Drag Illustrated Issue 111, July 2016 | Page 99

Melissa Surber Surber was running on pure adrenaline. “That was a close race and when we got to the end the Safety Safari guys were giving me the thumbs up and I thought, ‘No way, I didn’t just beat him.’ I was speechless. I honestly didn’t know whether to smile or cry. I’m not even sure what I said to the TV crew.” O n the home front, Surber isn’t much different than most 21-year-olds. She works a fulltime job in a restaurant at a golf course and she’s got a boyfriend, and while he’s not a racer, he supports her career choice. Most of the 3,500 or so people she encounters daily in Rio Del, California, probably have no idea that she regularly races at about three-times the legal speed limit. “I don’t even think that my non-racing friends know exactly what I do,” she says. “They might not completely understand it, but on race weekends they get on Facebook and see how I’m doing and and two-time Pro Stock champ Erica Enders-Stevens, but she’s also eager to make her own mark and wants to be judged on her own merits. “I’ve been a fan of Erica’s since I was a little kid,” Surber says. “I watched her Right on Track [Disney movie] over and over. She’s been a great inspiration. “I just want to do my own thing,” she says. “My main goal this year is to finish in the top ten. We’ve only been to three races and so far, it’s been crazy. I’ve qualified at all three races and I’m hanging on close to the tenth spot. I’m lucky, between my dad and Chip Ellis, I have two of FAMILY AFFAIR the best mentors you could Whether she’s in the pits or on the starting line, Melissa is sure to know ask for. It’s very rewarding her parents aren’t far behind, ready to be able to say that I’m to give the former Jr, Dragster driver up there with the big dogs. a push to the lanes or a hand with It’s crazy and very cool at between-round maintenance. the same time.” Based on her early results, no one would be shocked if Surber became NHRA’s next first-time pro winner. She seems to improve with each passing event and only a bit of bad luck prevented her from reaching the semifinals in Atlanta. “It’s hard for me to believe I could win but it’s definitely not out of the question,” says Surber. “Just going to the second round was such a big accomplishment. Before it happened, I didn’t know how to feel about it or what it would be like. I can’t imagine what it’s like to actually win a race.” In addition to a top ten finish, Surber also realizes that she has a great chance to win the Auto Club Road to the Future award that goes each year to NHRA’s top professional rookie. Quite frankly, there isn’t a lot of competition this year outside of fellow bike racer Cory Reed, and a handful of nitro racers who are racing partial schedules. Surber would obviously be thrilled to accept the Auto Club’s $20,000 bonus check but there’s a catch and once again, it involved the whole shyness thing. Should Surber win the Rookie of the Year, she’ll have to put on a dress, walk on stage at the NHRA Mello Yello banquet in Hollywood and deliver a speech in front of 1,000 or so of the sport’s biggest movers and shakers. they encourage me. It’s great to have friends that “I guess that would be a good problem to have,” are really supportive.” she says. “I don’t have to worry about that until In this day and age, being a woman racer is the end of the year so hopefully I won’t be shy hardly unique, even in the Pro Stock Motorcy- then. Like I said, I’m a work in progress. It’s my cle class. Angelle Sampey, Karen Stoffer, Peg- plan to make racing a career and in order to do gy Llewellyn, Angie Smith and a host of others that I need to attract some sort of sponsorship so I paved that path long ago. Surber admits that she know I need to be more outgoing. I’ve never found looks up to the other female racers, particular- anything else that I’m good at and nothing I enjoy ly Northern California neighbor Katie Sullivan this much. I want to be out here for a while.” DI DI DI DI DI DI DI DI DI DI July 2016 DragIllustrated.com | D r a g I l l u s t r a t e d | 99