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Canyon High graduate Kaitlyn McGee: A queen of the track

McGee has turned her love of speed into a successful drag racing career

Posted: October 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Canyon graduate Kaitlyn McGee started drag racing when she was 8 years old, the earliest she could legally race according to the Hot Rod Association Junior Drag Racing League. Now a sophomore at Cal State Fullerton, McGee competes in the Junior Comp Dragster Series and gets close to 110 miles per hour during races.

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When Kaitlyn McGee got her driver’s license at age 16, her father — like any parent — was terrified at the idea that she’d be driving around on her own.

It wasn’t that he was afraid she didn’t have the skills or ability to navigate the streets.

He was fearful because he knew what she’s capable of behind the wheel.

The Canyon High graduate has a fierce desire for speed.

“I’m terrified of her driving on the street,” says Kaitlyn’s father, Chris, who owns a dragster parts shop in Canyon Country. “That’s my biggest fear in life. I think a lot of these kids get it out of their system.”

Kaitlyn, 19, started drag racing as soon as she legally could, according to the National Hot Rod Association Junior Drag Racing League.

She was 8 years old when she first took the wheel of a dragster, which reached speeds as high as 55 mph.

There was no turning back after her first race.

“It’s a very addictive habit, so once I felt the car start up and I got the first pass, it’s really hard to describe the feeling I get,” Kaitlyn says. “Something keeps me coming back.”

In fact, it’s a habit she admits she has a hard time kicking even when she’s speeding down Interstate 5, rather than the 1/4 mile race track.

“It makes me more of an aggressive driver, maybe because I’m a good driver from my racing experience and because I know how to be really cautious,” Kaitlyn admits.

For the majority of her childhood, Kaitlyn has spent two to three weekends a month traveling to drag racing competitions of steadily-increasing skill levels and speeds.

This is the same girl who was once named Little Miss Canyon Country and routinely participated in beauty pageants.

She also played volleyball and gymnastics for a few years.

Now a sophomore at Cal State Fullerton, Kaitlyn races in the Junior Comp Dragster Series with a car that gets close to 110 mph during a 6.9 second, 1/8 mile race.

The Comp Series acts as a bridge between Junior Dragster and professional drag racing circuits, where Kaitlyn hopes to someday reach the highest possible level, known as Top Fuel Drag Racing.

Those cars can go upwards of 300 mph in 4.5 seconds.

For the beauty queen-turned-drag racer, Kaitlyn has had high aspirations in the sport for a long time, though the mere idea of it wasn’t appealing at first.

“I was, I guess, too much of a girly girl at the time, so it didn’t really sound that pleasing,” she says.

That instantly changed when she attended her first couple of races with her father and a few of his old racing friends.

“There was zero pressure from my end,” Chris says. “Racing was in her blood, I guess. I was flabbergasted the day she said she wanted to do it and my wife was a little bit against it, but we went ahead and did it.”

Soon gymnastics and volleyball fell by the wayside, and Kaitlyn’s focus went squarely on racing and academics.

She’d spend the weekends in Pomona, Fontana, Bakersfield, San Diego or Tucson, Ariz., for various competitions, earning plenty of victories along the way.

She won the NHRA Jr. Dragster Division 7 Series Championship in 2007 for the 13-14 age group and in 2009 in the Jr. Comp group.

The division covers the Southwestern region of the United States.

One day, Kaitlyn wants the chance to race in nationwide competition.

Though she says it’s close to a 50-50 split between girls and boys at the junior level, the female presence drops off significantly at the higher levels of drag racing.

“In a way that kind of motivates me more,” Kaitlyn says. “Not that I’m all about girl power, but I think that’s pretty awesome just being one of the first girls at that level.”

Given her desire and family’s racing background, she may have the right tools to reach such a level.

Both Chris and his brother Phil were born in Australia, where the two enjoyed successful drag racing careers. They moved to the United States in 1973 to pursue even bigger heights in the sport.

The two of them built some revolutionary engines and collected some victories at Top Fuel events, but Chris, now retired, never guessed that he’d be able to continue his connection with racing by supporting his daughter’s ventures.

Chris uses his dragster shop, McGee Cams & Injection Inc., to help support and promote Kaitlyn’s pursuit of sponsorship, which currently includes Lucas Oil, Visions Racecars and a host of local businesses.

She also has her own website at KaitlynMcGeeracing.com, which documents her career accomplishments and the types of vehicles she’s driven through the years.

It serves as a reminder of how far Kaitlyn has come.

Then again, she and her dad feel like they have a long way to go.

“The whole thing will kind of go full circle,” Chris says. “I have some unfinished business in the world of drag racing and I intend to do it with my daughter.”

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