Just three years ago Kristen Dennis had only dreamed of one day becoming a professional racer.
After all, what would a mother of two from Magnolia, Texas – population 1,100 – do with a fast car and a big dream?
As it turns out, win. And win a lot.
Dennis finally decided to go racing three years ago when she started her own team and so far that decision has turned into one of the most unlikely success stories around. In just two seasons Dennis has compiled one NHRA victory and two IHRA Nitro Jam wins all in less than 50 passes behind the wheel. Certainly not a bad start for someone who has used the motivation of being told she can’t to go out and prove that she can.
“I knew I could do this no matter what anyone said. I have used the few people telling me that I couldn’t do this to motivate me more. They are the ones I am proving to that I can do it with my success as a driver and team owner,” Dennis said. “I certainly don’t take any of this for granted. I just have to push myself that much harder to prove that I can keep winning and not to let my team or the fans down.”
And Dennis didn’t just go for any ordinary old car for this journey. No, she decided to go a different route by diving straight into the power, speed and thrill of nitromethane. Dennis decided for her first ride she would get behind the wheel of a 4,000 horsepower nitro-powered dragster to guide her down the quarter-mile.
And so far, she has loved every minute of it.
“When I first made the decision to start driving and I got my license I was determined to do well,” Dennis said. “But as history will show there are plenty of people that have been doing this for 20 or 30 years that don’t have a win. To already have a few wins in so few starts is a blessing. It is certainly not something I am going to take for granted.”
Dennis got her first taste of drag racing success at an NHRA divisional event in 2010 in only her second career start, driving to a huge win in Dallas. One year later she followed that win with another trophy – her first as a pro – in her first career Nitro Jam start, defeating fellow-Texas native and eventual series champion Mike Manners to claim her first IHRA Ironman.
Now, with two years experience under her belt, Dennis is throwing her hat in the ring fulltime in Nitro Jam’s Pro Fuel Dragster category behind the wheel of her now-famous “Ladies First” dragster. And so far that campaign is off to a rousing start with yet another win earlier this year at the sold out San Antonio Nitro Jam, a win that has cemented Dennis as a certified “rock star” in her home state.
“Getting a hometown win was amazing and getting a win with my mom, both my kids and two of my oldest childhood friends put it over the top,” Dennis said. “I love being from Texas and I was able to bring that spirit to the race with me.”
Dennis visited the finals both nights at the San Antonio Nitro Jam, falling to former champion Bill Evans and the “Black Pearl” team on day one before sweeping day two and defeating Evans, using her career best elapsed time to pick up the win, a lighting quick 5.385, 276.92.
Not only was the victory bittersweet for the Texan, but the response afterward left her speechless as fans lined up for hours to meet her after the race.
“After the run we made our victory pass in front of the stands and there wasn’t a person sitting down anywhere. You just don’t get a response like that unless your last name is Force,” Dennis said with a laugh. “The fans followed us to the pits and the celebration began. I lost track of time and almost missed winners circle because there were just so many people waiting in line. It was surreal.”
Now Dennis and the “Ladies First” team will try to keep that momentum going at the Mardi Gras Nitro Jam presented by Domino’s Pizza May 4-5 at State Capitol Raceway. Dennis will battle Evans, Cherissa Smallwood in the “Nitro and Lace” dragster and Robin Samsel in the” Predator” in front of a rambunctious Louisiana crowd, an event she is very much looking forward to.
“I am definitely excited to see what the remainder of the season brings starting in Baton Rouge where they have some incredible fans,” Dennis said. “We couldn’t have done this without our current and past sponsors that have made it possible. Thanks to CleanBoost Oil, 801 Racing, Space City Hotshots, Glass Depot and Global Promotional Advertising.
“Hopefully with this win it will help bring on some additional sponsorship and support for our team. We have shown that we are competitive and of course we are having a lot of fun racing with the IHRA. Who knows where this thing will take us.”
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