Meet your fellow CCA Ravens!!!
by Amanda Arnett
The average seventeen-year-old girl spends her free time hanging out with friends, shopping, or practicing a sport. CCA senior Shelby Easler, however, replaces the traditional soccer or field hockey practice with something a little more extravagant—she drives race cars. You did not read that wrong. I said race cars, just like the kinds you’ve seen in Talladega Nights or Disney’s Cars.
When considering that she was named after the famed automotive designer Carroll Shelby, and that her dad raced himself, it’s clear that race car driving has always been in Shelby’s blood. From a young age, Shelby honed her passion for speed. She excelled in motocross and go-karting before taking her first official driving class at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Arizona at age fifteen. There, Shelby qualified for her Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) license and was soon asked to compete on a team for Inde Motorsports Ranch, which is where she currently races.
Not only has Shelby always possessed a need for speed, but she has also had a natural talent for racing from day one. She described how her proudest moment throughout her racing career came when she had just begun taking classes at Bondurant, and the owner, famous racer Bob Bondurant, told her she needed to do something with her talent. “We were all doing time trials and there were these crazily advanced classes, but I beat everyone not only in my class, but in all the classes above me.” She beamed, clearly delighted with her accomplishment, “I developed a huge crowd and everyone started calling me the Cobra, then Bob Bondurant came down and congratulated me!” This extraordinary moment was the turning point that made Shelby decide to pursue racing.
Now, at age seventeen, Shelby competes in IMR (Inde Motorsports Racing) Challenge Series competitions about once a month. This is only the beginning for Shelby, however. “Next year I’ll be racing every weekend for twelve weeks…. And the races will be really intense,” she raved.
When asked why she loves racing, Shelby replied, “It’s definitely the speed and the control. When I’m hitting speeds up to 210 MPH and [I] know that I’m completely in control of my vehicle, I feel this warmth inside and feel so powerful.” This extreme level of skill is difficult to attain. Some dismiss race car driving as being easy or not even a real sport, but Shelby strongly disagrees with these critiques of her passion. “Mentally, there’s a lot of strategy… and your line of sight is so important because wherever you look is exactly where your car is going to go, so a big part is training your eyes,” she explained. Physically, Shelby describes racing as “exhausting” and even mentioned how one of her instructors lost twelve pounds of water weight in one race because of sweat. Dr. Lara Carlson of the University of New England also refutes racing critics, discussing how drivers must be “fanatical about their physical training” because their muscles and cardiovascular fitness must be superb in order to keep a manageable heart rate and withstand extreme G-force loads while racing.
Even with her dedication and natural ability, Shelby admits that she is not a perfect driver and is still learning. She tells of times where her car would slightly skid out while going around turns, but no story compares to when she tried to roll down her window on an extremely fast turn because she had a bee in her car. While her instructors admired Shelby’s daring nature, they also made sure she learned from the experience, emphasizing that, “You know you could have crashed right there!”
While being behind the wheel of cars most people only dream of driving—a Spec 86, Porsche Cayman S, and Dodge Challenger, just to name a few—is an incredible experience, Shelby still plans on attending college before attempting to go professional. “Right now I’m training to race professionally,” she states, “but ideally I want it as a hobby, so I guess where I go to college will dictate it [whether or not she will try to race professionally, or only as a hobby].”
Shelby has managed to turn her childhood fervor for speed and sport into a reality that some find difficult to even imagine. For many kids and adults alike, the closest they have ever been and will ever be to driving a race car is playing racing games at an arcade. In this version, the track is fabricated on a screen from grainy pixels, the wheel is manufactured from plastic, and the revving of the engine is artificially produced from a speaker. Shelby, however, has been able to embrace authentic race car driving, with the rush of adrenaline, the droplets of sweat dripping down her face, and the irreplaceable sensation of true speed.