On the strength of opening 2016 with a win in Arizona earlier this winter, Alamo teen drag racer Leigha Miller sits in first place atop her age group in the Pacific division of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Jr. Drag Racing League.
"My goal for the year of racing is to win the Division 7 title of 2016," Miller, 13, said in an email interview last week.
A seventh-grader at Stone Valley Middle School, Miller reaches speeds of around 85 mph during a typical race of about 7.9 seconds at a distance of one-eighth of a mile -- all while sitting three inches above the ground in her dragster, her father Dean pointed out.
She's been racing dragsters since she was 9, saying she first became interested the sport when her older sister started drag racing.
"I was her crew chief. I would run around with ear plugs in my ears and squirt her with water in her car when she got hot," Miller recalled.
Now, Miller is starring in the 13-14 years old class of the NHRA junior league's Division 7, which covers the Western United States.
"Some things that I enjoy at the track are meeting new friends and having water balloon fights and golf cart races them, as well as winning trophies that are taller than me," Miller said.
Miller said she trains on the weekends at her home track in Sacramento, and when it's time for races, she typically rides with her dad as he drives the 72-foot rig transporting her dragster.
"While driving, I like to jam out to music and play games with my dad," she said of the long rides to races.
Safety is also a vital focus for junior league officials, Dean Miller said, noting, "Leigha, by rule, wears a fire suit, fire-rated helmet, fire-rated neck collar, fire-rated gloves and arm restraints that don't allow her hands to reach above her chin in the event of a rollover."
The Alamo girl has eight races left in the season, including stops in Sacramento, San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Western Conference Finals in Tulsa, Okla.
While her short-term goal is to win a division title this year, Miller said drag racing isn't part of her long-range plans.
"I do not plan on continuing my racing career into being professional," she added. "When I grow up, I would like to become an interior fashion designer or an attorney."