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Film & Media Workshops

WKU Exposure

Film & Media Workshops

WKU Exposure

Women show skills on track

Alison Lee, one of the nation’s top rated car tuners, works on “Great Expectations III” at the Holley National Hot Rod Reunion. Photo by: Gwen Hatcher/Bowling Green High School

By Gwen Hatcher
Bowling Green High School

Drag races such as the Holley National Hot Rod Reunion at Beech Bend Park have always been male dominated events. Mendy Fry, a drag racer, and Alison Lee, a car tuner, prove that women in the racing world can be just as successful as the men.

Fry, a dragster from Southern California competing in the NHRA, began driving at 4 years old. Now, 46 years later, Fry participates in high-level drag races frequently, and even won the 2018 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Nostalgia Top Fuel Points title. 

“I always say I was my dad’s only boy,” Fry said. “He wanted a boy but he got me, so he stuck me in a quarter midget when I was four and I was working in his shop growing up.”

Fry’s racing lifestyle began with dirt car racing from the age of 4 up to 12 and then took a turn for the rest of her life when her dad introduced her to drag racing.

“I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t drag race,” Fry said. “I have a pretty involved day job [as a CPA] and this really keeps me centered and sane. It keeps me connected to a part of my childhood that I never want to lose.”

Even with the fame of being an NHRA champion, Fry still lets everyone know that winning a drag race is a team accomplishment.

“I just want to acknowledge how hard my team works,” Fry said. “Drag races are won in the shop, right? You execute out here, but all of the preparation is in the shop.”

Just a few trailers down from Fry was another car called “Great Expectations III” being quickly worked on by Alison Lee. Lee, in her mid-70s, is a native from a town called The Plains, Virginia, and has been named one of the best car tuners in the nation. Her name appears in multiple halls of fame, being described as a “piece of history” by Malcolm Miller, a six-year attendee of the event. 

“Someone asked, ‘Do you have great expectations for that car this weekend?’ and I thought that might be a good name,” said Lee, describing the name of the hot rod.

Lee began tuning cars back in 1963 with her husband, Jim Lee, and they haven’t stopped after 56 years except to send their kids to college. Their fame quickly grew, and their car “Great Expectations II” was the main attraction of a car show hosted by President Richard Nixon at the White House in 1971.

Of the 56 years tuning cars, Lee hasn’t gotten tired of her passion at all, and it shows through the dedicated work she puts into her “Great Expectations” cars. Her determination to compete is the main reason she has seen great success throughout her years.

“All of us have our competitive nature I think,” Lee said. “It’s just whether we’re able to do it or not.”

Lee, like most other attendees of the Holley National Hot Rods Reunion, believes that the people are the best part of the event, and that they keep the event exciting and refreshing.

“It’s fun seeing all of our friends, you know,” Lee said. “I don’t feel 75, 76, whatever I am, I still feel about 50.”

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Women show skills on track