“Lauren, it’s your turn to share your All About Me with the class,” the teacher says.
I get out of my chair with my all about me page in my right hand. As I walk up to the front of the class I get excited to share what my mom and I have worked so hard on. I got through all of my pictures except one, the picture of me on my little red quad going down the track. I talk about the sport I love and how I got into it.
I look up at the class and one of the boys in my class has his hand up waiting for the teacher to call on him.
“You can’t drag race! It’s a boy’s sport and you’re a girl.”
“Okay that’s enough,” my teacher said. My heart sank to my toes as the teacher sent me back to my desk. I sat down and I felt embarrassed by what I love to do. As I got older, I kept the racing side of me hidden because I felt embarrassed about what I liked to do.
Going through middle school, I was always excited to go up the Silver Lake and hit the track. My favorite race was the ATV Nationals, a race where only cars with bike motors or quads can race. Luckily, for me, my dragster had a 12,000 Kawasaki, a motor used in the old motorcycles that police officers used. Having a motorcycle motor gave me the chance to race against the other kids in my class.
“Lauren, get in the car and get buckled up, it’s almost your turn,” my dad yelled from the other side of the staging lane where all the cars in the class were patiently waiting to go down the track. I climbed into my little red dragster as my dad walked over to help me get buckled up. He started to buckle my lap belt as I fashioned my helmet. He grabed both sides of my helmet and angled my head up so we were eye to eye.
“Your little sister just won her class, now it’s your turn. You are in the finals kid, so just show them not to mess with the Villemures and just focus on the tree. It’s just you and the tree Lauren, just you and the tree,” he said. He stood up and patted me on the head. I get pointed down to the tree, I looked over at dad and he gave me knuckles. The track instructor pointed at me and pointed toward the track.
I slowly rolled down to the staging tree, I creeped up to the first beam until my front tires find it, so the top yellow light shined. As I slowly rolled up to the second beam I felt my body start to shake, my heart start to race, and my hands start to sweat.
I looked back up at the staging tree and down come the lights, yellow, yellow, green. In between the last yellow, I stepped on the gas pedal as hard as I could and lifted off the hand brake and I was gone. As I flew down the track I listened to the car and when the motor started to scream I popped the car into the next gear.
Before I knew it I crossed the finish line. I let my foot off the gas not knowing who won. I coasted down to the shutdown area and waited for the car to come to a complete stop. I flipped the switch to shut the car down; I unbuckled myself and stepped out of the car.
As I waited for my dad to come down the return lane with the quad, I walked to the back of the car and turned off the air bottle for the shifter. I looked up and saw my dad crossing the track on the yellow quad. He was standing up on the quad pumping his fist like he does every time I take the win. I knelt down and put my hands over my face in disbelief.
“You did it kid, you did it! I didn’t want to tell you but, the kid you just raced has been cutting great lights all day. But, you won. I am so proud of you and your sister! You two accomplished so much this year and I wouldn’t be happier,” dad exclaimed.
Coming back to school the Monday after a race was always a little weird. The teachers would ask how everyone’s weekend was and all the kids’ hands would shoot up in the air ready to be called on. But I just sat quietly at my desk scared to share what I accomplished that weekend at the track.
As my sister and I got older, our dad decided to switch up our race cars. My little sister got my old dragster and I moved on to my dad’s old race car “Mr. Sandman.” I grew up watching my dad fly down the track in that car. I was ecstatic to even sit in the car let alone drive it.
It took me about one offseason to get a feel for the car. My dad would change the tires from paddle to street tires in the fall and spring so I could practice in our backyard. This car was a little different; instead of just gas and a brake pedal, there were two pedals, but they weren’t gas and break, they were gas and clutch. As a 14-year-old learning, a clutch was a scary thought. In the new car, there wasn’t just a switch to turn the car on–there was a starter.
Every time we wanted to start the car, my dad would have to bring quad the left side of the car and connect the starter to the motor while I was pushing down the clutch with my left foot, pushing down the hand break, and flipping the switch between my legs after my dad rotated the motor start to turn the motor and him saying “Okay.” I surprisingly learned the car quickly.
When I turned 16, I joined the adult class. I conquered a lot my first year.
I beat one of the racers my parents raced against when they first started years ago. I also placed third at the biggest race of the year held by my dad’s best friend.
