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Young drivers speed down the track

Thornton girl drives her junior dragster races at Bandimere Speedway


Thornton resident Azlyn Oenes hit the gas each time she pulled her pink car to the starting line the during the June 23-25 National Hot Rod Association Division 5 Junior Dragster events at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison.

“All my family drag races so I decided to go drag racing too,” the 16-year-0ld said as she waited her turn in the staging lanes. “This is my third year racing. The first year was a little scary but I got over that quickly and found that racing is really is a lot of fun. The most fun is just trying to go faster than the driver in the other lane. It is a rush coming off the line and it is fun to go fast.”

The Mountain Range High School student races in the 16-year-old division and her car is powered by a single stroke engine.

“I love drag racing,” she said. “This year I accepted the invitation to be part of Team Spencer. I drive one of the team cars and we can go up to 80 miles an hour and can go from a standing start to the finish line a quarter mile down the track in as quick as 7.9 second. If we go faster, we are disqualified and lose the race.”

Team Spencer is the continuation of the team started about 20 years ago by Bill Chapman to promote youth drag racing. He initially named the team after his company, Trench Shoring, and provided everything from the car to the helmet a young racer needed to take part in junior drag racing competition. About 150 young athletes have raced for the team over the years. Chapman passed away and Dennis Spencer stepped up to continue the tradition.

When not behind the wheel, Oenes, her mother and her dad worked with other volunteers in the pits at the Team Spencer trailer. They helped get cars and drivers ready to move into the starting lane as well as doing other tasks such as making sure everyone had water to drink or access to available snacks.

“It is fun racing and it is fun being part of the team,” Azlyn said. “All the team drivers are good friends. We help each other get ready to race and when everything is done we hang out and have fun together.”

She competed in all three days of racing which are single-elimination formats which means the winner advances to the next round and racing is over for the day for the loser.

Oenes won her first-round races in each of the first two days of racing but lost in the second round.

The Thornton resident had more success in the divisional points race June 25. She raced in the 13- to 17-year-old age division with 51 other racers. Oenes ended the day’s racing for her first three opponents but lost in the quarterfinal races of the bracket.

She said drag racing is her only sport right now but she plans to go out for the girls soccer team when the school year begins at Mountain Range.

Oenes was among about 150 drivers competing in the three-day National Hot Rod Association Division 5 Junior Drag Racing Series held June 23-25 at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison.

Racers from five states took part in the three-day event and each driver got to race each day because each day used a different format for the competitions.

Junior dragster is a program created by the National Hot Rod Association in 1992 to provide a way for boys and girls to experience drag racing.

The cars kids drive are half-scale models of the NHRA top fuel dragsters. The youth’s cars are powered by single cylinder engines.

All ages

The program is divided into five age divisions to accommodate drivers 5- to 18-year olds.

The 5-year-olds don’t race. They make test runs down the 1/8 mile drag strips. The racing divisions are 6- to 7 -year-olds, 8- to 9-year-olds, 10- to 12-year-0lds and 13- to 17-year-olds.

The cars driven by 6 to 8-year-olds must use an out-of-the-crate Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engine. The cars launch off the starting line and if a car is going faster than 40 miles an hour crossing the finish line an eighth of a mile away, the driver is disqualified.


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