Having watched the success of so many women competing in the NHRA this season, sisters Megan and Rachel Meyer of Spring Hill can’t help but share one thought.
Why not us?
“It gives us a lot of hope that girls can do it … as well as anyone can do it,” said Megan Meyer. “You have to have the passion and dedication.”
Megan, 20, and Rachel, 19, are competing at this weekend’s Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka on the same track as Alexis DeJoria, a two-time NHRA Funny Car winner this year, and Erica Enders, a two-time Pro Stock winner.
Females have won 99 career NHRA races, and Courtney Force nearly made it 100 when she finished second to Robert Hight in Monday’s rain-delayed event at Atlanta.
The Meyer sisters are racing in a lower classification, Super Comp. But following this weekend’s races, they’ll strap into a Top Alcohol Dragster for a test as part of their advancing in the sport.
Next year, after Megan graduates from Pittsburg State with a degree in graphic design, she plans to race part time with a Top Alcohol dragster and go full time the following year, depending on sponsorship.
Rachel, who just finished her freshman year at Pittsburg State, may tune race cars in the future as opposed to driving them.
“I like going fast, but I like to work on the cars, too,” said Rachel, who is studying mechanical engineering in college. “I like to get dirty. Eventually one day, hopefully I can be a Top Fuel crew chief for the pros, and my dad is showing me the ropes for that.”
Their father, Randy Meyer, is one of the NHRA’s most successful Top Alcohol drivers and crew chiefs. Last month, he won the Top Alcohol division at the NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston for the second straight year, his fifth career win in 11 final rounds. However, this weekend, instead of racing, Meyer will be tuning his daughters’ dragsters and entertaining sponsors.
Though Meyer competed in the NHRA’s Top Fuel division during 1988-95, the birth of his daughters shifted his priorities to raising his family, building Meyer Truck Center in Olathe and competing in the less expensive and less stressful Top Alcohol division as a driver and crew chief.
Megan and Rachel accompanied dad from track to track, watching his every move in the garage and from the cockpit as Randy won two world championships as a Top Alcohol crew chief.
“We grew up on the road,” Megan said. “All the stuff we missed out on growing up as kids, he made up for it. … He taught us everything … all of our life lessons.”
In 2004, Megan, then 10, and Rachel, then 8, got behind the wheel of a junior dragster and moved up to Super Comp in 2010. Both have hit 175 mph.
In their one head-to-head race, in Super Pro, Rachel red lighted, so Megan won by disqualification.
“I kind of gave it to her,” Rachel shrugged.
In his heyday as a Top Fuel driver, Randy Meyer went against the matriarch of NHRA female racers, Shirley Muldowney, who won 18 races during 1976-89. He’s not setting any limits on his daughters.
“They’re still fairly young. … We’re going to do this for quite a while and see what the future holds,” Meyer said. “The goal is ultimately for me to retire from driving and the girls race full time. You never know, maybe someday they’ll have a family of their own, and you have to make some sacrifices somewhere.
“They have the education it takes from day one, being around the sport and having the knowledge from working on the cars themselves. They started with real slow cars and paid their dues working up to the faster cars. They didn’t just jump in overnight and try to be famous like some people.”
It also takes plenty of money to produce a competitive racer. Meyer said it costs between $200,000 and $400,000 a year to field a Top Alcohol car for a season, but between $3 and $5 million to field a competitive car at the NHRA nitro level.
Megan Meyer is using her education in web design, marketing and communications to help publicize her team and cultivate sponsorships.
“It’s about building relationships,” she said. “We’re young girls … second generation and have been in the sport long enough to get great partnerships with great companies.”
Randy Meyer has his theories on why women have succeeded in drag racing, as opposed to stock car or open-wheel racing.
“The girls are very focused when it comes to drag racing, and the guys’ egos get in the way,” he said. “They’re going straight for a quarter-mile, as opposed to driving 500 miles in three and four hours. It takes a lot of strength and endurance to do that, and it’s a little bit harder.
“NASCAR is a male-dominated sport. Drag racing used to be like that, but over time, more and more females came up the ranks and there are more today than ever. A lot of companies look at females as being more marketable than males. Most are friendlier and smile as opposed to the guys who have a chip on their shoulder, or whatever the case may be.”
NHRA KANSAS NATIONALS
The place: Heartland Park Topeka
The time/day: Saturday, qualifying, 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. (ESPN2, 5-7 p.m.); Sunday, final eliminations, 11 a.m. (ESPN2, 9 p.m.-midnight).