Angela Ray sat patiently in the staging lanes at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at Englishtown, N.J., during a serious computer glitch that delayed qualifying at last week's Shakedown Nationals.
Her stark-white 1967 Shelby Mustang Pro Modified car sat in front of her, awaiting her first big test in a high-stakes race chock-full of high-profile competitors -- in only her third event in this car and the second in this class.
When time came to strap into the Dan Page-built car with power partly cannibalized from her dad's Top Alcohol Funny Car, the full-time college student aced her assignment.
Ray was the No. 12 qualifier, just ahead of class star Todd Tutterow and such seasoned Pro Mod standouts as eventual race winner Dwayne Wolfe, Scott Oksas, Jim Bersani, Steve Drummond, Donnie Walsh Jr., Bruce Boland, Dean Marinis, and John Bartunkek. She advanced to the second round of eliminations.
It's a giant leap for Ray, who began in a Jr. Dragster. She spent five years in the Division 1 Super Street ranks in her '65 Nova that went in the 9.50s and spent all last year testing, preparing to move into the word of ill-handling, unpredictable, untamed Pro Modifieds that cover the quarter-mile or six seconds.
But she's turning some heads in the perhaps appropriately named Magic Racing entry. The 27-year-old from Plaistow, N.H., isn't relying on magic, though. For the one-time architect with associate degrees in civil technology - architecture and business management, everything is by design.
She's taking online classes with Grand Canyon University, studying fulltime to earn a Bachelors degree in secondary education and working fulltime, as well, in sales and service for Basement Systems of New Hampshire, a company that specializes in waterproofing basements. She re-invests the money she earns in college tuition and the race car.
"We're a pretty low-budget team," Ray said. But its clear the second-generation racer has high expectations.
"This has always been my life," the easygoing Ray said, indicating the blueprint for her career pointed to building a racing resume. Then with a soft giggle, she said, "They call me David Ray Jr."
However, she isn't rushing her agenda.
"I just want to go A to B," she said, laughing at the simplicity of her immediate goal. But she knows the 101-level of education always comes before the advanced courses of learning.
"I've never raced in these conditions," Ray said that Saturday at the Shakedown and at a track that is notorious for its hook in the October chill. She had been to two outlaw races this year, driving this same car in both Pro Modified and Top Sportsman competition, although the car was built to be a Pro Mod.
"I know my limits," she said. "We're traveling so fast that anything can happen."
Mom Irene, the team manager, said, "It's a discipline thing" and said her only daughter is a careful driver.
Dad David, her team owner/crew chief who also owns Skip's Garage in Plaistow, is former Top Alcohol Funny Car driver whose most prominent gig was with the Jay Blake "Follow A Dream" car that Todd Veney drives today. Now David Ray jokes that he's "a relocation expert" -- because he makes sure his daughter gets from the pit to the staging lanes on time and keeps her on the proper schedule.
Her boyfriend, mechanical engineer Jared Kinson, is her co-crew chief/tuner. He's also New England Dragway's reigning King of the Track champion in his '68 Camaro.
So Angela Ray is surrounded by the most important people in her life, all of whom understand the drag-racing industry's pleasures and its pitfalls. She's off to an impressive start with her Pro Mod career, and she's doing it in her own style.
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