Drag Illustrated Issue 176, May / June 2022 - Page 124

Women of Power 2022

DI Roundtable

HE TOP Alcohol Dragster category has become a

T hot destination for many women in the sport of drag racing , either as a forever-home or as a stopping point on the way up . For the last three seasons , a female has been crowned champion in the category , and last year , the NHRA season title came down to the wire with two women locked in an incredibly tight battle .


In early 2022 , before this issue of Drag IllustrateD was published , five national events featured Top Alcohol Dragster , and between three and five females entered each event – not quite a third of the field , but still significant . Proving that the women should not be taken lightly , Jasmine Salinas won in Gainesville and Julie Nataas was twice the No . 1 qualifier .
We sat down with five of the female Top Alcohol Dragster racers to get their take on the state of the class and its draw for women . John Finke Racing ’ s Jackie Fricke , a six-time winner in the category , was neck-and-neck with Rachel Meyer for the championship last season . Twotime national event winner Nataas is leading the charge for Randy Meyer Racing in pursuit of a fourth consecutive championship after sisters Megan ( 2019 and 2020 ) and Rachel ( 2021 ) claimed titles . Longtime Northeast racer Karen
Stalba has begun to turn heads with an effective program and a fast car that has reached four final rounds , while Megan Smith and Taylor Vetter , both relative newcomers , are representing a family legacy in the sport and the challenging supercharged version of the class , respectively .
Why did you choose Top Alcohol Dragster , and do you see it as a destination or a stepping stone ?
FRICKE : That ’ s easy ; for me , it ’ s a destination . I always say that Finke Racing is my forever team .
When I was six years old , I was at the fence at Maple Grove Raceway and I saw the blown Top Alcohol cars . I decided then and there that one day , I was going to drive one . I literally drew a picture with mine and my sister ’ s name on a Top Alcohol Dragster , and when we won the [ regional ] championship in 2014 , my sister gave that drawing back to me . She ’ d saved it all these years . A lot of people dream of Top Fuel , but to me , it was always Top Alcohol Dragster .
STALBA : It was the first class I had the opportunity to try . A family friend had a dragster , and after I graduated college , he asked my father if I wanted to drive . I ’ d never driven anything else . I was supposed to go run a friend ’ s door car at Englishtown just to get a little seat time , but it never worked out – so I hopped right into a dragster and made my first pass ever down a


dragstrip . I ’ m happy where I am , and I have a lot of goals I haven ’ t accomplished in the alcohol car .
NATAAS : I chose Top Alcohol Dragster because I plan to head into Top Fuel dragster one day . I went from Juniors , to Super Comp , to Top Dragster , and then to Top Alcohol . The thing I like most about Top Alcohol Dragster is the competition . I love the class for that , I really do . I know that not everyone wants to go Top Fuel racing , and it ’ s a lot less expensive to be driving Top Alcohol Dragster .
VETTER : I ’ ve been active in Top Dragster now for a couple of years , and this was the next step . For me , there was no question that it would be in a blown car , just because of the challenge . I was up for more challenge than what I had in Top Dragster , and I was up for a whole new learning curve as well with the blown car . As for whether or not it ’ s a stepping stone or a destination , I think it just depends on who you are . I ’ m doing this as more of a hobby , but if there was an opportunity for a fuel or Pro Stock ride , I ’ d definitely take it .
SMITH : I chose this class because it ’ s the nearest thing to Top Fuel , and that ’ s where I want to be . The procedures are pretty similar , if not the same , and my family and I felt it would be a good stepping stone . It ’ s a good place to learn and get ready for that next step .
What do you think is most difficult about competing in this class ?
FRICKE : The tuning aspect of it , for sure . I was never interested in it before , but now I ’ m probably interested in it as much or more than driving .
STALBA : Right now , with the price of fuel , it ’ s hard for people to show up . From the driver ’ s standpoint , I don ’ t find it difficult in the way that some people would think . I don ’ t think that because I ’ m a woman I was given any less of an opportunity , and I know years ago some of the guys would look at you like , ‘ I don ’ t want to get beat by a girl .’ But I don ’ t see that , and I never did . People out there are going to give you a hard time whether you ’ re male or female if you have a competitive car .
NATAAS : The rule changes that come because you have both blower and nitro-injected cars . For example , this year , we had to change the temperature on our fuel . Other than that , there ’ s a lot of competition in this class – but I love that .
VETTER : Not for me as a driver , but tuning it . So many things can go wrong that can cost you a round , a race , or a qualifying run . Driving a blown car , you have to hit your shift points ,
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