Quick Drive Racing – Every great racer has a memory of the first time being introduced to this great sport. I am sure your father was the one that ignited your “drive” to be in the seat. Can you tell us about this memory?
Melanie – To be completely honest, I was so young that I don’t remember the actual first time I was at the drag strip. My dad occasionally raced his Pro Street 72 Vega at Cayuga Dragway and I know I was there with him as an infant. Racing is in my blood, even my Grandma & Grandpa raced stock cars in the mid to late 50’s. When I was 10 my dad brought home a Jr. Drag Racing League Magazine from one of the NHRA races he was a spectator at and I was hooked right away. That fall we went and purchased my first Jr. Dragster.
Quick Drive Racing – You have stepped in to a class that's arguably one of the toughest classes to drive on the ¼ mile. What challenges have you encountered since making the change from Top Dragster to Pro-Mod in respects to how the car handles?
Melanie– When I first got behind the wheel of a Pro Mod, I was driving a C5 Corvette owned by Tommy Zarella that we were fortunate enough to use for my licensing passes and the first couple of races this season. One thing I had to get used to was being enclosed in the car, being behind a window and having the injector hat in the way of the Christmas tree. Having the engine in front of me rather than behind was a bit of a shock when I first let the button go on my first attempt down the track. It was like someone screaming in your face and it sure worked me up. I am
used to it now though and it is such an awesome
feeling when you leave the line. Hard to explain the
feeling you get. I am completely comfortable in my
new car as it was completely built around me. Being
at the shop every day helped with that, the guys
could call me out any time and have me try things
for fit and placement.
Tonawanda, NY – The term “Grab the bull by the horns” definitely applies to the Salemi camp. In just her second time out running the competitive PDRA Pro Boost category with her new G-Force Race Cars built 68 Firebird, Quick Drive client Melanie Salemi took home the hardware. But it’s not the first time she has been behind the wheel. Her driving career, like so many others began in a Jr. Dragster and then moved on up into a Top Dragster seat. She has the backing of many great crew members from her husband Jon Salemi, father Roger Simmons and a well known car builder Jim Salemi of G Force Race Cars. I am confident in saying that we are going to be seeing many great finishes in the future from this rookie door car pilot. It’s that time folks, let's learn a little more about Melanie Salemi and her MSR (Mike Stawicki Racing) backed team.
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At G-Force we strive to provide our customer's with the safest, quickest and fastest pro-mods. It is our mission to be an asset to any drag racer by having an endless list of drag racing accessories available.
Quick Drive Racing– A fun question to ask is this;
do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions you
can share with your fans?
Melanie – I don’t want to say that I have any
superstitions really; My team and I just have a
routine that we stick to from getting suited up to
lining the car up at the starting line. With that being said, if I do something during the weekend (like high five my stepson Evan before I get into the car) and that has a good outcome, I will continue to do the same thing throughout the race, each round. I have taught myself tobe able to adapt easily if our routine gets changed and so far it has been working in my favor. Staying calm has been key for me and being superstitious about certain things might make that hard.
Quick Drive Racing – They always say “there is nothing like home”. Can you tell us about your home track and your favorite memory at the facility?
Melanie– My home track is Grand Bend Motorplex in Grand Bend Ontario Canada. When I first envisioned myself driving Pro Modified I would think about how many times I had been down the track at Grand Bend and how comfortable I was racing there, knowing that I would be racing there fairly early into my Pro Mod career. From the staff/safety safari to the other racers there I know the place like the back of my hand and I just love racing there. It would be safe to say I spent most weekends of my teenage/early 20’s there. I can’t forget the first time I got to hang out with my now husband Jon, that happened there too. That place has a lot of great memories and we have made a lot of great friends there also.
Quick Drive Racing – The days of sexism in racing are long gone thanks to some of the great female drivers like Muldowney, Anderson and Troxel. However I am sure it does still exist from time to time.
What’s it like to beat a guy and what advice can
you give to the young female drivers of the
future that might be intimidated?
Melanie– Plain and simple you can’t be
intimidated. If you are doing what you love
nothing can come in the way of that. I have yet
to race another female in Pro Mod, we are far
and few between right now so when I win a
round, beating the boys has become just
normal. I haven’t encountered any negativity
from any of the male competitors yet, I think
they see how serious I am about my racing and
they look at me as just another driver.
1 on 1 with Pro Mod Driver Melanie Salemi and her MSR/G-Force Race Cars/Resolution Racing Services & TT Motorsports backed team
Quick Drive Racing– When that win light turned on to claim your first Pro-Boost victory I am sure you were full of emotions. How much of a confidence boost did you gain in your driving skills and the guys/gals that work hard for you?
Melanie – To be able to come out with a new car and do as well as we did, as quickly as we did, was a huge accomplishment for my team and I. It has a lot to do with the years of experience behind my team. I have them to thank for all of my success so far. Jim has been an excellent teacher and has really set me down the right path from the beginning of my Pro Modified career. He takes the time to go over things with me and answer any questions I have. It has certainly made my job easier. The countless hours my team spends on making sure that my car is prepared just right played a big role in getting the Pro Boost win in Rockingham and everyone’s hard work paid off just the way we wanted it to.
Quick Drive Racing– What’s next for your team? We only have a few months left in the 2015 race season, has the team made any plans for ending out this season and on to 2016? (Races, series ect)
Melanie – We just attended the Shakedown at The Summit where I made my first ¼ Mile passes. That was another learning curve for me as a driver; I had made many ¼ mile passes in my dragster but never in the door car. 227 MPH to 239 MPH is quite a jump when going from a hard tail dragster to a suspended door car. We made a plan and stuck to it, my first ¼ pass was a 5.88 which was a really awesome feeling! We are planning on attending a local Pro Mod shootout in a couple of weeks at Lancaster Dragway and then heading to the PDRA world finals in Virginia. If everything goes well after that we are hoping to head to Florida for the Citrus Nationals and the Snowbirds.
Quick Drive Racing – You have the backing of one of best race car builders in the country in G Force Race Cars. Can you tell us a little about the company and your role with them?
Melanie– G-Force Race Cars is owned
by my brother-in-law Jim Salemi, he has
been building door slammers for over 30
years and is a real artist when it comes to
producing some of the nicest Pro Mod’s I
have ever seen. It is a real family
atmosphere here at the shop from Jim and
his brothers to their children, our entire
family loves drag racing and we are
fortunate enough to be able to participate
in a sport we love. From my stepchildren
and their Jr. Dragsters, Jim’s son Lucas
who races an asphalt snowmobile, my
other brother in law Joe and nephew
Angelo, we all race and play an active role
in the business here at G-Force. Most of us spend more time at the shop than we do at home. I run the office from day to day and even when I am on the road I am trying to keep things under control to help make things easier on Jim so he can focus on managing things out in the shop. It’s not an easy task at times working with family but we have a really great understanding that work stays at work and even if we have issues that need to be dealt with from the shop, once we leave it isn’t unusual for us to meet up for dinners or to attend family functions and have a great time together without the stress of the shop following us. It is a really unique situation and I don’t think that any of us would change a thing about it.
Quick Drive Racing – From the driver’s seat, what differences have you seen in running a Quick Drive unit versus any other product or clutch you have driven in the past.
Melanie – I have only ever used a Quick Drive in the Pro Mod car so I don’t really have any comparison. In the dragster I used a powerglide transmission and that was pretty straight forward. Again I had Jim explain and show me how the Quick Drive worked so I had a full understanding of what happens when I’m in the car following my routine. When I am taught what is going on inside parts it makes it easier for me as a driver to know why I have to do certain things in the car.