ROCKINGHAM — Morgan Tedder recalled the first time she was strapped into a “car” and expected to launch it down a straightaway as fast as she could.
“My grandpa forced me to get in it,” Tedder said. “I was bawling the whole time. After it was over, I asked when I could do it again.”
Tedder is grateful her grandfather, Windy Ammons, bought her and her cousin, Tyler Webb, matching “go-kart looking dinosaurs” when she was 8 years old. Because after her initial pass down the track at Farmington Dragway, Tedder has been hooked on drag racing and even competed in her first event 24 hours later.
“I was terrible of course,” Tedder said. “It took me about a year to figure out what I was doing. When you are doing 50 MPH at 8, you think you are going so fast…I thought I was flying.”
Tedder spent the majority of her summer weekends racing on the junior dragster circuit, but once school started back up, it was a different story.
“The cars are sensative to the cold, so they don’t run as good,” Tedder said. “Plus my mom (Crysti Leviner) didn’t want me to miss that many school days.”
Making Rockingham Dragway her home track, Tedder won a points championship and finished second four consecutive years. She was third another time, but doesn’t want to talk about that.
“It’s the second loser,” she said.
Tedder still isn’t sure what possessed Ammons to put her behind the wheel of the “dinosaur” that day, but figured he knew best.
“Since there weren’t that many girls doing it, he thought I would show the boys how to do it,” Tedder said. “It was tough because they would say things like ‘Don’t break a nail.’ I guess he figured I would like it because I always had a four-wheeler and a dirt bike to ride. I’m glad he put me in it because without racing who knows where I’d be.”
Tedder ended up at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg and is a member of the cross country team after graduating from Richmond Senior in 2013.
Her true love is still drag racing and she is moving up to the next level. Tedder will be competing this weekend in the inaugural Professional Drag Racing Association Spring Open at “The Rock” in the top dragster category.
Even though she is still eligible to compete in the junior dragster division until her 19th birthday in August, Tedder decided to take the next step.
“I wanted to sell my junior dragster and buy a full-sized dragster,” Tedder said. “I was at the ADRL (American Drag Racing League) race in September and an old man asked me if I had a ride for next year.”
That old man was Neal Wantye of Louisville, Ky., who noticed Tedder at the staging area for the junior dragsters race. Wantye talked to Tedder about driving one of his cars this season.
Wantye said he was watching her drive and overheard Tedder say this might be her last year racing because she was aging out of the junior dragster division.
“I told her I might have a car,” Wantye said. “She’s a good kid.”
Tedder wasn’t sure what to think.
“I thought he was joking,” Tedder said. “He told me to come back to his trailer with my mom. He has a fast race car I would never be able to afford. We talked and he asked me to come up to Louisville over winter break to drive it.”
Tedder made the trip to Kentucky and got behind the wheel of Wantye’s car at Ohio Valley Dragway, just outside of Louisville. Tedder said she was a little nervous as she was about to make her first run.
“He told me ‘If you are scared just let out of it’,” she said. “My whole body is shaking as I’m staging, I’m thinking this is the end of my life. When I went I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t blink. I made the full pass and hit the chute. I went 140 MPH my first pass.”
Wantye was impressed and decided to give her a ride for the year.
“She did a good job,” he said. “I expect her to qualify and I expect her to win this weekend. I believe she will do a fine job.”
Tedder added she has only made six total passes in her new car and plans to spend today and Friday at Rockingham Dragway practicing to prepare for the PDRA Spring Open.
“I’m going to try my best,” Tedder said. “I can’t expect too much because I’m restarting everything from scratch.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.