As the days get longer and warmer, Pasadena Elementary fifth-grader Ryan Davis can be found behind the cockpit of his silver and black dragster as he races at 75 miles per hour.
Ryan’s father, Kevin Davis, got him into the sport. They watched drag races together on television and at race tracks. Ryan spent ample time watching the junior dragsters at the tracks and playing with toy cars.
“I just fell in love,” Ryan said.
After receiving his first junior dragster car for Christmas, Ryan started competing in the junior dragster races at 9 years old.
Ryan holds a junior dragster license as a member of the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA). When he started racing, he was allowed to drive only 55 miles per hour or slower. Every year, Ryan can apply for a new license that allows him to drive faster. This August, Ryan can apply to race at 85 miles per hour, the last speed limit before he can drive a full-size dragster at 16 years old.
As a bracket racer, Ryan doesn’t just rely on speed when he’s on the track.
“It is up to Ryan as a driver to have what they call a good reaction time off the lights,” Kevin said. “There are three yellows that come down. Third yellow and then the green light comes on. He has to time his start by his reaction time when the light will come on. The kids who are really good at that are the ones who win.”
If Ryan is racing against a younger dragster who can’t go as fast as he can, the younger racer will start first and Ryan will try to pass his opponent before the finish line.
Last year, Ryan got an upgraded junior dragster. The Davis family requested several modifications, including a front wing, a dual parachute and a fan inside for hot summer races. Once the car arrived, Kevin installed a black engine and tires as well as a silver wrap and decals.
Each year, the six Division One IHRA tracks in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia invite the top 10 junior dragsters to the team finals. Ryan was invited to the September 2018 finals as the fifth top racer at his home track, Capitol Raceway in Gambrills. There, his new car won an award for Best Engineered Junior Car for its modifications, design and appearance.
“It’s meant to be a replica of a larger full-size car with the wings and the parachutes,” Kevin said. “Not everyone has that stuff. That’s why he won the award, because of the effort to make it look like a real dragster.”
A business has recently approached the Davis family about sponsoring Ryan and putting its logo on his car. Also, the Davises might get a larger trailer with living quarters, which will allow them to go to overnight events. The races they attend now usually last all day.
“It’s an all-day family experience,” Kevin said.