By Brian Swartz
Weekly Staff Editor
BREWER — When she’s not steering her race car around the track at Speedway 95, 13-year-old Lexi Roach enthusiastically talks about racing. She just completed her second season in competition, and she can’t wait for the 2014 racing season to begin.
She was 4 when she attended her first Speedway 95 race. Lexi said she has has always loved the whole car thing: regular cars, race cars, motors, working on cars. She realized years ago that she wanted to race.
A family friend and Speedway 95 competitor, Rhonda Wilbur of Hermon, “has been my role model since I was going there when I was young,” Lexi said. “I got interested pretty much in seeing Rhonda do it [race].”
Joining the Stars of Tomorrow class that features racers ages 10 to15, Lexi said, “I started racing when I was 12.”
She drove a 1993 Ford Escort. During one 2012 race she ended up rolling it over, said Pete Roach, who watched horrified as the Escort, struck by another driver, drifted off the oval track and finally rolled. Lexi was not injured, but her chest hurt for three days, her father recalled.
“Mom [Pam Roach] was right there in the stands,” he said. “She didn’t like that [rollover] one bit.”
This year Lexi, now an eighth-grader at Brewer Community School, switched to a yellow 1999 Volkswagen Beetle adorned with a pink No. 4, which she said, “is my lucky number.” She has advanced to the Ladies Division, where she races experienced women drivers.
According to Pete Roach, the Beetle “came off the street. Andy Saunders [of Ellsworth] took it apart and built it for his daughter, Whitney. She raced it last year.”
The Roaches acquired the Beetle this past April. Equipped with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, liquid-cooled VW engine and a five-speed manual transmission, the Beetle has a roll cage and an aluminum-racing seat.
Every time she climbs through the driver’s window, Lexi wears a fireproof racing suit and gloves, a helmet, a neck brace and a five-point racing harness. “There’s a lot of safety rules for the kids, which is good,” Pete Roach said.
Racing on Speedway 95’s Whacky Wednesdays, Lexi participated in 12-13 races this year. She has not yet won a race, but “she does her best,” Pete Roach said. “We’re both learning the Volkswagen thing through all the repairs and the damage we’ve had this year.”
This year the primary sponsor for Lexi’s car has been the Workstore, located at 2780 Broadway in Glenburn. “They’ve been very good to us,” Pete Roach said.
“I like racing,” Lexi said. “I enjoy it more than everything. Racing is my life; I want to go to NASCAR.”
“I like her racing,” Pete said. “Mom has a little doubt.”
Lexi “is so into it,” he commented. “She really wants to do it; as far as she can go with it, we will take her.”
The Roaches have taken No. 4 to several car shows this year, including shows held at Glidden Auto Body in Bangor, the Bangor Mall, Hampden Children’s Day, Speedway 95 and Bangor Waterfront Park. At each show Lexi fielded questions from adults and children. “They’re just amazed that she races a car,” Pete Roach said. Lexi also encouraged children to climb into the Beetle and sit behind the wheel.
At the joint Bangor Mall-Speedway 95 car show, Lexi “got best in her class, the people’s choice award and [the award for] best-dressed crew,” Pete Roach said. The crew included her parents, grandparents and 8-year-old brother Cody, who wants to race dirt bikes, his father said.