Early in the morning on race day, we loaded up the trailer with all of our cars and quads to get ready for the day. My little sister raced earlier in the morning. Time passed and it was time for my time trials. I climbed into my car as dad tied up the car to the quad to tow me down to the staging lane from the trailer. As we rolled down the hill, I looked up from my hand break to see the staging lane, and there were rows of cars waiting for their passes. My hands started to sweat and my heart fell to my feet in disbelief.
“I have to race against legends at the track who are much older than I am and who have been racing before I was born. I’m 16. I have to be the youngest here. I’m screwed,” I thought to myself.
As we pulled into the end of the line the adults next to us were glaring at me. One group of guys laughed and pointed at me as I slowly climbed out of the car. My dad saw what they did, so he walked up and gave me a hug.
“They are just jealous Lauren, don’t worry about them. They are from Ohio so they have never seen you race. Just show them you know what you’re doing. Get them out of your head and get in theirs. We both know you know what you’re doing and I wouldn’t have put you in this class if I didn’t think you can handle it. You are a Villemure, show them what we’re made of,” my dad says trying to cheer me up.
As the line got shorter my dad told me to get in the car so I could get ready for my time trials. He pushed the car down the front line as I tried to calm myself down. As I got to the front of the line I got buckled up.
“Lauren you are a good racer. Show them what you got. You’re the youngest in the field so people are going to try to take you out first. Don’t let them! You know what you need to do, so do it and you will be okay.”
I headed down to the staging light as I calmed myself down. Before I knew it my time trial was over. I went up to the back of the line again and did another time trial. After the time trial dad tied up the car to the quad and pulled me back to the trailer to wait for the race.
We waited for about 3 hours because all the classes had to get through their time trials and there were 6 different classes. After all the time trials it was time for the drivers’ meeting.
My dad, my sister, and I hopped on the quad and headed down to the drivers’ meeting. We pulled up to the meeting a little late so my dad’s friend Matt was talking to the other classes about the rules of the class and the cash prize. Next Matt talked about the shake and bake class, which was the class my family and I were in.
“The winners that win the first round will get $10 and every time they win that price will double: 10, 20, 40, 80, 160 and so on until the semi-finals.”
Now it was race time. I was in the front of the line and next to one of the racers I had watched race against both of my parents and I looked up to her so much. All of the sudden the track instructor pointed at me; I was racing against her. My heart started racing. My dad walked over to me and gave me the pep talk we have before every first race.
I headed down to the tree. I pulled up to the first beam and the first bulb turned on. I pushed in the clutch and revved the engine three times trying to calm myself down. Before I knew it the lights were coming down and they were coming fast. Yellow, yellow, yellow, green–by the last yellow I was gone. I got down the track in less than four seconds, and it was all a blur.
I pulled into the shutdown lane and my opponent gave me a thumbs up. All of a sudden I saw my dad crossing the track pumping his fist in the air.
“You did it! You did it kiddo!” my dad said as he backed up the quad to the front of my car. I ran over and gave him a hug as he said “I’m so proud of you.”
As the day went on I won pass after pass after pass. Before the semi-finals I felt the car was off. It was jerking more than it should. Somehow I won that round and I was on to the semi-finals. My dad and grandpa were worried about the car and if I was able to race. I looked at my grandpa with a worried look.
“Lauren, just race it. It should be okay but your dad will be at the end of the track just in case,” my grandpa said.
I was in disbelief, the car was broken and he wanted me to race it? Dad pulled me back to the staging lane. I looked around and there were only three people left; I was the youngest, and the only girl.
I had a ton of family and friends there so I was feeling all the pressure. Since there were three people left, someone was going to get a bye run. The track instructor pointed at the person next to me and he got the bye.
The person who I was going against and I got ready and were pointed down to the track. I pulled up to the tree knowing there was something wrong with the car and it was not at its full potential and it could get worse.
The lights came down. I knew I was out of it because I could not stop thinking about the car. The car made it down the track but as soon as I turned the corner the car started jerking so I shut it off. My dad came and picked me up and gave me a hug.
“I am proud of you kiddo; that was your first big race in the adult class and you won a lot of money!” dad said. He hooked the car up and drove me down the return lane. I looked to the spectator hill and there were so many people cheering and yelling my name. I ended up winning over $1,000.
I have developed pride in my racing, though I still think about that kid from elementary school.