19 June 2014

Shared love of drag racing brings dad and daughter closer

Grace Reckow is like a lot of 11-year-old girls – talkative and energetic, loves to shop and hang out with her friends, and is the apple of her daddy’s eye. Unlike most 11-year-old girls, however, Grace is a drag racer – a pedal-to-the-medal, hold-on-tight, beat-the-boys drag racer.

And that makes every day Father’s Day for her race-loving dad, Davin Reckow.

“She’s really gotten into it,” Davin said. “She used to love go with us and watch circle track racing, but when I asked her about drag racing, she said she didn’t like to get dirty. So I never thought she’d be doing this.”

It all started with dear ol’ Dad. The 44-year-old Reckow, Hagerty’s Parts Specialist, said his daughter isn’t really the car nut that he was when he was a kid. But that isn’t exactly a fair comparison.

“Growing up, I was the oddball of the family,” Davin said. “They were into hunting and fishing – a real northern Michigan family – but I was all about cars. I was the kid in the backseat, looking out the window and saying, ‘Look at that car! Look at that car!’ I’m sure I was extremely annoying to my parents.

“I loved Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels. I had the orange Hot Wheels track and the loop-dee-loop. I built a lot of plastic models.”

But what Davin really wanted to do was wrench on the real thing. “When I was 12 or 13, my uncle’s old Skidoo was in the pole barn gathering dust. I wanted to ride it, but we didn’t have a lot of money and my dad had no interest in fixing it. But he never said that I couldn’t try to get it running. So I tore it apart and finally got it going.”

It wasn’t long before Davin began working on cars. In 1991, when he was in his early 20s, he bought a 1966 Chevy Chevelle. “It needed work. It was a driver, but it wasn’t nice looking at all. So, of course, I was pretty consumed by it. After I dug in a bit I found out it was an SS. It was truly a diamond in the rough.”

By then, Davin had already found another diamond – Tanya – the woman who would become his wife. While Tanya wasn’t into cars to the extent that he was, she actually started racing before Davin did. “She started this whole thing,” he said. “Before I ever raced, Tanya entered her ’68 Impala into a figure-8 demolition derby in Manistee (Mich.). So I blame all of this on her.”

Davin began drag racing with a few of his office buddies in the early ‘90s. “It wasn’t really competition level, just purely fun runs – test and tune type stuff. The first run I ever took was an oil-filled, smoky, one-wheel peel that covered the quarter (mile) in a neck-breaking 18.8 seconds,” he said, laughing. “In the world of drag racing, that’s like yawing.”

By 2001, Davin was racing street stock and dirt modified on the circle track. He and Tanya married in 1996, and they rode to and from the ceremony in Davin’s freshly restored Chevelle, which he finished just in time. The Reckows have two children – Grace, of course, and 4-year-old Anders.

Grace’s interest in drag racing happened by chance. In late 2010, Davin bought his first dragster from John Worm, a friend in Pennsylvania. When he saw Worm less than a year later, their conversation turned to a junior dragster that John’s son, Joey, wasn’t using.

“I jokingly said, ‘If Joey doesn’t want to drive that car, I know a little girl who will,’” Davin said. “I was just yanking John’s chain, but he called my bluff. He said, ‘Take it, try it. See if she likes it.’ So I loaded it up and brought it home. I got back pretty late and put it in the shop. The next morning I took Grace to school and told her I had a surprise for her when she got home.”

One small problem: Davin hadn’t said a word to Tanya. “I brought her out and showed her, and she said, ‘God, what have you done now?’ But after I explained the story, she started to get excited too. She said, ‘This is going to be awesome.’”

After school, Davin brought Grace into the shop. She saw the car out of the corner of her eye, and in an instant she no longer cared if she got dirty. “She was grinning from ear to ear – she jumped right into it,” Davin said. “I looked at Tanya and I said, ‘I guess she likes it.’”

Grace still likes it. Loves it, in fact.

“Racing is way better than school,” Grace said. “I love going fast. It’s more fun than beating on my little brother.”

Joking aside, Davin thinks his daughter has discovered a sport she’ll hang on to and maybe even excel in. “I really see her sticking with it. She doesn’t have the crazy passion for it that I have, but I think it’s something she’ll enjoy the rest of her life. She’s already said, ‘Dad, when you get too old to drive your car, I’ll drive it.’

“It’s been exciting for us. It’s something that she and I can share. The first time she raced it was my turn to think, ‘What have I done?’ But from that point until now, she has really grown – not only as a driver but as a person. It’s been amazing.

“I was adamant that she know and understand how her car works, so it’s fun to listen to her talk to the other drivers about their cars and tell them all about hers. There’s value in racing just like there is in any other sport. It builds confidence, teaches responsibility and work ethic, and she knows there are consequences, good and bad, based on the amount of work she puts into it – just like in school.”

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