The rumbling sound of tuned engines and the excitement of racing fuel the scene.
Amid dozens of drivers on an oval dirt track, 13-year-old Alison Slaton takes the wheel of her own mini sprint car, which she dotingly named Dave. As the flag goes down, cars leap ahead and it’s a fight to the finish line. The car’s muscular frame resembles nothing of the pink, battery-powered Barbie Corvette some girls may ask for on their birthday. With enough power to hit more than 80 miles per hour, Alison isn’t afraid of speed—she lives for it.
With a love for speed and a soft-spoken yet competitive demeanor, Alison was leery at first about this racing sport when her parents brought her first junior sprint car home. It sat in the garage, feared and not driven. It was Alison’s mother, Stacey, who motivated her to try it out in a parking lot, just once. If she tried it and didn’t like it, it was okay. “Ever since that day, she’s wanted to drive,” said Alison’s father, Greg Slaton, currently the manager of Pole Position.
Sadly, Stacey passed away last May, after being diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic and liver cancer. Knowing her days were limited, Stacey and Greg chose godparents who would also be able to support Alison’s racing dreams. Her mom left behind precious memories and a motivation for Alison to keep going forward. Alison can still hear her mother’s encouragement in her head. “When I started racing, I was nervous, and I didn’t know what to do. It’s not as easy as ‘just turn left,’” Alison said.
Since she was eight years old, Alison has been racing. Dave is a 2014 Sawyer mini-sprint that she races in the restricted class. The vehicle and driver weigh over 700 pounds and the Yamaha R6 motorcycle engine that powers Dave is capable of producing 120 horsepower. Ten-inch rims and soft compound racing rubber tires put that power down on the oval, where average speeds hit upwards of 80 mph while the drivers maneuver around each other sliding sideways around the small regional tracks. With power like this, Alison proves it is no longer a sport just for men. “Boys think I can’t beat them. I like the feeling of beating them when they think I can’t,” Alison said. There is a special camaraderie among female racers. In an average 200-car race night, there may be only 10–15 females racing. The competition, good friends and a constant goal to do better each week keeps Alison dedicated to the sport.
Racing takes skill, geometry and calculations to make a car run. “Passing and wrecking—there’s a lot to be aware of,” said Alison. Race season revs up for the Slaton family from April to October, with practice and training occurring year-round. Being a racecar driver requires mental and physical strength. “People think racing is just ‘Get out there and drive!’ but it is so much more than that,” said Greg. “You have to be in shape and conditioned to drive.” In addition to the physical strain, it’s important to have an understanding of the responsibility necessary with driving a vehicle at high speeds. “If you make a mistake in racing, it could seriously injure someone or cost thousands of dollars,” said Greg. “Alison is very mature and cautious. She doesn’t place herself in stupid situations.”
Knowing the expertise and heart put into this sport, Greg credits everyone he has met in the racing community. “They are the most honest, down-to-earth people. The kids have such a higher maturity level of being in the sport and around great people like that,” he said. Through racing, Alison has also had the chance to meet celebrities like NASCAR racer Kasey Khane. While not circling the tracks at Daytona or the Texas Motor Speedway, many drivers like to race local dirt tracks.
When asked whether her four-year-old sister, Ashtyn, would be following in her footsteps, Alison quickly shook her head. “No, I don’t want her to,” pausing as she lovingly eyed her spunky little sister. Ashtyn continued bouncing from floor to couch, room to room, giggling and smiling ear to ear. “I wouldn’t trust her on the track. She’s crazy!”
Sitting back, relaxed and beaming as his daughter spoke of her racing adventures, Greg said he’s proud she is growing up differently. “I knew boys who couldn’t put air in their own tires. My little girl is growing up and can take care of herself,” Greg said. Recently, Greg offered Alison $25,000 from the sale of the car and equipment if she should decide to give up racing; she quickly declined the offer, as her love for the sport remains stronger than any dollar figure. “Racing gets in your blood, and without it, life feels empty,” Greg said.
Although only 13 years old, Alison has her first street-legal car already picked out: a blue Mustang. But this will certainly be no V-6 car. “If we’re going to get a Mustang, it’s got to be a GT with a V-8,” Greg said. As he spoke the word “GT,” Alison’s face immediately broke into a broad smile.
Racing isn’t just a hobby for Alison—it’s a lifestyle. With aspirations of being a professional racer or owning a racing business, Alison couldn’t be more excited for the months and years ahead.