While the majority of racers at the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association drag strip are adults with a passion for power and speed, it’s not a “kid-free” zone. In fact, many professional racers, like top fuel racer Morgan Lucas, pro stock driver Erica Anders, and drag racer Antron Brown, have gotten their start the same way as Aleah Peres, Galva. The 11-year-old junior drag racer has been attending events at the race track since she was days old, and has been behind the wheel since she was eight. That’s the youngest age the National Hot Rod Association will allow racers to compete, according to SRCA’s Tracey Swalley, who remembers when Aleah began racing.
Aleah, her father, Justin, and her younger brother and grandmother relaxed until her event was called over the loudspeakers at the SRCA dragstrip Saturday afternoon. The trailer they transport their dragsters in has a curtain that helps keep the cool air inside, and portable lounge chairs provide a comfortable place to sit. Like most people her age, Aleah is a little shy when it comes to talking to a reporter, that is, until you ask her about the trophies she’s won in her four-year racing career. She’s competed and won two Iron Man trophies in points championships, competed and won in the Western Conference finals, won two track champion trophies for the 8 and 9-year-old division, among many others. The trophy she takes the most pride in, however, is her “Wally.” The much coveted award is given by the NHRA, and racers in all classes and divisions dream of winning one someday. Just ask Justin.
“I’m kind of jealous,” he says of daughter Aleah’s win. She just grins.
When she turns 13, she looks forward to driving the next level of vehicle, which she can do if she’s accompanied by another driver, which will presumably be her dad. In the mean time, when she’s not racing, she likes to ride horses, she said.
As officials call junior dragsters to que after the motorcycle races, Justin hustled the family like a well-oiled machine to the tow vehicle and transported the small-sized dragster made by Motivational Tubing, Newton, to the staging lane. Aleah raced against Great Bend junior dragster, Bryce Boltman. It took her 10.499 seconds to travel 8,000 feet to Boltman’s 8.128 seconds. Adults travel at nearly twice the speed, but at 58 to 60 miles per hour, this is clearly a skilled sport, and that’s one of the things that makes racing so much fun for Aleah and her family.
“The challenge of winning,” Aleah responded when asked what her favorite part of the race day is.