The story reads like the script from a Disney movie.
A 16-year old girl has a yearning to run during the National Hot Rod Association’s Drag Week. Organizers are hard pressed to believe a 16-year old is capable, let alone one of the fairer gender.
A ruling has gone in her favor that the only qualifications is to be a licensed driver for an NHRA event — she could not compete in an NHRA competition like top fuel until she’s 18.
All that remains is the championship trophy ending.
That may be coming.
Alexa Taylor — she goes by Alex — is a recently turned 16-years old who genuinely loves hot rods. The daughter of Debbie and Dennis Taylor of DT Hot Rods in Booneville, she comes by that honestly.
With only two "test-and-tune" runs under her belt — one at the Centerville Drag Strip and another in Tulsa last weekend — Alex and her parents will load her 1968 Camaro onto a trailer and haul it to Bowling Green, Ky., on Saturday.
From there it’s all on her, starting with registration and another test-and-tune on Sunday.
But even getting to that point was somewhat of an against-all-odds story in itself. Drag Week is limited to 250 total entrants and only 100 of those in the Daily Driver Divsion in which Alex will be competing. And those spots are coveted by hot rod enthusiasts all over the world.
"It was very complicated. We were at a car show in Dallas," says Alex. "Registration was supposed to have a warning and there was stuff that was false.
"People were scamming tickets. Hot Rod didn’t put any information that registration was going up but someone actually tweeted me. We had a panic and did it all off our phones. Mom and Dad were afraid it was someone just trying to get credit card (numbers)."
Luckily it was very real and a dream of running Drag Week was assured.
Though named Drag Week, the event is more one of enduance, Dennis Taylor says, "but they’re trying to find the fastest car in the world."
On Monday in Bowling Green, Taylor will run a quarter mile in her hot rod. She will then be responsible for driving the Camaro to Indianapolis, Ind., to run a second quarter mile on a track near arguably the most recognizable race track in the world, next Tuesday.
Back behind the wheel, Taylor will drive to St. Louis, Mo. for yet another quarter mile run next Wednesday. Another road trip to Memphis and another quarter run on Thursday will seat 32 drivers in bracketed running for a final quarter run and eventually determine which car is the fastest.
"In order to race on Friday (Sept. 13) you have to be in a class that’s called the Quick 32. In the past the cutoff for that is about a 13-second car," says Alex. "Mine should be somewhere in the 11s or possibly high 10s. But it will be in the Quick 32 if everything goes right."
Of course there she’s likely to encounter a field that includes five-time champion Larry Larson.
But if everything doesn’t go right, at any point, it’s up to Alex to fix it and be on time for the next run.
She won’t be alone, her mother Debbie is riding along. Besides the car formerly belonging to Debbie, there is another reason it is Mom, rather than Dad, making the journey with Alex.
"I’m in charge of everything. I just have my mom. You can’t have a backup crew, just one person with you," said Alex.
It could have been Dennis doing the ride-along but, "We didn’t want it to look like my dad was doing it all for me. We didn’t want people to say, ‘oh he’s doing it for her," said Alex.
Make no mistake, Alex can work on her car. She spent the entire summer doing just that.
"We didn’t go to the lake, I didn’t really have friends over. I just stayed at the shop," said Alex. "My common excuse was I’m going to be at the shop."
"She hasn’t, of course, built the whole car, but she took it apart, worked on it and has done everything a 16-year old kid can do," said Dennis. "She sandblasted, she painted, she helped build the motor."
Dennis said the last two months have been day and night shop work.
Alex’s desire to run Drag Week began in 2007. Dennis formerly owned the car that won Drag Week that year — she said when that car was sold it broke her heart.
"When he traded for it I absolutely fell in love with it," said Alex. "Ever since then I wanted to go on Drag Week. I always planned my first one would be with my dad and his car, but that kind of changed last June.
"We were setting at the shop when we decided to build my car and he said, ‘hey, you can go on Drag Week.’ My car became a whole lot more complicated then."
With the 2007 winning vehicle gone, Alex did what she could to re-create that ride, using the same wheels and rear end housing and such.
Being 16, and a sophomore in high school, brings another problem for Alex: Drag Week is also a school week.
Booneville High School Principal Michael Johnson said Alex, a straight-A student, has permission to be out of class.
"I can’t see punishing a girl who has such a unique opportunity," said Johnson.
Anyone who wants to track Alex’s progress can do so through a variety of ways. Live coverage of Drag Week will be provided at www.bangshift.com/forum/showthread.php/44877-Finishing-Up!
She also has a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AlexaTaylorDragWeek2013. Her Twitter handle is @alex_taylor15.
Pictures of her working on the car are available at her father’s website dthotrods.com/alexs_1968_camaro.html.