It may be a man's sport, but Sue Spencer is in it and putting her foot down - all the way to the floor.
From the daily routines of wife, mother and working woman, Spencer is now giving her weekends to the high-speed world of funny car drag racing, where starts are quick, runs short and where whole races can be missed with a sneeze. And she is, admitted one of her male counterparts, doing well. Considering she is not yet up to full speed, some of her fellow drivers would, in fact, rather see her stick to cooking or sewing. In drag racing, today, there's not much room at the top.Spencer, however, is determined to get there.
"I've always," she admitted on the eve of her scheduled running at Bonneville Raceway, "wanted to drive a race car ever since, I think, the first time I went to a drag race in Boise (20 years ago) and heard the engines and watched the cars."
At Bonneville today, Spencer will be part of the last feature show of the 1988 season. She will join a field of jet cars (2), funny cars (2), top fuel (2), one car brought in specially to race her, and a large field of bracket cars.
Gates to the raceway will open at noon with eliminations slated for 7 p.m. Special discount tickets are available at Auto Parts Unlimited stores.
Spencer actually started her racing on the flat beds of salt on the other Bonneville - Bonneville Salt Flats - with her husband, Richard. One year, in fact, she was recognized by the salt flat crew as the fastest woman on the flats.
Six years, ago, given the opportunity to move to the asphalt isles in the slower alcohol funny cars, she snapped it up. Natural progression was from there into a much faster nitro-burning AA funny car. That chance came two years ago when the old "Battle Star" AA funny came on the market.
After she got the car, the natural thing to do was to go to school to learn to drive it, which she did, for five days in Gainsville, Fla.
There, she recalled, she learned it all, "from sitting in the car, to making a full pass down the quarter-mile track, to learning what not to do when the car is going over 200 miles per hour.
"You learn that when you're driving a car that puts out over 2,500 horsepower, and where a run only lasts about six seconds, there are a lot of things you don't do. One thing you do have to do is keep your cool.
"You learn other things, too. For example, that burnouts are important. Most fans think they're just for show. Well, they're not. The heat creates traction. If you don't do it right you don't go anywhere."
She also said she's learned how important her crew is, from her chief mechanic (Kim McCabe), to the little things her sister and daughter do between runs. They keep her going straight and true from start to finish.
All of these things, she added, take a lot of the fear out of driving a car that slams her back against the seat, she said, like she was dropped from a building, then hardly gives her time enough to take a breath before the finish becomes a blur and the chute jerks the car to a slower speed.
Because she's new, the car, now called "Suzy Q," is not set up for maximum power. She's got to work into it. Right now it is only burning 75 percent nitromethane and 25 percent alcohol. When things are right and she is ready, the mixture will be turned up to 90 percent nitro and 10 percent alcohol.
Even with the leaner mixture she's turning in some respectable times. Last month, for example, she made the semifinals of the Texas Nationals with her best run of 213 mph at 6.89 seconds.
Before too long she hopes to have the time in the lower sixes, and the speed nipping at 250 mph.