Go fast, young woman

Though she just recently learned how to drive a stick shift,

Morgan Hill
– Brandy Dalton is ready to tackle Watsonville Speedway in her
4-banger race car today. There’s only one problem.
The 14-year-old doesn’t like dirt.

I’m not a girly-girl, I just don’t like to get dirty,

says the eighth-grader at Britton Middle School.
Morgan Hill – Brandy Dalton is ready to tackle Watsonville Speedway in her 4-banger race car today. There’s only one problem.

The 14-year-old doesn’t like dirt.

“I’m not a girly-girl, I just don’t like to get dirty,” says the eighth-grader at Britton Middle School.

Dalton is a typical teenage girl in most regards – she has her friends, the boys she likes and, of course, the aversion to grit and grime.

That reluctance to get dirty, while perfectly normal for a girl her age, is at war with the part of Dalton that isn’t typical – her racing ambitions.

The San Martin resident has racing in her blood. A small dirt track complete with raised in the family’s backyard tells you something’s different about the Daltons.

Brandy Dalton grew up with boys who race. Her father, Rob, races. Now his daughter will compete in a 4-banger race at Watsonville Speedway.

The 4-banger car, an cheap vehicle in an often prohibitively expensive sport, is basically a small, front-wheel-drive car stripped of everything but the frame, engine, tires, clutch and steering. A roll cage is added for safety, but not much else is there.

“It is an inexpensive way to race cars,” Rob Dalton says. “There are no modifications allowed, except for safety.”

His daughter is aware of the rules, but couldn’t help fantasizing about what she’d add to the car if she could – mirrors and a radio for music, not to mention something to keep the dirt from flying into the cab.

At the end of 4-banger races, the top five finishers have to put their cars up for sale to anyone in attendance. Rob Dalton bought his daughter’s car for $750.

Her helmet alone cost as much.

The cars do not go very fast. At today’s race, Dalton will probably not be able to get her 4-banger up past 60 miles per hour, which is slower than most go carts.

Dalton shares the car with her brother, but has it pretty much to herself while Michael Dalton recovers from shoulder injuries sustained from racing.

Having seen what racing did to her brother’s body, Dalton has a healthy fear of getting hurt, but isn’t going to let it stop her from strapping in for today’s race. She was supposed to cut her teeth in a practice session at the speedway last Friday, but it was cancelled due to a wet track. Even that lack of track experience isn’t stopping her.

“I just hope I won’t get hurt,” she said. “I didn’t think I was really mentally ready, but then I learned how to drive and then I was like, I think I can do this now.”

Dalton also says the aggressiveness of more experienced drivers can be intimidating.

“The people that are more experienced don’t understand for some reason that I’m not as experienced as them yet,” she says. “Some people can be like that, really aggressive.”

In preparation for the race, Dalton has had to learn a different style of driving. She has experience with go-carts, which are automatics. The 4-banger is a manual transmission.

So for the past few weeks, she has been out on her backyard track learning how to drive using a clutch.

Dalton’s father and her brother Bobby used a novel – and some would call reckless – approach to teaching her how to stop.

During practice sessions, Rob Dalton, his son and some friends would jump onto the track in front of her moving car to force her to stop.

Dalton says it worked, and no one was sent to the hospital as a result.

The whole experience was recorded with an in-car video camera. Her father half-jokingly threatens to put the resulting film of Dalton anxiously avoiding hitting a loved one on the Internet.

“We’ll have to do something with that video, it’s funny,” he says.

Racing at Watsonville will not be completely foreign to Dalton, who has watched her brothers race on the track for several years.

The last time she went out, her brother Bobby flipped his go-cart.

“I laughed. I knew he would be okay, so I laughed,” Dalton says, though when pressed she admits that if she flipped, she wouldn’t really like being laughed at.

Along with the home footage of Dalton racing, she is also being recorded by a local television show, Motorheads, which follows racers from Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy.

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