30 UNDER 30
30 UNDER 30
Sarah Edwards isn ’ t your typical racer . And that ’ s not a bad thing . In fact , she might be just what this sport needs . She ’ s young , energetic , beautiful inside and out , adores children , and doesn ’ t bat an eye at going 300 miles per hour . Yet , six years ago she ’ d never even stepped foot on a racing surface . Now she ’ s a one-season veteran pilot of Al Hanna ’ s 300 mph Queen of Diamonds jet dragster .
Edwards ’ parents introduced her to racing at a young age when they went as a family to spectate . That was all it took for the starry-eyed young girl . She was hooked . “ When I was a kid I wanted to try everything , but it would last like a week ,” she storied . “ So [ my parents ] figured I would outgrow this racing thing . But I didn ’ t . Every year on my Christmas list would be something to do with racing , like a fire suit , even though I couldn ’ t use it without a car . I just wanted some part of the sport , somehow . The deal was I had to graduate high school . I finished with great grades , graduated in June of 2010 . That July I was allowed to attend Frank Hawley ’ s Drag Racing School . Up until then , I ’ d only been a spectator . I ’ d never sat in a car , never started a car , never even stepped on the track to realize it ’ s sticky when you get out there .”
None of the Edwards family had more than general spectator knowledge of the sport . So when they decided to jump in feet-first with a Top Dragster , they were all in for a big learning curve . “ After I completed Hawley ’ s course I went out and purchased my own Top Dragster ,” the Connecticut native continued . “ I bracket raced for four years in Atco , New Jersey . I never raced anywhere else . We would go out once a month when we could . That was it .
“ I don ’ t come from a racing family . Starting this was a learning curve for everybody involved ; my mom , my dad , and my boyfriend . My dad is very mechanical . My boyfriend is , too , and is great with the electronic aspect , but they had never really worked on this motor or a dragster before , nor understood the game we were trying to play . I didn ’ t really even understand bracket racing until I finished my fourth year . I finally got the hang of it then .”
By last October , Sarah and her family were truly getting a feel for bracket racing , and although she hadn ’ t won a race , she went to the quarter-finals and semi-finals of two events held in the same day . The Edwards family was elated . But they could never have guessed that things were about to drastically change .
“ We finished last season so strong and were excited for the next year ,” Sarah continued . “ A week and a half later I am putting Halloween decorations out in my yard and my phone buzzes and I look at it and it ’ s a message from Al Hanna . It was a shock . Come to find out their driver , Jill [ Canuso ], of eight years had resigned and they were in search of a new driver . My name had come to them from a couple of people , so Al got in contact with me . We took a phone call and then a few days later we all met , my family included . Then we tested the car four weekends in a row , I signed a contract , and I ’ m the driver of the Queen of Diamonds .”
In the blink of an eye , Edwards went from a novice driver finally getting the hang of bracket racing , to a star exhibition driver piloting a jet dragster . Some things in life are just meant to be . “ I saw the Queen of Diamonds dragster the first time I visited a track . When I was about 12 my parents took me to Englishtown for a Night of Thrills event . The Queen of Diamonds was there , naturally . The driver was a really young female , Jessie Harris , with long blonde hair , young and energetic . I saw her and said , ‘ That ’ s what I want to do one day !’ It ’ s really amazing that how it all came full circle . It ’ s truly an honor that I was asked to be their driver . We really had a phenomenal season . It ’ s been a whirlwind .”
Fittingly , Edwards dream-come-true story hit a pinnacle when , on July 20th of this year , she returned to Englishtown ’ s Night of Thrills event , this time piloting the new sidecar configured Queen of Diamonds dragster that made her passion first come alive . And just like her role model from over a decade ago , Edwards is an inspiration to the next generation of race fans .
“ I love , love , love kids ,” she emphasized . “ With my first dragster I was insistent on getting them as close to the dragster as they wanted to be . If they showed any bit of interest looking into the cockpit , that was it . I would get the OK from the mom and dad and put them in the car . Once I caught the fever when I was young , I would walk around those pits and would hover by the car hoping somebody would let me sit in one . With the jet car it ’ s a little different . It ’ s a more formal program and it ’ s a bigger machine , so we can ’ t put kids in the car , but I still absolutely make the time to talk to everybody . It ’ s never just sign a hero card and brush it off . I love to talk to them , answer questions , take pictures . I really try to make sure everybody that comes to us has that one-on-one special experience , because that ’ s what you take home with you . I love what Wes [ Buck ] said one time about never putting a car on the cover of Drag Illustrated , because you
84 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 115