Carol Henson is going straight again. Eighteen months after a serious crash sidelined her, the Alexandria drag racer has returned to the strips. Her mount is a plastic-bodied Vega funny car capable of 200 miles per hour at the end of a quarter-mile dash.
"Our first try last weekend was not good," she admitted. "We had really just finished the car at 2 Saturday afternoon for races that night. Then, they were rained out. Sunday we discovered I just didn't fit in the car. There was about half the space I was used to. My foot got caught under the clutch as I tried to work it by hand. But, we are making changes for this weekend."
Henson races today at Delmar, Del. "No, I haven't practiced for racing," she said. "I am depending on instinct, once I fit into the car. I am confident once I get in the car, everything will turn out well."
It is rare in motor sports, but Henson has a driving partner on the car: Gene Altizer of Arlington, a top drag racer for 22 years. Dennis Whitestone, Henson's husband, is the crew chief.
"We're still waiting for our new 497 cubic-inch aluminum engine" reported Henson. "We'll have to use an iron block weighing almost 200 pounds more. We figure that may cost us a 10th, maybe two-10ths of a second" in a sprint lasting seven seconds or under.
Henson does not feel having two drivers race a car poses problems, once they both fit. "Gene and I are about the same size. He likes to recline in the seat while I prefer to sit up. We'll adjust the controls, since only one of us drives in a meet.
"Both of us think the other drives too hard. That might be since Gene taught me how to race. But, it probably means we're driving about the same."
She says the team has been fully booked for the next two months. Altizer will race the car Saturday at Maryland International Raceway, Budds Creeks, in its first local start.