Zoomin Off to The Finish Line

Senior competes in drag races across the nation

Camryn Mottl, Feature Editor

At the starting line, she waits for the green bulb to light up. The perfect moment arrives, and black smoke is soon left behind from the speeding vehicle. But this isn’t just any NASCAR race; it’s drag racing.
For the Pluta family, drag racing is not uncommon. It is an activity that they do together as a family. With her father as her mentor, senior Makenna Pluta started drag racing when she was 8 years-old, the age when all dragsters start learning how to drive.
“My dad first got in trouble when he was in high school for street racing, so then he went to the race track and started to learn how to race. My brother did it before me until I got old enough,” Pluta said.
With her dad coaching her, Pluta also learned how to race alongside her older brother, Dayne Pluta.
“It’s allowed us to become closer because we enjoy racing together and spending time together as a family,” Dayne said.
Through her time racing, Pluta has won three Wally’s, the most prestigious award one can get drag racing, along with winning the local divisionals for junior dragsters last season.
“No one in our family has done that. I raced a lot of good people in one day, so many kids from out of town that I didn’t think that I could beat,” Pluta said.
Along with victories, her dad has watched his daughter learn a variety skills from drag racing.
“It has helped her to become outgoing, selfsufficient, good sportsmanship, be responsible, mature and competitive. [Also, she has learned] how to have good reflexes, have hand-eye coordination, math skills and to [enjoy] the thrill of victory,” Dan Pluta said.
Currently, Pluta has the challenge of transferring from a junior dragster, to her actual dragster, as she moves up toward the adult division, ages 18 and beyond.
“It’s why I didn’t race as much this year, because I would just get in the car, drive it around, get used to starting it, getting used to which buttons I push, putting it into gear, turning corners, just getting myself familiar with it. It was just so much better for me to just start out with basics,” Pluta said.
Even so, her brother feels like Pluta will stay focused and determined during the transition.
“As much as the dragster is like a junior, it’s totally different in many ways, from leaving off a trans brake to judging the stripe. Racing has given her the drive to get things done. I have watched her grow as an individual and is always focused on any task,” Dayne said.
Still, if Pluta does have an question about her vehicle or what she can do better, her dad says her brother is always someone she can lean on for help.
“It has brought them closer together by having something big in common. He was always there anytime she needed help,” Dan said.
When she is getting ready for a race, to calm her nerves, Pluta cracks jokes to her family to keep herself focused and calm under pressure.
“I tell jokes. I, literally, during the final of the division, was just cracking jokes like nobody’s business, and my parent’s were getting mad at me because they said ‘you’re not focused, you’re not focused on anything, you’re not worried about the race.’ And I’m just like, ‘I’m here to have fun,’ That’s my parent’s number one rule: if you’re not having fun, you’re done,” Pluta said.
Because of racing, Pluta feels like she will be able to prepare for not only the track ahead of her, but life itself.
“She is a great sport. Even if she doesn’t win she always keeps her head up. She is a very motivated person, and I see it while she races. She’s learning what hard work is all about and how to prepare for life,” Dayne said.