Caught On Tape!
by Liz Rucker Beiersdorf
I am very excited to share my interview with Michelle Lewis, fellow committee member, and driver with the Nostalgia Drag Racing League.
Michelle is a 6 year veteran of the sport of Nostalgia Drag Racing. Having been a part of cacklefest push car duty with her husband Skip in their 1962 Belair Station Wagon, Michelle became hooked on nostalgia drag racing. Thus began the search for either her husband, Skip’s dream of a funny car or hers, of a dragster to restore. Michelle’s dream came true when she spotted her dream car owned by a man that raced super pro. This dream car is a 1969 Woody Gilmore FED The car sat with the wheels off as her husband Skip searched for parts to make his wife’s dream come to life. Michelle went to school for drag racing in Gainesville, Florida, she had yet to receive her license when she did her first burn out as a natural.
Michelle loves her car, having told her father about her intent of driving as a Nostalgia Drag racer, her father’s loving comment was, “Baby that’s a scary thought”, hence was born the name of the car that to this day has brought so much joy into Michelle’s life and the life of her family and fans.
While at the Columbus, OH Hot Rod Reunion Michelle told her husband Skip she wanted to race at the 50th March Meet in Bakersfield. There was however a problem, the car she loved so much was yet to have been completed and she was still without a license. Michelle completed her license on Halloween night and the car was now complete, the decision was made - they were going to Bakersfield in March! After passing tech inspection and officially being entered in the event, Michelle and her car made their first quarter mile pass down the track together. Competing with over 400 other racers was difficult and Michelle failed to qualify for the event.
She has spent some time trying to trace down the history behind her prize possession, trying to restore her back to original, having ran into a brick wall Michelle said, “she is now mine”.
Michelle had taken to talking to her car, especially when she was bored at the speed she was traveling, talking about lunch, and her daily adventures. After beginning to talk to her car it became apparent mechanical changes needed to be made. After the first year came the addition of a blower motor, which took her to the 7.50 class. She has remained in the 7.50 class ever since. Michelle’s goal has always been to hit that golden 200 mark, having been 15-20 miles faster than her competitors with the same motor it just stayed out of her reach. She ran a 190 in her second year at Norwalk and began to become more focused. For three years she just could not get past 190. Michelle was given the nickname “Little Miss 200” by the Indy track manager at the time because of her determination to reach her goal. This was when Michelle told herself, and her car, “Quit trying and Murphy’s Law will take charge”. Low and behold, Murphy’s Law did just that, with a little tweaking on the timing and fuel, she broke 7.36 at 207 during the first race of the 2013 NDRL season.
At the Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Michelle and the crew tried to slow that precious car down, but she became something other than herself, spitting and sputtering to the point that she would barely run. Michelle felt guilty, not letting her baby do what she was meant to do, she told her crew to put her back where she belongs. The moment occurred, huge burnout and down the track the two of them went. Enjoying the moment and finally, 7.36 at 215.03, was the pay off! Six years in the making and that goal has been met. Michelle tells of the crowd going wild in the moment as her husband and mother watch from the sidelines, it had to be one proud moment for her family and for Michelle.
Being the kindhearted person that I had the pleasure of getting to know, Michelle spoke of her 7.50 club brothers, 7 men that have become family to her. She feels guilty being a rookie and having not paid the normal dues of years behind the wheel before reaching that top speed of 215. However those that surround her are of tremendous support and encouragement to her. Her husband Skip is the only one that works on Michelle’s ride, the only thing she does herself is pack the chute.
My final question to Michelle was that of a role model. Who has that role model been for Michelle? Nostalgia Drag Racer, Mendy Fry, first woman to go 200 and now has passed that to accomplish a whopping 250. I am sure someday with the determination that Michelle possesses she will once again grab the goal of another top speed. More photos on next page, click here...
Nostalgia Drag World - by Liz Rucker Beiersdorf; photos by Leslie Bradshaw