for my dragster in Jan 06, got it race ready Feb, then found the bad fuel pump. Much to my sadness, I lost my sponsor (my wife, whose company moved to St. Louis leaving us financially unable to race. THANKS DEAR!), so I had to put my racing on hold for a while. Boy do I need a sponsor!

The months were very long with all the races rained out and not being able to afford to go racing when Rick Rogers from HammerHead Racing came to me in September and asked if he could put his girlfriend Jennifer Luna in my car to get her supercomp license. I told him the fuel pump was junk and he offered to get one. DONE DEAL, WE’RE GOING RACING!.

We arrive at Bakersfield’s Famoso Raceway for a test and tune on Friday afternoon. We set up the pit and prepped the car for a warm up. Rick and the crew decided that I will make a couple shake down runs first as the car hasn’t been down the track since last November, and now we have a new motor in it. I make an easy pass at 8.47 sec. and go back to the pits. Everything looks good so we went back to the starting line to make another pass. This time I push it a little harder and run a 8.36/163 mph. The car is ready for Jen..

Saturday morning we get Jen in the car for the warm up. She is used to warm ups from sitting in Ricks top fueler when we fire it. We tow her over to tech and she passes. We are ready for her first pass. She puts on my 20 fire suit and is uncomfortable. Thanks to Joel and David Gruzen for the use of a 15 suit, now she’s ready, except she can’t push the gas pedal all the way down and she can’t see over the top of the body. Also, her foot slides down on the gas pedal. We put two pillows in the car, one under her and one behind her. Then I tape a WD40 lid to the gas pedal so her foot won’t slide down. She feels confident that she can drive the car now.

Jen in Newt's front engine dragster We pulled her to the staging lanes and she gets suited up. I run down the track to back her up and all of a sudden I hear this thunder behind me that I had never heard before. It sounds like a fueler firing up. I turn around and there’s my car with a girl driving it. I told Jen earlier that I have never let anyone drive my cars, much less a girl. I wasn’t nervous until she pulled up to the starting line, now my nerves kicked in and my arms were covered with goose bumps (did I tell you that Jen has never driven down a drag strip? (let alone a driven an 8 second front engine dragster with a Fiat body on it).

She does a burn out, but needs a little work on that. A half track pass and gets a mid 11 sec. run. Rick is worried about how Jen felt about driving a dragster. Is she going to love it or hate it? He’s excited when he sees her all smiles, but now it looks like he’ll have a two car team! Back to the pits for a quick turn around and back to the line. This pass she does a better burn out and does a nice straight pass in the 10’s. Both runs are on the foot brake. We tried to get her to use the trans brake, but she gets confused and releases the trans brake button and gas pedal at the same time. (Could be because everyone in the crew is telling her how to do it a different way) She says no way, foot brake only. Two more passes and she is doing a good job. On the 4th pass she gets a little out of shape and the car goes right towards the guard rail, but she stays in it and gets it back in the groove and runs a low 10. GOOD JOB. Time to barbeque! She only needs two passes in the 9’s to get her license. We’ll finish up on Sunday morning.

jen-launching-at-6000-rpms.jpg fiat dragsterSunday morning we warm it up again and ask Jen to try the trans brake again. The poor girl has me, Rick, and the rest of the crew telling her what to do. Rick’s telling her not to hang onto the steering wheel, but to just use her thumb and release. This gets her upset so Rick throws up his hands and takes the dog for a walk. I calm her down and we go to the staging lanes. She fires and stages the car. We told her not to worry about cutting the light, just leave when she is ready. On the green she lets go of the trans brake button and the gas at the same time and by accident her thumb hits the button again. OUCH! But she still gets a good run in the low 10’s. Another fast turn around and back to the line. I tell her she needs to get down the track and don’t lift. She’s on the trans brake and leaves on the green with a 9.74… GREAT PASS JOB WELL DONE. When we get to her she is all smiles and says “Newt, I didn’t lift, but that trans brake scared the hell out of me.” Another quick turn around. All she needs is one more 9 second run to get her license. She’s getting use to the trans brake now and leaves on the green and keeps it in the groove and runs a 9.70. The whole crew goes wild. She has done it all in about 24 hours. Not bad for a girlie-girl. Jen is a natural driver. I would let her drive my car anytime.

The plan is to get her some more seat time in my dragster and then put her in Rick’s `69 MACH 1 Mustang Funny Car for some 7.50 CIFCA racing. We are hoping to get started mounting the body and painting it November after the FUEL & GAS CHAMPIONSHIPS. I think we have a 500 c.i. blown injected CADDY with a two speed LENCO coming. Should be interesting next year with 4 cars running. Long live the “FORD-A-LAC “!!!

I think I will see if Jen wants to join my new racing car club, the “Traveling Acceleration Circus” How about it Jen?


Care to comment? Is Newt’s a nice guy or crazy for doing this? And while you’re here, please JOIN

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