LABELLE — Victoria Beaner is a 9-year-old on a mission. She drives a car best described as a small rocket. She is learning to weld. She is a part-time receptionist at her family’s business. She speaks eloquently, thoughtfully and confidently.
The girl with long red hair and freckles has become the driver to beat most weekends at dragstrips across the country. She climbs into her junior dragster, straps on her helmet, waits for the lights to turn green and powers down the one-eighth mile track in about 10 seconds, hitting speeds over 55 mph.
How good is she? Consider these stats: 31 wins – 26 in the last 14 months – in just three years of competitive racing. Most of the time, the LaBelle resident is beating the boys as few girls compete in any form of racing.
“It is really fun going fast and I really enjoy going on the track and racing,” Victoria said.
Three years ago, Victoria’s father, Darin, a retired racer himself, took two junior dragsters on a trade, curious as if his daughter would even know what they were or even have the courage to climb in one. He took the two dragsters, made one, and it didn’t take long to learn Victoria’s answer.
“He asked me if I wanted to race, and I thought that was pretty cool, so I said ‘yes,’” Victoria said. “We went out to a local race, and I raced, and I really didn’t want to quit. That first race was amazing, making my first pass. I wanted to keep racing.” She won that first race against 18-year-olds. She hasn’t looked back, only forward, and getting better. She has made over 700 passes or trips down the track and keeps piling up championships in the 6-to 9-year-old division – or the NHRA’s Div. II Junior Novice Class - at her local tracks in Bradenton and Orlando and around the country.
“I have gained a lot of knowledge in the racing industry since I first started,” Victoria said. “When I was a beginner, I raced the boys and I beat them all. I believe I have earned their respect.”
That knowledge is thanks to her father, who also serves as crew chief. Darin and his wife, Lisa, own Fusion Metalworks in Fort Myers. Victoria gets to experience her dad’s racing background and mechanical expertise each time down the track.
“It brings more fun to the sport because he is the best. He has my car right in tune and does everything perfect,” Victoria said.
But after a trip down the track, Victoria doesn’t sit back and relax until the next race. She helps her dad by cleaning the racer, checking belts and tires. As her dad teaches her to weld, she will be able to fix equipment on the car. Dad is very proud of his young sensation.
“I am more proud of her every day,” Darin said. “It’s who she is becoming. The racing is polishing that. At the end of the day, it is more about her than track performance. Handling the duress, handling the losses, handling it in a professional manner, are both sides of it. But we are prepared to go for the win every round. “
At some races, Victoria is almost too good. At a recent “Race of Champions” event in Atlanta, Ga., where she was the defending champion, she beat her opponent – off the line – but was too fast across the finish line. She must maintain a preset elapsed time, based on “Dial." If she exceeds the dial or goes too fast, her opponent can get the win.
Her education on the track is ever evolving, especially after losses.
“We dissect losses, talk about it all the way home, typically,” Lisa said. “When we go out there, we expect to win.”
Victoria takes all of it in. “I learn from it and that is how I win more races,” Victoria said.
Other racing inspirations for Victoria are her coach, Roy Hill, a Hall of Fame drag racer, and jet car driver Elaine Larsen. “My goal when I get older is to go into Top Fuel (one of drag racing’s top levels),” Victoria said. She wouldn’t mind a pass down the track in a jet dragster as well.
But first, there will be the move up to the 10-12-year-old division of junior dragsters where speeds climb to 75 mph and her passes down the track will be reduced to about eight seconds.
Off the track, Victoria’s education remains a focus. She is excelling academically as well, a grade ahead of most her age, entering the fifth grade in October. She studies virtually with Liberty University Online Academy.
When not in the car or studying, Victoria, who turns 10 in November, loves to spend time with her German Shepherd, Bella. Her constant companion at the racetrack is a stuffed animal called Teddy. Victoria will be showing off her stuff at the Orlando Speed World Dragway on Friday, Nov. 5, located at 19161 E Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32820. For more information www.victoriabeaner.com