Girl power: Yarbrough, Kissner, Robbins enjoy high school drag racing
Larry Robbins works in an environment surrounded by teenage boys and girls and often overhears stories about their weekends.
The Central High School teacher often hears about them ‘going out’ on Friday nights and wonders if they’ll be safe. He is a father himself.
That’s why Robbins, along with the Western Colorado Dragway, have helped to create a high school drag racing event on Friday nights at the dragway, 115 32 Road.
“Larry was asking about it,” track co-manager Teri Styers said. “I told him we need kids. It’s not a class if we don’t have drivers.”
Robbins was able to lure a few students from Central and, along with some teens who grew up racing junior dragsters, was able to create a class of 12 drivers. It is sponsored by Columbine Ford.
“It’s been like 30 years since we’ve done this (had high school drag racing),” Robbins said. “I’m kind of a strong advocate for it. The fact we’re getting them here (to the dragway) versus out in the desert by the airport, North Avenue or getting in trouble is good. I eat, drink, sleep racing. I’ve been out here since I was 8 or 9 years old.”
Some in the class competed in the Youth Alternatives Junior Dragster class, but the main purpose was to open up an avenue for youth who haven’t drag raced, Styers said.
“We decided to do it on a Friday night so it’s less intimidating,” Styers said. “We do have some race cars, but most of them race street cars. The other difference with Friday night is if they lose, we let them line up with the street legal class so they can keep playing.”
The high school class is open to any boy or girl enrolled in a public, private or home school under the age of 19, including students who graduated this past school year. Membership at the track is not a requirement, but only members can compete for points. Membership for the season is $20. Members receive $5 off at the front gate and are automatically enrolled in the points standings. All NHRA and dragway rules apply. No use of electronics is allowed. Anyone under the age of 18 must have a notarized parental permission waiver complete and signed by both custodial parents before racing. The waiver form is available on the track website, http://www.western-colorado-dragway.com.
High school drag racing is not associated with any school district or the Colorado High School Activities Association.
Robbins’ 17-year-old daughter, Sarah, is one of the drivers in the class.
“I enjoy racing people I know and prove what I got, especially since I’m a girl,” she said. “I get underestimated a lot. It’s nice to prove the boys wrong.”
She isn’t the only girl.
There are two other girls and one of them is currently in first place in the points standings.
Dannielle Yarbrough, 17, of Rifle loves proving to the boys that girls can race. She leads the season standings with 220 points. Jake Bullock is second with 160. Reanna Kissner and Ben Bambino are tied for third with 135. There are six races left in the season, including this Friday at 8 p.m.
“The boys are good,” Yarbrough said with a smile. “I know Jake Bullock. This is his first year racing. He goes, ‘I’m not good at it, blah, blah, blah. Well guess what, he won the last race, so don’t let him tell you.
“I’ve raced juniors with Ben Bambino. We can relax, race and have fun.”
The Rifle High School student has been racing since she was 8 years old. Her dad, aunt and uncle all raced at one time.
“When I saw they did junior races, I was automatically, ‘Mom, I want one of those,’ ” Yarbrough said. “They finally did for a Christmas present.”
She raced in the NHRA Junior Racing League Western Conference semifinals on ESPN2 a couple years ago.
“My friends came out the other night and didn’t even know what (drag racing) was until they saw it and they thought it was the coolest thing ever,” Yarbrough said. “It’s an adrenaline rush. I shake after every time I race.”
It’s such a thrill to her, she gave up volleyball to focus on the racing season, which continues through the fall.
She has taken an auto class to learn about the mechanics of a vehicle, but is often getting out of her dad’s way as he frantically makes adjustments in between runs.
Her father, Michael Yarbrough, was the 2001 and 2002 Pro ET track champion in the very same 1970 Chevy Camaro that Dannielle races now.
“Now I just crew chief and have a ball doing it,” he said. “It’s exciting to see them have fun and enjoy something. It gives the kids something to shoot for on Friday nights.”
Kissner, 18, started drag racing last year about half way through the season in the adult sportsman class. She is racing in the class again this year along with the high school class.
Although Kissner doesn’t know Yarbrough or Robbins well, she personally cheers for the girls to beat the boys down the 3/4-mile track.
“It’s great to beat the boys,” Kissner said. “They don’t let you win. I know Sarah, but I don’t know Dannielle very well. I personally root for them. If I can’t be up there, I want a girl to be up there.”
One of the boys, Bullock, admits it stings to lose to a girl, but says racing has given him an avenue to escape the stresses of life.
“It’s been nice,” he said. “It gives me something to get my mind off things.”
Bullock recently finished with his chemo treatments for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma cancer. He was diagnosed roughly a year ago, he said.
Bullock is racing for the first time this year. He found out about the class from his automotive teacher.
Sarah Robbins has only competed in a couple of races because of other commitments, but looks forward to the Friday nights she races.
“I finally broke 100 mph (the previous weekend),” she said. “It was an adrenaline rush. I was pushing 100 for five runs. It’s nice to get it. I’m hoping to get it again.”
She doesn’t just race, her father expects her to learn how to work on a vehicle as well.
“If I race it, I’m expected to work on it. I have more stains on my pants than cooking stains on my shirt.”