by Michelle Strubeck for Seward City News-
Most kids grow up playing with Barbie Dolls, Legos or Transformers and many are involved in sports. Fifth grader Shelby Roy is busy putting the pedal to the metal, tearing it up on the drag strip! Shelby got involved in drag racing two years ago. She is a third generation drag racer following in the footsteps of her dad, Jeff Roy, Jeff’s cousin Michael Roy and uncle Dee Roy and Shelby’s grandfather James Roy.
Jeff Roy says drag racing is in the Roys’ blood. While Jeff doesn’t compete on a regular basis anymore, he does compete when possible. His main focus is on Shelby and he enjoys being her crew chief. According to Jeff Roy, if he and his daughter were to race, she would win eight times out of ten. That’s some stiff competition coming from a 10 year old! When asked what she enjoys about drag racing, Shelby replied “I like the competition and I like winning!” Shelby also mentioned she likes to go fast! To paraphrase Tom Cruise from Top Gun, Shelby feels the need, the need for speed!
Drag racing season takes place Mother’s Day through Labor Day with race weekends two times per month. Shelby and her parents make the six hour trip to Palmer where Shelby competes at the Alaska Raceway Park, the only drag racing facility in the state.
You might be wondering how Shelby practices for her races since the raceway in located in Palmer. The answer is this; she has a practice tree at home that is fully equipped with a lighting system just like the one you would see on the drag strip and she has a pedal and push button to practice her reaction times. Shelby practices a few times a week during the off season and ten to twenty minutes per night a few days before race day. Shelby and her dad compete against each other to see who can “cut the better light.” Shelby got top seed in two out of four races where there were qualifying runs, with a reaction time clocked at .009 seconds.
Shelby’s standings for this season have her family “stoked,” as her dad stated. Shelby currently has a 58 point lead over her competitors and Jeff went on to say that Shelby is having a “dream season.” He also added that the kids in second and third place are “really good.” Shelby moved into first place at the Junior Dragster race on July 3rd. She went on to win the July 16th Junior Dragster event, her third win of the season.
Shelby’s drag racing car is sixteen feet long, approximately half the length of a full size drag racing car. It is powered by a Briggs and Stratton Blockzilla engine and it is fueled with 99.9% methanol. The length of the drag strip is 1/8 of a mile long and Shelby reaches a top speed of 66 MPH. Drag racers are allowed to drive faster in competition, but Shelby’s dad won’t allow her to exceed that speed just yet.
Safety is taken very seriously at every race. All competitors are required to wear a fire resistant suit, shoes without laces, wrist restraints, a neck brace and a helmet. Once the drivers are in their cars they are strapped into a five point harness. Each car is thoroughly inspected from top to bottom prior to each race. If there is an element that does not meet the safety standards, it has to be corrected immediately or that individual will not be allowed to compete. As Jeff said, safety comes first, then fun. He also went on to say he has been asked whether or not he is concerned about Shelby participating in such a high speed sport. He did some research and he only came across one incident where a youth driver was seriously injured. The young driver unfortunately hit a concrete barrier. The accident’s cause was determined to be excessive speed.
As we all know, kids grow like weeds. As soon as they get new clothes or shoes its almost time to go shopping again. That is no exception when kids are involved in a sport such as drag racing. Cars tend to be bought used and they are kept until its time to upgrade to a bigger car. Items such as the fire resistant suits can be purchased online.
Maintaining Shelby’s car is a family affair. Mom, Dad and Shelby aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. When necessary, the Roy family trusts Shelby’s car to Cool Hand Luke’s Small Engine Repair in Seward. The shop recently installed a new crankshaft and clutch. The Roy family would also like to express their thanks to Joe at Catalyst Marine Engineering for all of his expert welding work, Lenny at Seward Body and Paint, Harris Brothers Racing for fuel, Craws Racing, Inc. in New Jersey, and Angels Retreat Vacation Rentals located in Palmer and Seward for allowing Shelby to store her car and racing gear at the Palmer location. During Shelby’s first season of racing, Jeff would put her car in the back of his truck, where part of it would hang out, and they would make the trips back and forth to Palmer with the car in tow. Now with a place to store Shelby’s car, the hauling has been eliminated.
Through the sport of drag racing, Shelby has gained more self confidence. She is learning about sportsmanship and she has had the opportunity to meet other drag racers who have worked their way up through the ranks; something Shelby hopes to do herself one day. She is definitely on the path to racing on the professional circuit! When Shelby isn’t busy showing ’em how its done on the drag strip, she enjoys spending time with her friends, playing video games and being involved in Girl Scouts. When she is old enough to get her drivers license, you just might want to stay out of her way!