CARMEL, Maine — Becky Elston said she has been going to auto races “since I was 2 years old.”
“But she didn’t want to go. She didn’t like them,” said her father, Barry, who raced cars from 1991 to 2003.
That all changed in 2003.
“I promised her before that 2003 season that if I won the points championship [in the Sport Fours at Hermon’s Speedway 95] I would retire,” said Elston.
Sure enough, he won eight races that year and captured the points title.
He honored his promise by selling his race car and equipment.
But Elston and his brother, Wayne, bought a pair of go-karts from Wayne Parritt and one of them was for Becky, who was 14 at the time.
He took her and her go-kart to Thundering Valley Raceway in St. Albans and launched her career in racing.
She is from a prominent racing family as, in addition to her father, she has uncles and cousins who have raced, and her fiance, Dennis Burns, also races.
“He surprised me with the go-kart. My first race was a disaster,” recalled Becky. “I was intimidated because I had never done it before. But it was kind of exciting.”
She eventually won a points championship and, in 2007, Barry built his daughter a race car.
“It didn’t have a lot of power. I just wanted her to get some seat time and get used to it and have her see what it was like. She was hooked on it,” said Barry.
That led to the Ladies Division at Speedway 95’s Wacky Wednesday for entry-level drivers and, in 2010, she claimed the points championship.
Last season, she decided to join the guys in the Sport Four division, the division her dad had once dominated.
“Dad and I talked about it [racing in the Sport Fours] for a year. We made the decision after I won the [Ladies] points championship. I couldn’t see the point of just racing in the Ladies Division after winning the championship,” said Becky.
She wound up winning two races and finishing a respectable fifth in points in her first season in Sport Fours.
This season, she is currently running second in points, 16 points behind Milo’s Steve Heath in a crowded pack atop the standings. Carmel’s Ted Ryder is one point behind her and Hudson’s Donny Silva is two behind her.
She hasn’t won yet, but she has three top-five finishes in seven races — a second, third and a fourth.
The 23-year-old Elston is also running in the Ladies Division on Wacky Wednesday and leads the points after one race.
She claims going from the Ladies Division to the Sport Fours was quite a jump.
“It was a big step. It was like going from middle school to high school,” said Elston. “You had a whole different group of people to race against. It was a whole new world.”
The cars were faster and the drivers were more aggressive.
She said it had its share of challenges. It took her awhile to earn the respect of the guys.
“You have to treat them like they treat you. I learned quite a bit, actually. I had a few mishaps with the guys. But they’re more accepting this year because I have a year under my belt,” said Elston, who had to give a retaliatory bump to a driver who had come from Unity Raceway after she felt he had tried to wreck her on a couple of occasions.
“I had had enough,” explained Becky.
Barry Elston said his daughter made some “little mistakes” early in her first Sport Four season that cost a couple of her competitors some money [to fix their cars].
“But she finally earned their respect. She won two races. We should have won five,” said Barry.
“I’m really proud of my daughter. It’s unbelievable what she’s done,” said Barry Elston. “She has done a lot more than I did starting out. She’s really good.”
“Last year, the guys were saying that she was getting in their way. Now they’re saying we’re getting in her way and we’ve got to find a way to beat her,” said Barry.
Barry Elston also said her daughter has become a very knowledgeable driver who can tell him what is wrong with her car.
Becky Elston said she is more comfortable racing with the men this season and has been “very happy” with her start.
She and her dad point out that the Sport Fours have swelled from 8-9 cars a year ago to 20 this season so any top-five finish is a significant accomplishment.
Becky Elston, a Carmel native who works at a day care center in Ellsworth, said she is seeking consistency. Her father and fiance work with her on her car.
“When I won the championship in the Ladies Division, I never won a race that year,” said Elston, who drives an Acura Integra in the Sport Fours and her old Honda Prelude in the Ladies Division. “My main goal is to finish better in points than I did last year.”