Need for speed: Ring Lardner record setter also finds early success drag racing

Published 3:29 pm Friday, May 28, 2004

By By DAN WEISS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- It would be fair to say that Nikki Horvath has a need for speed.
The 14-year-old runs the 55-meter hurdles in 9.86 seconds and drag races an eighth of a mile in 11.73 seconds.
Nikki is an eighth-grader at Ring Lardner Middle School and recently finished her second season as a member of the track and field team. Four times this season she broke the school record in the 55-meter hurdles with her fastest time, and current school record, being 9.86.
Even more recently, Nikki took part in her first eighth-mile drag race at Osceola, Ind., and beat the rest of the racers in her division.
Nikki's father, Mark, recently bought a junior dragster for her and assembled it during the week leading up to her first race. The family owns a total of four racing cars.
Even getting Nikki on the race track was a surprise for Mark, who grew up around racing and has always had a passion for the sport.
Drag racing was not Nikki's first racing experience. Even before she started running track, she did some BMX bicycle racing.
The event Nikki won at Osceola Dragway was supposed to be the first in a points series, but technical difficulties prevented standings from being kept.
She reached the finals of the event and had to take on boy two years older than herself and won.
The next race she takes part in at Osceola will be for points and the series winner qualifies for International Hot Rod Association Regional competition with the possibility of qualifying for nationals. The top prizes at nationals are scholarships and savings bonds.
Mark doesn't really think it's bad, in fact he wouldn't mind paying for all the travel expenses and maintenance to Nikki's car, called the Yankee Rose, as long as she keeps enjoying it.
For Mark, racing has always been something to do with his spare time and keep him out of trouble. He hopes the same holds true for his children, whatever sport or activity they choose to do.
Mark also feels racing has a positive impact on children and makes them safer drivers, contrary to many criticisms of the sport.
Based on those two positive effects of racing, Mark is happy to invest more than $1,000 to outfit Nikki with a car and gear to drag race in. He estimated the total investment so far to get Nikki started is about $2,500, but knows it could easily be a lot more expensive than that.
Keeping his race cars up to National Hot Rod Association specifications can get time- and cost-consuming, but that's part of racing.