When seventeen year old Gracie Lonergan headed to Cedar Falls Raceway on Father’s Day to spend it with her dad Steve, who along with her brother Mark, have helped launch young Gracie’s career in the sport they all love, she had no idea she would leave the track with one of the wildest videos ever captured at the drag strip. During time runs prior to eliminations, Gracie staged her 5-second dragster and took the tree. Having a narrow rear end and relatively small tires, the family has found the dragster works better lined up on one side of the groove instead of trying to straddle the slick are between the sticky patches. The car launched nice and straight, but as she neared the 1/8th mile mark, wind caught the car and pushed it toward the centerline. “I remember feeling my dragster pushing towards one side. Of course I didn’t want to hit my opponent. I tried to correct my direction and ended up over correcting my steering, causing it to tip on its side,” says Gracie, who walked me though the incident yesterday afternoon. “Then I remember pulling the wheel in hope that it would tip back up. Eventually it did.” adds Lonergan, who says she had the presence of mind to let go of the wheel, holding it with only her palms after feeling the wheel jerk in her hand and fearing it may break her fingers if she held on. There have been several dragster drivers lose fingers when they instinctively grab the roll cage during a crash, but the young Minnesotan knew better, adding ” I managed to keep the palms of my hands on my wheel.” as the car slid on its left side.
After a couple of seconds, or what Gracie says felt like three minutes, likely due to her brain dumping a massive dose of adrenaline into her system as the car tipped, the implausible happened. As the car skidded toward the wall, it suddenly popped back up onto all four wheels and rolled calmly to a stop as if nothing happened. A few seconds later, the racer in the other lane pulls alongside and jumps out quickly to check on Gracie, who was clearly in a state of shock by that point. He shut off the power to the car, flipped open her visor, and talked to her to help calm her down until track personnel and her parents arrived and helped her from the car. It took her several minutes to calm her breathing and begin to process what happened.
Watching the video, it appears that Gracie’s tug on the wheel and the bottom of the car bouncing off of the guardrail worked perfectly to right the skidding dragster, returning it back to its correct orientation as if by sheer force of will, or perhaps the hand of God. Watch the video a few times; it looks nearly impossible, yet there it is on video for the world to see. And apparently, the world is seeing it, as the video spread wildly across social media this week. Lonergan caught some flack from more experienced drivers who said she shouldn’t have kept her foot in the throttle, but until one finds him or herself sideways in a dragster that has suddenly tipped onto its side, its hard to say how well they’d maintain their composure. However, showing wisdom beyond her years, Lonergan is able to admit fault in overcorrecting and keeping the throttle open.
Gracie plans to have the car repaired from the surprisingly minor damage to the body, one header, and the wheels, then swap out the rear wheels and tires for a wider set that will provide a little more stability. When the car is ready, Lonergan plans to get back in the cockpit to continue chasing her dream. Gracie added, “I just would like to thank my dad Steve Lonergan, my brother Mark Lonergan, and my mom Teresa Thomas for helping me get started pursuing my dream. They’ve done everything they can to help me get started. They’ve believed in me when I doubted myself, and I want them to know how much it means to me.”