Above: Lindsey Callaway Race for Kids winner Alexus Whitman, front, awaits her turn to qualify Saturday afternoon at Alien City Dragway. Lined up behind her are second-place finisher Spencer Whitman and third-place Paesley Whitman. (AJ Dickman Photo)
Below: Nine-year-old Paesley Whitman, driving her junior dragster “Short Stack,” gets ready for a qualifying pass in the 110-degree heat Saturday during the Lindsey Callaway Race for Kids at Alien City Dragway. The youngest competitor in the 10-car junior dragster field, Whitman finished third while her older siblings, 14-year-old Alexus and 11-year-old Spencer, finished first and second, respectively. (AJ Dickman Photo)
With the daytime heat topping 110 degrees, and the track temp approaching 150, track manager Rick Callaway took it nice and slow Saturday at the final Lindsey Callaway Race for Kids at Alien City Dragway.
That meant a more relaxed atmosphere for the racers and fans, but it also meant a long night (and early morning) of eliminations. With close to 100 entrants in the various classes, the event ended at around 3 a.m. Sunday.
The top money classes were won by Jim Callaway Jr. of Artesia (box or super pro) and David Robinson of Carlsbad (no box or non-electronic), the defending no box track champ, and 2016 motorcycle champ Dominic Flores of Dexter took the bike class.
Defending super pro champion Mike Callaway of Artesia won the Quicker 8 category, for the top eight cars with an eighth-mile elapsed time of 4.5 to 5.49 seconds. Wes Snodgrass took the Quick 8 class, for cars in the 5.5- to 6.5-second range.
But at the Race for Kids, the youngsters take the spotlight, and for the Whitman family of Lovington, it was a clean sweep as the three junior dragster siblings took the top three spots.
Alexus Whitman, 14, beat Spencer Whitman, 11, in the final round when the younger brother left the line .0187 seconds too early, turning on the red light and handing the automatic win to his sister.
Alexus’s reaction time wasn’t great at .1219 seconds, but she ran close to her 7.90 second dial-in time at 82.74 miles per hour.
Paesley Whitman, 9, took third place to complete the family sweep.
The kids’ grandpa, Joe Whitman, was helping his son Patrick with their juniors, but also running his own ride in the non-electronic class, a lime green 1978 Chevy pickup appropriately named “Limeade.”
While the Whitmans regularly race in Roswell, Joe said this race was special, as is the drag racing community.
“It’s all because of Lindsey, the Callaways and the kids in the hospital,” he said. “It’s a good cause. These are all good guys and gals out here. They’ll help you out and do whatever they gotta do.”
Joe, who has been racing for about nine years, said teaching his grandkids and watching them make good passes down the track is a joy.
“All three of ‘em are good,” he said. “The first one was kind tough (to teach), but after that, it ain’t too bad.”
Jace Head, the 13-year-old from Hobbs who won the Alien City Junior championship last season, made it to Roswell Saturday to help out with the toy drive and try to add another “Nano” to his trophy case.
His father and one-man pit crew Chris Head said the duo had just finished racing at the Western Conference Finals in Tulsa, where Jace made it to the final six cars in his age bracket.
“I’ve got a new car and we’re getting a little better each time,” said Jace. “We’re happy to be here to compete and do our part to support the kids in the hospital.”
A trailer load of toys, art supplies, books, clothes and a few monetary donations were collected for the young patients at Covenant Children’s Hospital in Lubbock, Texas.
Covenant Foundation regional director Bevin England, who has worked alongside the Callaways for the past four years, spoke at the drivers’ meeting to let the racers know the impact they have had on the hundreds of patients that come through Lubbock each year.
“Some are there for one day, some are there for months at a time,” she said. “Some come back every month or two, for a week or so at a time. They are totally out of their comfort zone, away from friends and family, their rooms and schools. What a toy can do for a child that is having to undergo a procedure or a surgery, or just having blood taken — it can make a tremendous difference.”
As England noted, one thing is for sure — racers donate the best toys. Boxes were overflowing with remote-controlled cars, toy tools and even a martial arts Barbie.
“There’s usually more baby dolls, but I’ve seen a lot of toy cars here today,” England joked.
While Saturday (and Sunday morning) was billed as the last “Lindsey Race,” the Callaway’s efforts to help kids in need will not end. For more information about the toy drive and to learn how you can donate, visit the Lindsey Callaway Memorial Toy Drive Facebook page.