Off to the races: Plainview grad looks to continue success on the dragway
By Mallory Graves
Skyler Wright was brave enough to try something new when she decided to start drag racing. The sport has been in her family for many generations.
“I began drag racing in 2014. I started because of my late uncle, Dave Smith,” Wright said. “He was a racer as well as my dad, so it kind of ran in the family. They both wanted me to race since I was old enough, but I was just scared to. It was new and I was a little iffy about it. When I was 12 I decided to give it a try, and after my first race, I knew that was what I wanted to do. Driving the race car was scary at first, especially since I didn’t know a lot about it. I had been to the racetrack before, but I didn’t know as much as I should have about it. It was fun, but I was definitely a scared kid because it was new. There’s this movie called "Right on Track" and it’s about this professional drag racer named Erica Enders and she got into a car wreck which made me more cautious when it came to racing. The thought of that always scared me, but I got over it pretty quickly.”
Wright is a recent graduate of Plainview High School. In the fall, she will finish up her second year at SOTC in 3D CNC machining. Wright is planning to get her basics through Murray State College at the University Center of Southern Oklahoma in Ardmore. After that, she wants to go to East Central University and get a psychology and business degree.
The global pandemic unexpectedly interrupted Wright’s senior year. Many things that she was looking forward to in her last year of high school were cancelled.
“It was pretty rough,” Wright said. “We lost a lot. The senior lasts that past classes got to have was hard since we didn’t get to experience them. We didn’t get to say goodbye like everyone else. I was looking forward to my senior prom. I was thankful to even have a graduation, but it still wasn’t completely normal.”
When Wright completed her first race, she knew that was what she wanted to do.
“After the first time of actually being in the car and getting a feel of it, it felt natural to me,” Wright said. “It’s indescribable when you find something that you really love to do. I did not expect to love drag racing so much because I was a barrel racer before. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would become a drag racer.”
Wright’s parents have different opinions when it comes to drag racing. In the end, they just want her to be safe and have fun.
“My dad was raised around drag racing and he did it when he was younger, and he’s had his share of wrecks, so he wants me to be safe, but he loves it,” Wright said. “My mom, on the other hand, is scared to death. The first time I went 130 miles per hour she liked to have cried. She worries a lot when I’m on the track.”
The high rate of speed race cars are known for are now a regular part of life for the recent Plainview grad.
“My average speed for a race is about 135 miles per hour,” Wright said. “From 2014-2018, I had been practicing as a junior before I got up to that speed.”
Wright has had a couple of dangerous close encounters that could have ended badly. She explains how years of practice has taught her how to react in those types of situations.
“I have had brakes fail on me when I was a junior in Noble one time,” Wright said. “I was at the starting line, and all of a sudden my car just took off. The brake line broke. I was scared out of my mind. This year, I was in my car and a tube had got hung in my carburetor causing the car to be more than half-throttle. My brakes got so hot that they failed. I was able to shut it down, but it was scary. It’s all up to you to know what to do and react when you’re alone in the car, so it is important that you’re trained well enough before you get in.”
Everyone has a certain routine that they unconsciously follow when they do something long enough whether they know it or not. Wright has a certain order of how she prepares for her races.
“Well, at first, I check all of the tires on the big car,” Wright said. “They have to be at a specific pressure and texture so you can get a good enough grip on the track. Then I usually drive it around, because you have to warm it up before you race. Getting the motor ready by putting some heat in it takes about two to three minutes on a hot day. We usually need to get it to about 180 degrees for the car to be fully ready. When we get called up to the lanes, I have a specific routine that all racers really do which helps us get in the right mindset for our race. After I put on my fire suit, helmet and neck brace, then I do a burnout. After that, I back up, take a breather, pray, pull up to the lights and prepare for takeoff.”
Even though Wright has raced for six years, she still gets anxious sitting at the starting line.
“I get nervous every time,” Wright said. “Especially when friends and family come and watch me. There’s so much pressure when you have people there for you in the stands. I have learned how to calm myself down, but I still get pretty nervous though. I love it when they come and watch, but sometimes it stresses me out knowing they are there. I just want to make them proud and make no mistakes. I know there’s other people in the stands too, but it’s different if I don’t know them.”
Wright has competed in many different places and hopes in the future she can race in places like the Golden State.
“I have competed at Springer, Ardmore, Wichita Falls, Texas Motor Plex, and Thunder Valley in Noble,” Wright said. “I compete locally at Ardmore Dragway every weekend when they have it. My family and I want to start going to other places such as California and Vegas to compete in the big races starting next year.”
Wright never dreamed that drag racing would turn into a passion that she could enjoy so much. This sport has taught her many things about herself and just life in general.
“Drag racing is a very humbling sport,” Wright said. “I learned that very early on in my racing career. It was a hard pill to swallow because, in racing, not everyone gets a medal. Also, you won’t win unless you work hard and don’t give up, because everyone out there has the same goal. It is a very difficult sport, but I love it. To me, racing is everything. It’s my passion and something I couldn’t live without. It’s a way of life because some of the people that you meet become lifelong friends, even family. As crazy as this sounds, you see them more than your real family and they would do anything for you. There are some nights where we have been up until 4 a.m. working on cars and they are right there with you helping out. The best way to describe racing is that it’s a way of life that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
Since her relatively recent discovery of her love for racing has done nothing but grow since she first got into a race car, so has her medal rack.
“The ‘Wally’award is the most sought after award in drag car racing,” Wright said. “It’s the top of the top — the thing that everyone’s blowing money to get. There is a really high honor attached to it if you win, too. A Wally is the trophy awarded to the winners of an NHRA, or the National Hot Rod Association national event. They have been handed out at several national events. It is called the ‘Wally’ award, because of the late NHRA founder Wally Parks. Usually each track only has one Wally race a year, because it is so special. I have actually won four Wally’s so far in my career. I won my first one the very first year I started racing. It was my second race ever and it was such a luck thing. We didn’t even know it was a Wally or the full extent of that award. We were just racing and trying to learn and when I found out that I got it and what it was, I was starstruck. I couldn’t believe that it happened to me not just once but four times. Winning a Wally is an addiction. Once you win one, you never want to stop. You can never have too many trophies. To have those trophies every day and to look at them every day and know that I earned them, is just an awesome feeling.”