Hillary Will proved "yes she can" at the O'Reilly NHRA Summer
Nationals in June, the ninth event of the 2008 NHRA POWERade Drag
Racing Series, in Topeka, Kans. Will won with a final round victory
over Larry Dixon.
"There's so many emotions because there were times where I thought, 'I can't do this. Maybe I shouldn't be racing. Maybe I don't belong in this fuel car,"' said Will, driver of the KB Racing dragster. "But this is what I love to do and through everything you can just never, never, never, never give up."
It was Will's first win in a NHRA national event.
“Words can’t describe how I feel right now,” said Will. “I have dreamed of this day for so long, and it’s finally here. My KB racing, LLC team is awesome. They’ve given me such a great race car all year long, and I can’t thank them and my team owners Ken Black and Kenny Black enough for everything that they have done for me and this wonderful opportunity.
knew we had everything to win, and today everything went our way. Thank
you to all of our sponsors and everyone who has supported us and stuck
with us. Now that we have gotten a win, I’m sure it’s just going to
make us hungrier for more.
"I'm so thankful to be here. I'm thankful for all the women drivers who have paved the way, who showed that a woman can drive a race car and drive a race car well.
"I'm proud of Melanie [Troxel], I'm proud of Ashley [Force] and other women in motorsports. Honestly, we just want to be racers.
"I do hope that other women who want to succeed in a male-dominated field, whether it be politics or business, I hope they can see what I do and I hope that inspires them."
A week later, as Will prepared for a race in Joliet, Ill., she had still not completely processed her victory.
"It's still all just starting to soak in," Will, a 28-year old native of Fortuna, Calif., said. "It's been a whirlwind since we won, and I've not had a lot of time to just relax and think about it. I'm still pinching myself to make sure it's not all a dream.
"It's a huge relief for me and my KB Racing, LLC team to finally get a win. We've been through a lot together, and we've been through some really tough times together, but going through the down times makes us all appreciate this accomplishment even more. We've had to fight through quite a bit of adversity, but we persevered and it paid off.
"Route 66 Raceway is a great facility, and the race track is one of the best in the country, so we're really looking forward to racing in Joliet this weekend, and hopefully we'll have a chance to make it two wins in a row."
She is the 11th woman to win a national NHRA event, and the eighth female Top Fuel winner. Earlier this year, Force became the first female to ever win an NHRA funny car class race. Two weeks ago Troxel became the first woman to win event titles in both of the NHRA’s nitro-fueled classes -- Top Fuel and Funny Car.
“I never imagined I would make it this far,” said Will.” The first car I raced was 99 mph. It ran the quarter mile in 15 seconds. I didn’t think much of, “Oh, I’m a girl, the only girl racer out here.” I didn’t even realize that I was different. My dad — we used to go together all the time — said, “Hey, do you want to try this?” I loved it. I just loved drag racing. It was something I wanted to continue to do as a hobby my whole life.”
Will’s win has made it quite a breakout year for women in the NHRA.
"This is definitely the year of the woman racer," Will stated. "It's an honor for me to be mentioned with all of the great women who have raced and won."
At the first two events of this season’s 24-race schedule, Will set the track record for speed, for either gender, at both of the quarter-miles at Phoenix Int’l Raceway (334.32 mph) and at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif. (334.56 mph).
Will is a former racer from the Top Alcohol Dragster class, but moved up to the quickest and fastest NHRA professional class -- Top Fuel -- in 2006. She won her first Top Fuel event in Norwalk (IHRA) in her rookie season, and made her first NHRA final-round appearance in Memphis.
"There is a big difference between Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Fuel," described Will. "Driving a blown alcohol dragster is completely different, procedurally, than driving a Top Fuel dragster. I don’t see a shift light in the fuel car; I don’t see a tachometer; I just see the finish line coming at me faster than it ever did before.
"I think Top Alcohol is the best prep for Top Fuel because it helped me get used to the speed, acceleration, and how quickly everything happens. I learned an infinite amount this past year about what it takes to be a competitor in racing. I plan to continue to draw upon what I’ve learned and continue to keep learning."
by Linda Przygodski