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Morganton’s Rachel Buchanan, 9, wins drag racing debut
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Morganton’s Rachel Buchanan, 9, wins drag racing debut

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They say racing is a family sport, and that’s certainly true for Morganton’s Buchanan family.

The next generation made its mark earlier this month when 9-year-old Rachel Buchanan, a fourth-grader at Glen Alpine Elementary School, earned her first drag racing victory in the junior dragster division of the Carolina Fall Brawl at Shelby’s 1/8-mile Shadyside Dragway.

Not only was it Rachel’s first victory — it was the first race of her career, too.

“She climbed into her dragster three weeks before that race,” said Patricia Haney, Rachel’s mother. “She had done a few practice runs there two weeks in advance. That was her very first race, and she got all the way down to the finals. They ended up calling the race (before the finals), but she took the win because her reaction times were better.”

The dial-in — the estimated time for a pass down the dragstrip — for Rachel’s junior dragster is 9.8 seconds, Haney said. That means her car can run about 64 mph in 1/8 mile.

Rachel’s teammate at R&R Buchanan Racing is a good one to have — her grandfather, Robert Buchanan, has been drag racing for years and has track championships in Mooresville and runs in NHRA, Haney said.

“He’s mostly the one who pushed to get my daughter in on it,” Haney said. “She ended up giving up dance to go drag racing. I was just amazed for her to get into it in three weeks and then pull out a win like that. She was super-excited about that.

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“I just love that she follows in the footsteps of my dad. I never did drag racing. I did four-wheeler racing, and that was what my brother was into. Racing has always been a big part of the Buchanan family. (GNCC dirt bike pro) Trevor Bollinger is also my cousin. For her to be the first grandchild to climb in behind my dad — and my dad’s dad did it — it makes me feel good and makes me proud.”

Haney said Rachel has always been around her grandfather’s racing, but her interest has been piqued more recently. She used to play at the park next to the dragstrip, but jumped feet-first into her dragster when given the option between racing and dance. She also quickly overcame the nerves that went along with first getting started.

“Her reaction time was a .016 (seconds), so that’s really good,” Haney said. “She ran 63 mph on her very first pass. As she kept running down the track, she got better and better. We thought, ‘Well, we’ll try this race and see how it goes.’ She came home with $150 out of it and ended up getting a trophy.”

Rachel’s drag racing debut is just her most recent success and source of pride for her mother, who also is wowed by her daughter’s A-average grades and dedication toward anything she does.

Rachel was back on the dragstrip this weekend for a $5,000 junior dragster race at Farmington Dragway in Mocksville. The chance to win prize money and chase some of the NHRA stars she sees on television keep Rachel engaged.

“She talks about Ashley Force and all of those,” Haney said. “She says, ‘Mom, there’s hardly any girls. I want to be that girl.’ I tell her, ‘If you keep your head straight and do what you’re supposed to do, you’ll get there.’”

But mostly, Rachel aspires to be like her teammate and grandfather. Haney said Rachel is ready to climb in Robert’s dragster — even though that’ll have to wait a little while. In the meantime, she sports his number, No. 637, and uses the same lettering for the decals on her car.

For anyone interested in sponsoring Rachel and seeing their own decal on her car, contact Haney at 828-403-6651 or phaney@wpcc.edu.

Justin Epley can be reached at jepley@morganton.com or 828-432-8943.

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