Fort St. John drag racing teens face off against best in the world

Making the 4,000 kilometre trek to Memphis, Tennessee, takes a lot more than eight seconds.

Close to 48 hours actually, but with the opportunity to be one of the best junior drag racers in the world on the line, three teens from Fort St. John and their families made the journey south. 

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They returned from the Memphis International Raceway World Finals in October with a little hardware and memories that will last longer than one quarter mile race.

First there was Kaliee Morton, 14, who made sure her experience lasted longer than just an eight second pass down the drag strip en route to qualifying for the final in the Tournament of Champions.

Morton outlasted almost every one of the 24 drivers in her class, but red lighted (a drag racing term for false start) in the final against Gage Burch of Palmetto, Florida. Burch also red lighted, but because Morton’s dial in time was slower than her opponent (7.97 seconds compared to 7.90), she had to take off first and that cost her the title.

“It’s world finals, not everyone can do it and final round, not everyone can do that (either),” Morton said. “I was a little mad, but it happens to everyone.”

Morton spent most of her summer racing in Edmonton and that’s how she managed to qualify for the race in Memphis. She added the experience, her first at the world finals, is one she won’t soon forget.

“It was amazing,” Morton said. “I was just hoping to do well down there and I did.”

The 14-year-old has been racing for eight years, and hopes that next year she can return to the world finals and climb that final hurdle.

“Hopefully qualify again and go back and get number one,” she said. 

Ty Hollingshead, 17, joined Morton on the journey, as the track champion from Northern Lights Raceway in Fort St. John. He raced against top dragsters in the Summit Super Series, where he finished tenth.

Hollingshead said the experience was a memorable one, especially considering it was one of the biggest races he’d ever been to. In the end, while he was partially happy with how he raced, there is always room for improvement.

“I gave it the best I could, you look back on it,” he said, while reflecting on little improvements he could have made, before adding,  “it was our best effort.”

What he took away most from the trip was not the racing, but the opportunity to meet drivers from different backgrounds who all share the same passion for racing.

“After all the races were done, you got to meet people from all over and found out how they came there, just a good time meeting everyone. Hopefully see them next year down there,” he said.

That collective experience is how he first started racing as well, when his cousins were on the track in Fort St. John and he felt the rush immediately.

“We went out to watch our cousins and I thought it would be cool. My uncle nagged my dad to quit being so cheap and so that’s kind of what got me into it,” he added.

Despite a strong season of racing, one that qualified him to race against the best in the world, Hollingshead joked, “Can’t say we covered costs,” while explaining how the season went.

Noah MacDonald was the third local of the group, and while things didn’t exactly go as planned, he was happy just for the experience.

“It was exciting to be down there, it was a big race,” he said.

MacDonald, the track champion in Prince George, lined up against 128 cars in the Summit Series and was eliminated in the first round. While he said he “could have done better,” MacDonald had the chance to race in front of family who made the trip all the way from Montgomery, Alabama.

Each teen was also quick to thank their sponsors, because without them, the trip wouldn't have been possible.

While it was nearly an 8,000 km trip for the teens to chase down their dreams, they all were sure they’d be making the quarter mile trek down the track in Fort St. John next season.

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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