Lower Milford teen races dragsters all over East Coast
Ranae Nyce has a lot of attributes that make her a threat on the racetrack.
First off, she has a pure love for speed; that unadulterated need to press the steel to the floor and fly down the straight stretches at up to 85 mph in just a few short seconds.
“Ever since I was little I always wanted to get in a car and drive fast,” Nyce, 16, of Lower Milford Township, said. “I don’t know where it came from.”
The Quakertown Christian School junior also has a no-nonsense approach to life. Her mission on the track is simple: Just race hard. Do your best for yourself and your team.
Her start in National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) junior drag racing, in the 8-18 year-old bracket at Maple Grove Raceway, came thanks to Mark and Doris Knarr, who own several of the junior dragsters. The Knarrs began a racing organization called “Pray Hard Racing” while their own sons were involved in the sport.
The Boyertown-based group teaches kids – many of whom wouldn’t have the means to do so on their own – how to drive and puts them in cars on the racetrack.
Their aim is to keep kids “on track and off the streets.”
“They are a really supportive group, like a second family to me,” Nyce said. “They give kids an opportunity to be a part of a team and learn sportsmanship. I’m lucky to have them and my sponsors. It costs a lot of money to have a car.”
Nyce, who drives the smartly-painted #1476 car, has come a long way since her first days behind the wheel at age 14.
“I was terrified the first time. They just kept telling me ‘don’t hit the wall.’ But you do it so much it becomes a part of you. You just know what to do when you get in the car. It’s all about getting a good reaction time and knowing when to brake on the other end.”
As part of a seven-member team, and one of three girls, Nyce is thriving. She said her fellow racers and sponsors are a really supportive group who helped her get her life straight.
“Representing the team, being a part of something, it helps you focus on school and have your priorities straight. And as competitive as it is, it’s just a good time.”
Sponsored by the Christian organization Thunder Outreach, Nyce travels all over to compete not only throughout Pennsylvania and neighboring states, but also across Maryland and in Tennessee.
Depending on the racetrack location, her Saturday mornings, from March through October, can begin as early as 3 or 4 a.m. Sometimes she and her teammates sleep at the racetrack and sometimes they make the long drive home to travel and race again the next morning.
She is always cheered on by her mom, Dawn, and sometimes even her grandmom.
While it can be a grueling schedule, Nyce has been making her mark. This year she finished seventh in points at Maple Grove Raceway in her age bracket and won a Wally (trophy) in the 15-18 bracket in a Sunoco-sponsored race in July. She also placed as a runner-up at King of the Hill at Cecil County Dragway.
“I was really happy to have done well,” Nyce said of her recent success. “It gives you motivation when you see how good you can really do.”
And the young racer has no plans to stop competing any time soon. Nyce said after graduating from high school, she plans to attend college to get her teaching degree. She wants to teach high school English and race in NHRA’s professional classes in the summer.
Even if marriage and kids are in the cards, she said she will incorporate them into her love of the sport.
“I get an adrenaline rush every time I get in the car,” she said. “I don’t think it’s something I can quit.”