Cheryl Fischer sits in the starting line holding the lock-line down and putting her foot on the gas pedal. The motion causes the wheels of her flame-covered 1934 Dodge Coupe to spin out, creating a thick cloud of smoke and a rumbling that shakes the air. She says a little prayer and tries to keep calm. Seconds later she releases the lever and barrels down the racetrack at a speed of more than 103 miles per hour.
She is not evading police officers; this is how Fischer, 55, of Custer, gets her thrills.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” she said. “But it’s just a rush. You don’t do it for the money or the trophy. You do it for the fun.”
An office specialist for the city of Blaine, Fischer may appear an unlikely candidate for hot-rod drag racing. Often wearing skirts, stylish shoes and nail polish, Fischer looks the part of a secretary, which could explain why mentioning her hobby to new acquaintances often raises an eyebrow. She recalls one incident at church when a friend grew concerned when she mistook her racetrack wristband for a hospital bracelet.
“Some of them think I’m nuts, and other people think it’s great,” she said, adding that she keeps a nail file and a bottle of polish in her tool box, along with a hair clip. “But just because you’re a certain age doesn’t mean you’re old. And maybe I don’t act my age, but who’s to say what a 55-year-old should act like.”
And with her best time for completing the quarter-mile track at 12.5 seconds, she’s on the fast track to competing against more long-time, professional street rod racers. She just needs to learn to put her foot down.
Her most recent race on Sunday at the Mission Raceway in Mission, B.C., earned her runner up status and a $100-prize with a finish time of 12.6 seconds and a starting reaction time of .068 – a huge improvement from her .354 average.
“Putting my foot down is not an automatic reaction for me just yet; I still have to think about it,” she said. “But I had a really good reaction time and he didn’t (the other driver) so I won.”
Fischer, a native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, moved to Point Roberts in 1976 from Vancouver. She moved to Blaine the following year where she would later meet her husband Joe, a long-time drag racer.
The couple would take trips to racing events, with Joe racing the Dodge Coupe named “Wild Thing” and Fischer videotaping his performances.
In 2004, Joe earned the championship title at the Mission Raceway but it wasn’t until 2006, one year after Joe passed away from illness, that Fischer started racing herself.
When asked if her new-found hobby gave her a way to process the grief associated with the loss of her husband, Fischer said it’s hard to say.
“It was something we did together, but it is just in me now,” she said. “I do this for me. But if Joe was here, he’d say ‘Cheryl, don’t lift your foot and don’t wreck the darn car!’”