Earning her stripes

Templeton’s Maddi Gordon is one of the best drag racers in division 7

TEMPLETON — There are families that represent royalty in certain sports. In football, it is the Manning’s, whose father, Archie, played for the New Orleans Saints before his son’s Peyton and Eli began running the NFL one Papa John’s Pizza commercial at a time. In tennis, it is the Williams sisters of Venus and Serena who have combined for 30 grand slam titles and the next royal sports family might reside right here in Templeton, the Gordon’s. While Gordon is a famous name in racing, this family doesn’t race in a circle, they go in a straight line as fast as possible, the Gordon’s are a family of drag racers.

Papa Mike and father Doug Gordon have been a professional drag racers for more than 27 years and have passed their love of the sports down to their two daughters, Maddi and Maci. Both daughters are tremendous racers and already have championships under their belt.

The girls race in the National Hot Rod Associate Summit Jr. Drag Racing league which offers kids ages 5-17 a chance to race half-scale dragsters in a controlled environment throughout the United States and Canada.

The cars that the girls drive are half-scale versions of Top Fuel Dragsters that use a 5-horsepower, single-cylinder engine that allows the racers to go as fast as 85 mph in 7.90 seconds in an eighth-mile.

“I’ve grown up around the racetrack,” Maddi said. “My first race was when I was 7 days old, I went to my dad’s race. I have always just loved working on his car and being at the racetrack.”

Maddi, who is currently a freshman at Templeton High School, has always been a racer and a grease monkey at heart. As a child, Maddi competed in gymnastics until she faced some injury problems breaking her collar bone twice. Naturally, after two devastating injuries, she turned to something less dangerous, like driving a car nearly 100 mph.

“My mom said I can’t do that [gymnasitics] anymore,” Maddi said. “But I always wanted to drive a race car so I begged my dad to get me one and we finally figured it out.”

At the age of 9, she had her first car and after only three races she had her first win in the division. Maci, the youngest girl in the family, also began driving and started accumulating wins of her own.

The reign of the Gordon’s began in 2015 when Maci won the Division 7 championship for the 6-9 age group. The following year, Maddi took home the crown in the 10-12 year old group.

Maddi struggled in the year following her first championship saying, ”I got too confident,  people wouldn’t know that because I don’t brag, but in my head, I just got a little too confident and that kind of messed with me.”

After a down year in 2017, Maddi bounced back in 2018 and nearly claimed her second title just to barely lose in the final and ended up taking second place.

However, the winning and glory are simply symptoms of the process. The Gordon’s are a tight-knit family and spend every weekend together in the shop working on their cars.

“Every Saturday morning we get up at 6:45,” Maddi said. “My friends even know that I can’t stay late on Friday night’s because I get up so early on Saturdays,” she explained with a smile on her face. The Saturday mornings aren’t a chore like a morning workout that most athletes lament in their respective sports, they are a source of knowledge and chance to learn from generations of success.

“My poppa always makes a list,” Maddi explains. “And he writes ‘girls’ next to the things we do because we can’t do all of it because we don’t know how to do all of it. But every Saturday we learn something new, we always come back knowing more about the car or the trailer or another tool and I feel that me and my sister are very educated on cars, race cars and regular cars.”

While Maddi spends her weekends worrying about going lightspeed she still can’t outrun traditional high school problems like deciding which sport to dedicate herself too.

“I do volleyball and softball,” Maddi said. “But like my dad tells me, ‘you can’t be good at everything, you can be OK at everything but you aren’t going to be good at everything,’ he told me I should pick one.”

Doug did not tell her which one to pick, just that she needed to pick one if greatness was the goal and as a surprise to no one she responded, “I try extra hard at softball and volleyball to be the best but I do know that I can’t be the best at everything and I want to be the best at racing.”

Maddi has now refocused her sights on another championship in 2019 and took her first steps toward that two weekends ago in Irwindale where she won one of the first two races of the 10-race season.

Even though she started .003 of a second early in her second race in Irwindale, Maddi still leads in points with the next race coming Feb. 16-17 in Phoenix.


© 2019-Paso Robles Press

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