Victoria Flores added to her collection of “hardware” as she received her second consecutive trophy for winning the 16- and 17-year-old age division at the National Hot Rod Association Junior Drag Racing League's Western Conference Finals.
“I have been drag racing for about seven years,” the 17-year-old said. “Most of my experience is in junior dragsters, but now I also drive a 2010 Chevy Camaro in the high school division. That is because I love drag racing. It's a blast.”
The junior dragster Western Conference Finals were held June 24-29 at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison.
Junior dragster competition is open to 8- to 17-year-olds. The young drivers are in a vehicle that is half the size of the top fuel dragsters and is powered by a five-horsepower, single-cylinder engine. The race is from a standing start to the finish line one-eighth of a mile down the track. Junior dragster drivers can complete the eighth-mile run in about eight seconds and can be traveling as fast as 85 mph when they cross the finish line.
Flores, who attended Columbine High School last year, said she started her racing career when her grandfather bought her a junior dragster.
“My grandfather, Rick Freeman, still competes in drag racing at Bandimere Speedway and he got me interested in the sport,” she said. “My first time at a race was really exciting. It was a rush to come off the line and get the car to go as fast as it can down the track. You know what? It is still as exciting and just as much of a rush now as it was the first time I came off the starting line.”
Flores said she looks forward to drag racing season every year because driving is fun and also because she gets to meet new people and make new friends.
She said her dad and grandfather maintain the car during racing season, and a friend, Dave Matthews, overhauls the engine and tunes it up during the off season.
“I do some little things with the car, like I know how to change the oil,” Flores said. “I would really like to learn more about tuning and maintaining engines because my real desire is to continue to drag-race and become a top fuel dragster driver.”
Junior dragster competition is about speed, but the real focus is consistency, because officials use a handicap system called dial-in. Each car makes time-trial runs to establish a dial-in time. Then, when two cars pull up to the starting line, the car with the slowest dial-in gets to leave first. But, to keep everything fair, if a driver runs faster than dial-in, it is called a breakout and can cost the driver the race if his opponent runs under the dial-in time.
“I think one of the hardest things to learn is to get a good reaction time off the starting line,” Flores said. “You want to leave as quickly as possible but not too quickly or you will be disqualified. You want your reaction times to be consistent so you keep your runs consistent with your dial-in time.”
In the championship round, she ran 8.10 seconds, which was nearly perfect as her dial-in for the day was an 8.12.
Flores said she is sad this is her last year in junior dragster competition and wanted to thank everyone who believed in her and encouraged her all the years she was driving a junior dragster. But she still plans to drive in the high school division, where she has made 14-second runs down the quarter-mile track at 100 mph. She said that is fun because she likes to drive fast.
She said she still will be driving in the high school competition and still will be going to the track for junior dragster races because her two younger brothers are both drivers.
“Junior dragster racing has become sort of a family affair,” said Tamara Freeman, Flores' mother. “My husband did some drag racing when he was younger, and until the kids came along. Victoria got driving a junior dragster and then our boys, Dawson, 13, and Kobe, 12, both started competing in junior dragsters. As you might guess, with our kids so involved in junior dragsters, we spend a lot of time at the track.”
The family brought home a trunk full of hardware from the Western Conference Finals. Victoria won the big trophy, called a Wally in honor of NHRA founder Wally Parks, for winning her age division. In their age groups, her brother Dawson brought home the trophy for making it to the semifinals and her brother Kobe got the trophy for making it to the quarterfinals.
Next season, the family will be racing at a new track because this summer, they will be moving to the Fort Worth area, But they expect to be back in the area next year when the junior dragster Western finals are held at Bandimere Speedway.