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Father and son live drag racing dream

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Roswell resident George Stephenson built his son’s 1972 Chevy Vega drag race car from scratch. (Submitted Photo)

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George and Roy Stephenson were involved in a major motorcycle accident nearly two decades ago. Despite suffering serious injuries, that didn’t deter the father and son from pursuing a lifelong passion for drag racing.

George Stephenson has spent a majority of his life as a mechanic. Before the accident, George said that he was working on a Jeep one Sunday morning when some friends stopped by and asked if he and Roy wanted to go for a motorcycle ride.

“So we went out for a short ride and weren’t gone for maybe an hour-and-a-half, and on our way home, a guy coming the other way fell asleep at the wheel at 11 a.m. and just came over in our lane and ran us over,” George Stephenson said.

The father went under the vehicle and his son went over it.

“He got hurt the worst,” George said of Roy’s injuries. “Underneath the truck, he pushed me for another 150 feet into a bar ditch. I was in pretty bad shape. That was a bad day.”

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George estimates that his son spent nearly a month in a hospital and wore several casts. One might think such an accident would deter someone from building a drag racing machine. A few years after the accident, the Stephenson went to work. It may have taken more than a decade to finish it. But, George admits that he had to earn a living and he never built a race car from scratch.

“I had a good idea, I’m a good mechanic at putting things together,” George said. “In my spare time, when I wasn’t working on motorcycles or making a living, I was working on the car.”

George Stephenson grew up in Pennsylvania and was in the military in the 1960s when he moved to El Paso. After being discharged, he did some work in the dairy business. Working in that field, he moved to Roswell in 1984 from El Paso. However, the dairy company he worked for went out of business. George also had some experience as a refrigeration specialist and so he decided to go into business for himself.

Along the way, George got bit by the drag racing bug.

“I was involved in it when I was in El Paso, it’s always been in my blood,” George said. “I’ve always enjoyed some kind of automotive thing. I had a car in El Paso, it was a Chevrolet Vega. I had taken the motor out and put another one in and just made a hot rod out of it.”

George Stephenson started his car building venture in 2002.Nearly 10 years later, he decided it was time to get serious about it.

“It’s very technical and we’ve to get things just right,” George said. “But, that’s what I did the last four years.”

George said the souped up machine is a chassis car with a 1972 Vega body and he estimates that he has spent $40,000 on it.

“I just liked the body style and we found one at Southwest Engines,” George said. “I had been driving by and it was parked in the yard for sale and then I decided I was going to get the body. I took it home and the thing ran. The motor hadn’t been started in probably 20 years and I cleaned everything up and the motor ran.”

After he brought the Vega home, George started to build the hot rod.

Despite building it, George knew his driving would be limited after the motorcycle accident years earlier. A bad shoulder would hamper him from getting out of the vehicle if something were to happen on the race course.

“And thinking if worse came to worse, I’d have to get out of there in a hurry, this may not work. I could have made some changes, but I had a young man who was anxious to drive it,” George said.

He knew that he wasn’t getting any younger, so he decided to turn the keys over to his son.

George provides pointers to Roy and he helps maintain the car.

Roy Stephenson admits his philosophy on drag racing is simple.

“I want to get to the other end before the other guy,” Roy said. “What I really like about racing is when I’m out there, nothing else matters.”

Roy has hit a top speed of 136 mph and George admits he was scared when his son took the wheel for the first time nearly three years ago.

“Our first season was the end of 2015 and I wouldn’t let him get on the car all the way,” George said. “He had never driven anything that fast. We had to get his time up and make his passes and he had to have a competition license.”

Both men can be found at the Alien City Dragway in Roswell and both serve on the board of directors.