2012-08-08 / Front Page

She's not your average high school cheerleader

It runs in the family
by Luke Bogacki

Kaitlyn has the front wheels off the ground getting ready for a run. Kaitlyn has the front wheels off the ground getting ready for a run. The average high school cheerleader has no interest in getting grease beneath their fingernails. The average 16-year-old girl would be fairly intimidated at the thought of driving a race car at speeds that exceed 100 mph in the quarter mile. The average high school senior would not jump headfirst into fierce competition with men and women more than twice her age with decades of experience. Obviously Kaitlyn Adkinson is not your average 16-year-old high school cheerleader.

By weekday, Kaitlyn lives a typical high school life: schoolwork, cheering, boyfriend, family. She’s entering her senior year at Southwest Georgia Academy, where she’s an honor student and a varsity cheerleader. On most weekends, however, Kaitlyn finds herself in a position that is unique among her peers: behind the wheel of an NHRA Stock Eliminator Camaro race car.

Kaitlyn at her SGA job as cheerleader Kaitlyn at her SGA job as cheerleader Kaitlyn’s car, which she generally drives in the I Stock Automatic class of Stock Eliminator competition, is a 1991 model Chevrolet Camaro. It’s equipped with a fuel injected 350 cubic inch powerplant and uses a 3-speed automatic transmission. It covers the quarter mile in about 11.5 seconds with a finish line speed of 115 miles per hour.

“It’s pretty fast,” said Adkinson. “At first, the speed and acceleration is a little intimidating, but after a few runs you get used to it, and it doesn’t seem like a big deal. I love the rush, but I really love the competition. Now, I’ve made enough passes that I feel like I’m past the initial shock of the speed and I’m really just focused on improving my game, becoming a better driver, and winning races.”

Racing is in her blood, so to speak, and she’s got a great teacher. Kaitlyn’s father, Jeff, a peanut farmer in Damascus, has been racing competitively for over three decades and is the reigning NHRA Division 2 Stock Eliminator champion (he’s currently leading the 2012 standings as well). Her grandfather, Fred was a highly successful competitor throughout the Southeast as well. And Kaitlyn, a third generation racer, has already shown signs of great talent in just her first season of competition.

With the assistance of her parents, Jeff and Amy, along with close family friends and established racers Jeff Taylor, Willie Evans, and Luke Bogacki, Kaitlyn made her first trip down the race track early this spring. She took the opportunity to compete locally within the Footbrake category (for vehicles not equipped with racing electronics). The Footbrake class is far from an “entrylevel” category. Kaitlyn’s competitors include men and women ranging in age from 16 to 80, many of which who lay claim to a mantle full of racing trophies and decades of on-track experience. Kaitlyn’s learning period has been, for lack of a better term, trial by fire. Thus far, she has exceeded expectations.

On the very first day that she drove down the race track, she entered a gamblers race at US 19 Dragway in Albany and advanced to the semi-final round. A few short months later, she entered her first Footbrake event at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Adel and weaved her way through a field of over 60 entrants to advance all the way to the final round. Although she took runnerup honors, Kaitlyn earned the respect of her fellow competitors by defeating a pair of former track champions as she worked her way through seven rounds of competition.

In June, Kaitlyn entered her first NHRA Lucas Oil Division Event at Atlanta Dragway. She won’t be able to compete at NHRA Full Throttle national events until she turns 18, but she’ll gain valuable experience at the divisional level, where she competes alongside her father in Stock Eliminator.

“Daddy races in Super Stock and Stock, so it’s possible that we’ll have to race one another at one of these events. I know he’s really good, but I think I can beat him!”

When her parents are asked if they had any inhibitions about putting Kaitlyn behind the wheel, they respond candidly.

“She’s been around the race track her whole life,” said her father Jeff. “Some of her closest friends are the racers that we’ve met over the years. We try to be supportive of all of her interests, and I think she’s pretty well rounded. Kaitlyn has always talked about racing herself when the time came, and she’s really taken an active interest in it. I’ve tried not to force anything on her; just because I love this stuff doesn’t mean that she has to. But she’s really taken to it, even more than I expected. And she’s extremely competitive. I have no doubt that she’ll continue to experience success. It’s a lot of fun for me to race with Kaitlyn. We’re a close family to begin with, but the racing gives us even more opportunities to spend time together and help one another.”

As her senior year at SGA gets started, Kaitlyn’s priorities will include standard senior activities: cheering, homecoming, senior portraits, etc. But she’ll still find time to hop behind the wheel on several weekend adventures. The Adkinson’s will compete at a handful of NHRA LODRS events yet this season, including the Division 2 events in Bristol, TN and Reynolds, GA. The winter months provide an offseason for drag racing competition, and the family racing team will start back in full force next February in Florida.

Return to top