By COLLIN BROOKS
David Crockett’s Alexis Whitaker is only 14 years old, and she is living life in the fast lane. But her speed is motivated by the idea of sharing the important message of slowing down on the streets.
The motto comes from an incident that took place when Whitaker was five years old. That was when a family friend, Cortney Hensley, was killed during a street racing crash in Johnson City. The Hensley family lived directly across the street and Cortney was the best friend of Whitaker’s older sister, Heather.
“I still remember hearing about what happened and I still hear about it to this day,” said Whitaker of the incident. “I just want people to know that (racing) should be on the drag strip, not on the street.”
Five years after the incident, at the age of 10, Whitaker stepped into her first race car. But she was in a comfortable place when she stepped onto the track.
“I was born at the racetrack,” she said with a smile.
Her father, Mike Whitaker, was a racer during the late ‘90s and he is happy to see his youngest daughter picking up where he left off.
“When she first started out, we were nervous about it, but once they are doing it, it’s more of a competitiveness deal, just like basketball or any other sport,” Mike Whitaker said. “Since she was probably six years old, she has been at the race track.”
Whitaker races in the Region 3 Junior Division which includes age group 13-17 years old.
She has placed every year in Super Chevy, including two runner-ups, a final four and a win. Last year she received her second runner-up finish. At the age of 14, she races against other kids between the age of 13-17 who are able to go up to 85 m.p.h. That means she is capable of going down the 1/8th mile track in 7.9 seconds.
“Going down the track gives me an adrenaline rush,” Whitaker said. “It’s about five seconds where you don’t think about anything except getting to the end of the track.”
Even though she can go flying down the track, at 14, Whitaker doesn’t even have a learner’s permit. That doesn’t stop her from racing 18 races in Bristol. The season lasts from April to September but she also travels around the Southeast for other competitions.
This year she is in the top ten in her division and she is preparing for a big race at the end of October at the Junior Dragster Big Bucks Bonanza in Owingsville, Kentucky.
Any money that Whitaker earns she puts into a college fund, that she will use if her dream of going pro isn’t realized. Currently her main focus is school and if racing doesn’t work out, then Whitaker’s dream is to become a surgeon.
Part of that interest has been developed by two bad knees for which she has endured multiple surgeries. That knee problem has kept her away from other sports she also enjoyed like basketball, cheerleading and tae-kwon-do, but those ailments haven’t slowed her down on the track.
“It’s a thrill to go that fast,” Whitaker said. “I think there was a reason that my knees were messed up and I was led to drag racing.”