Girl’s Day at the Races In a week where Danica Patrick lit up the NASCAR media lights by capturing a Daytona

500 pole, a first by a woman, the sport that nurtures women in its ranks—that be NHRA drag racing—showed its prowess at Chandler’s 29th Annual Arizona Nationals. Lead announcer, Dave Rieff, and commentator, Mike Dunn, pronounced “The youth movement officially arrived” for drag racing in the season’s opener, the Winternationals, Pomona. Reeling off the three winners of the major classes there—Vince Nobile in Pro Stock, Shawn Langdon Top Fuel, Courtney Force, Funny Car—the spinning calculator revealed their average age as a tender 25. Langdon is the “old man” as he has busted through the 30-year-old barrier. Qualifying in the lower half of the bracket, Langdon should’ve relaxed; Dunn suggested no concern of that poor qualifying, yet meeting young (25) Leah Pruett’s Dote Racing dragster as the first pair of the day proved his undoing. Pruett gained her professional experience battling Pro Mods in 2011-12 winning the second Charlotte race both years; she took runner-up in the zMax 4-Wide Nationals and collected a Wally for Las Vegas in 2011. It’s not a stretch to suggest her Top Fuel ride as a factor in this year’s Charlotte races. With Langdon nailing a tough .052 second RT, Pruett simply bettered that with an unconscious .029. Antron Brown’s Matco Tools machine trailered her smoking attempt. At the Winternationals Doug Kalitta’s MAC Tools edged her off the line, barely, and at the line with a quicker run, but the results of the first two events of 2013 indicate she is the real deal. The second young woman in Top Fuel, Brittany Force in the Castrol Edge railer, lost a smoke-fest against David Grubnic’s Optima Batteries Dragster. Glancing at the numbers reflects even though her chutes deployed as they’re supposed to do, with a class-representative RT she could’ve won the round. Alas a .146 second, the worst of the day for dragster’s king of racing (or is it now Queen?) sent her home. Force’s Traxxas Funny Car went home after a first round tire-boiling against the Uni-Select Charger of Todd Lesenko. The other girl in the class, Alexis DeJoria, found John Force’s Castrol Mustang sending her Tequila Patron

Camry to the trailer but not before the broadcast reminded viewers she is seeing the chopper-building king, Jesse James. For the Pro Stock youth movement, Vincent Nobile’s Mountain View Avenger lost to a class finalist, Mike Edwards, driving his Interstate Camaro. The reason he won runner-up became the youth’s movement poster child this day as Erica Enders-Stevens GK Racing Cobalt gave the king-ofleaves a lesson on the line: when you leave a lot on the start like his .095second RT, even with a quicker run, one will not win. So Enders-Stevens takes her fifth Pro Stock win as not only a young drag racer (30 next October) but also a recently married bride. Patrick upheld her honor at the Daytona 500, a factor all day—leading the race early, in third place beginning the last lap—though the race happened to end when she was back from the draft. Still, eighth is the best ever for a woman here in the event’s 55 years. The queen of motor girls is, of course, drag racing’s Shirley Muldowney. The film of her life “Heart Like A Wheel” with Bonnie Bedelia and Beau Bridges is quite watchable and fun, recalling the sport’s early days. Plenty of women motorsport racers made their way in hot rods, but a few bubble to the top of the pact like Muldowney. With new social media attracted to racing’s women, the girls will continue to capture attention . . . and deservedly so. Connect with


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