NEW LENOX – As the youngest driver in the Super Pro Class at Route 66 Raceway, Taylor Hanus has one piece of advice for other girls who want to race: Don’t be afraid to go out and do it.
Hanus, 17, drives a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, capable of going as fast as 150 miles an hour. For other girls who want to drive fast like her, she said if their “heart is in it, go for it.”
“It doesn’t matter what gender you are, because once the helmet goes on, it doesn’t matter,” she said.
Hanus, who attends Lincoln-Way Central High School, said she grew up around car racing and her family always brought her to the race track. Her grandfather was a racer who had a 1968 and 1969 Chevrolet Camaro.
She was never one to pick out Barbie dolls at the toy store.
“I always chose toy cars. I thought they were so cool,” she said. “It always fascinated me to see how fast the car can go in an amount of time, and the skill it takes to drive a race car.”
A lot of what Hanus does behind the wheel is mental. Preparing to know how to handle a vehicle’s horsepower is important, she said. Much of driving depends on experience.
When she was 14 and 15, she participated in junior drag racing, where she raced one-eighth miles – quite fast for someone at that age, she said. She would go from 0 to 86 miles per hour in those races.
Now in quarter-mile races, she goes from 0 to 150 miles an hour.
“In that amount of time and in that distance, it’s insane. It’s the craziest feeling in the world,” Hanus said.
Hanus said she hasn’t won a race yet – there are 200 cars in her class. But she is the youngest driver in her class. She said last year she had to earn “a lot of respect” from people who think she’s just a little girl.
But being around other drivers has helped her to learn about racing and receive a lot of advice. She’s also made a lot of good friends through racing.
As for the future, she said it would be her “wildest dream” to pursue race car driving. If she had sponsorships, she definitely would go for it, she said.
Hanus remembers when she turned 16, her father asked her if she wanted to drive the Chevrolet Camaro.
“I said yeah, and I never looked back,” she said.