OXFORD — It’s safe to say most kids between the ages of 7 and 16 share the same typical summer habits, highlighted by activities such as swimming, camping and just hanging out with their friends.

For at least four local youths in central Maine, summer means hustling down the 1/8-mile strip of asphalt known as Oxford Dragway. While most folks may think drag racing is for old car guys, these kids already have a passion for speed.

When Auburn’s Maddie Suchecki (Street class), Naomi Nichols, of Oxford, Greene’s Jaylee Soucy and Izaac Langlois, of Auburn, (Daddy-O’s Jr. Dragster class) suit up to go racing, those usual summer activities are far from their minds.

“I needed a new hobby, and drag racing just caught my eye,” Suchecki said. “I just started driving a car last November on a permit, but have my license now. I like the adrenaline rush of racing, and I love spending time at the track with my father. This deal has improved our relationship while we have a lot of fun.”

Suchecki has been working on her reaction times, a key skill in this sport. Races are often won or lost at the line, and tuning the car is always a challenge.

“The last meet was only our sixth of the season,” she said. “That rainy spring put a damper on things. I think I’m improving at the lights, and we’re still tuning on the car to find some more speed. Overall, I’ve had a lot of fun already and really appreciate the huge amount of support I have behind me.

“Without my father, I wouldn’t have this car or the opportunity to race. He’s constantly searching for new sponsors to help us be more competitive. I had 30 people on hand to support me at my first race. That felt great.”

Oxford Plains Dragway has been open since 1969, serving as western Maine’s home for grassroots drag racing. In the decades that followed, hundreds of automotive enthusiasts have made passes down its hallowed surface. 

Soucy, 11, also competes at Winterport Dragway and raced at New England Dragway back in June. She is totally in love with the sport and has dreams of racing professionally one day on the National tour.

“Drag racing is the best decision I have made in my whole life,” Soucy said. “I’m so glad I begged my parents every year for five years until they gave in when I was nine. I love that my family and friends are always there at the track to support me. I enjoy sitting in my car waiting for that green light.”

The sport of drag racing takes quick reflexes, clear vision and a love for speed. Langlois loves the adrenaline rush and has already shown speed at the age of 7. This isn’t just a phase. He’ll be going down the strip for years and those who follow the sport know he’ll earn more than his share of wins.

“This is Izaac’s first year running for points, and he’s having a blast with it,” his father and fellow drag racer Tony Langlois said. “We bought the car from the Soucy family last year, and just did a Test & Tune deal with him at first. We got off to a rough start in 2017 with engine trouble, but it’s been all rebuilt now.”

Like any internal combustion engine after a rebuild, there is a “break-in” time.

“For the past three weeks, Izaac has been doing that just as required. He wants that engine to be right,” Tony Langlois said. “I’m fortunate to have the local Auto Zone and O’Reilly stores on board, along with Hartford’s Forklift Battery Division in Auburn. He may be only 7, but Izaac met with his sponsors in person to discuss the sport.”

Nichols already has two wins to her credit in 2017 (April 28, May 12), putting her in good position for a run at the title. She has cat-like reactions on the starting line and doesn’t miss a beat on top end. 

Fifteen-year Oxford Dragway veteran and multi-time champion Jamie Madison knows how good it is to see kids like these taking an interest in drag racing. He has seen plenty of racers come and go, and says new blood is a good thing.

“It’s nice to see these youngsters getting involved and carrying the sport of drag racing into the future,” Madison said. “In an era of online computer and video games, kids no longer get a lot of hands-on experience with the mechanical side of things.

“It’s great to see kids like Maddie, Jaylee, Izaac and Naomi having fun while they learn new skills,” he added. “As a veteran drag racer and lifelong fan, that makes me feel pretty good about our sport’s future growth.”

A great deal of attention is given to drag racing’s top level. With the NHRA making an annual stop at New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire, every year in June, Madison says interest should continue to grow. 

“It sure doesn’t hurt to have the best drag racers on the planet competing just down the road,” he said. “Seeing the professionals up-close and competing at a National meet with them can be mesmerizing. I hope these young racers stay hooked on our sport.”

It’s Soucy who best sums up the enjoyment these kids get out of racing as she describes the feeling.

“It may be only eight to nine seconds,” she said, “but it’s the best eight to nine seconds of my life each and every time I go down the track.”

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Jaylee Soucy
Eleven-year-old Jaylee Soucy, of Greene, gets some last-minute guidance from her father Dennis as she prepares for time trials at Oxford Dragway on Friday, July 14. Soucy is a multi-time winner in the Daddy-O’s Jr. Dragster Series. 

Naomi Nichols
Eight-year-old Naomi Nichols, of Oxford, prepares to make her run in Time Trials on Friday, July 14, at Oxford Plains Dragway during the Daddy-O’s Jr. Dragster Series points race. Nichols has already won two finals in 2017. 

Izaac Langlois
Seven-year-old Izaac Langlois, of Auburn, stands next to his Jr. Dragster during a rain delay at Oxford Plains Dragway on Friday, July 14. Langlois is a fine young driver who takes his program very seriously. 

Maddie Suchecki
Sixteen-year-old Maddie Suchecki, of Auburn, kneels next to her Ford Mustang at Reynolds Motorsports last month in Buxton. Suchecki competes in the Street class at Oxford Plains Dragway with her father, Paul, always at her side. 

Jaylee Soucy & NHRA Pro Leah Pritchett
Jaylee Soucy, of Greene, gets a fist pump and pep talk from professional drag racer Leah Pritchett during the fifth annual NHRA New England Nationals in June at New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire. 

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