By Mike DiGiovanna
Los Angeles Times
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Women have come a long way in racing. Several phenomenal female drivers will showcase their skills this weekend at the season-opening National Hot Rod Association Winternationals.
The cars are rockets on wheels, nitro fuel feeding flame-spewing 10,000-horsepower motors that generate six G-forces and speeds of more than 300 mph in a matter of seconds.
With thunderous engine roars and earsplitting tire squeals, drag racing literally screams machismo. Yet it is arguably the only mainstream sport where women compete head-to-head with men and more than hold their own.
Leah Pritchett, 29, of Redlands will be out to defend her top-fuel title at the season-opening National Hot Rod Association Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona beginning Thursday and running through Sunday.
Also racing will be Erica Enders, 34, of Houston, who won pro stock world titles in 2014 and 2015; and the Force sisters, Brittany, 31, and Courtney, 29, of Yorba Linda. Brittany was world champion in top fuel last season, and Courtney finished third in the funny car standings.
“I’m not going to say women are absolutely dominating this sport; none of us would have the success we’re having without the males who believed in us,” Pritchett said. “But we knew we could do it if we had the opportunity.”
Top competitors display quick reflexes and exceptional hand-eye coordination, vision, focus and courage in holding a 330-mph top-fuel dragster or funny car straight down a 1,000-foot strip, or a 213-mph pro stock car along a quarter-mile path.
Most races are won at the start, where drivers must expertly time a descending lighting column, called a Christmas tree, to beat their opponent off the line.
Though a certain amount of athleticism is required, drivers need not have the physique and strength of an NFL linebacker, the height and leaping ability of an NBA forward or the acrobatic versatility of a Premier League midfielder.