Pro Fuel star Kristen Dennis to make Nitro Jam debut in Martin
Nitro Jam Media
Aug 7, 2011
While most drivers simply hope to win a round or two during their rookie season, rising Pro Fuel star Kristen Dennis set the bar a bit higher.
You see for Dennis her rookie season was not about getting a few laps under her belt and learning the ropes, Dennis wanted to win and she wanted to win now. And that fact was made very clear when, in only her second start behind the wheel of her brand new, nitro-powered dragster, she won a divisional event in Dallas last year.
And for a driver that had never been behind the wheel of anything until March of last year, that is one meteoric rise up the ranks.
“I have only ever driven my dragster. I got my license in February of 2010 and competed in my first event in Houston in April, losing in the first round. My next event was the Dallas divisional which I won,” Dennis said. “Winning is always a good confidence booster, but every run the car throws something different at me and I am still learning and experiencing different situations. It just takes seat time.”
Now, with a big win already under her belt in only a year and a half of racing, Dennis is branching out and trying new things and that includes being added to the IHRA Nitro Jam roster for the Nitro Jam finale at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park this weekend in Michigan.
Dennis will throw her hat in the ring at the Northern Nitro Jam along with friend and fellow Texas native Michael Manners in “The Shredder” dragster, Bill Evans in “The Black Pearl” machine, Robin Samsel, Dave Hill and Cherissa Smallwood. And adding to the pressure of her Nitro Jam debut will be the fact that Dennis will be thrown right in the thick of the Pro Fuel championship race as Manners and Evans go down to the wire for the Nitro Jam championship with only three points currently separating the two.
Still, Dennis looks forward to the opportunity and can’t wait to try the IHRA’s brand of motorsports entertainment and being a part of the incredible atmosphere.
“The IHRA is all about the racer and fans. I love the atmosphere and the teams that compete on the circuit. It is definitely a family affair,” Dennis said. “I have done nothing but think about the race for the past couple of weeks and being able to have my team together and still supporting fellow racer Mike Manners and still being able to have Shane with me is great.”
And that family atmosphere is especially important for Dennis who has her own family to consider when attending races. And that added pressure of being a mom and a racer, Dennis says, is what helps fuel her drive on the track.
“The very small amount of women that we have in the industry have been very successful. Being one of those few women I find myself being more determined to do good and show that it doesn’t matter that I am a woman, I am here to win,” Dennis said.
And she isn’t alone.
Dennis will join a unique fraternity this weekend as she and fellow Pro Fuel racer Cherissa Smallwood will share the track as both competitors and mothers, a unique matchup in the world of motorsports and one that Smallwood especially looks forward to.
“It will be a unique and fun race weekend I am sure. It is not easy doing this and being a mother, but throughout my career I knew giving up my seat in the Pro Fueler was never an option, even as a mommy. When I was pregnant my dad stepped into the drriver’s seat while I acted as crew chief,” said Smallwood, a fulltime competitor with the Nitro Jam tour. “I was back racing at the end of my pregnancy from both kids by the time they were four weeks old. Most females take time off to pursue the dream of becoming a mother, but I didn’t. I stayed right alongside my car the entire time.
“Since then I have always included our children in everything we do and they attend almost every race with our team. The kids love it and that is what makes drag racing so great, it is a wonderful family atmosphere.”
As for being a woman in a male dominated sport, Smallwood added that it takes some getting used to, but the competitors quickly find out that once the cars are staged, gender doesn’t matter.
“The fan reaction is always interesting, they see me working on the car and kids helping out and they can’t believe I am a mom and a driver,” Smallwood said. “The whole thing just gives me that extra incentive to perform at my highest level. That attitude has helped us gain the approval of all my competitors and fans since we joined Nitro Jam. Now we are ready to add a win to the resume and show a little ‘girl power’ in the winner’s circle.”
Both Dennis and Smallwood will look to add an IHRA Ironman to their trophy collection at the Northern Nitro Jam this Friday and Saturday at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park.