When Kayleigh Hill-Beakley was 11 years old, her parents had a little extra cash after selling a car and gave their daughter a choice: Disneyland or race car.
“I said race car pretty quick,” says Hill-Beakley, whose parents, Lisa and Steve, have both raced off-and-on throughout her life. “We would always go up to the racetrack, and the people you meet there become family. I was always pretty comfortable in that environment, loved cars and being around them, and I would listen to my parents talk about racing. It always sounded fun, and when I finally went down the racetrack for the first time in my little 50 mph Jr. Dragster, I was so excited. I wanted to turn around and do it again immediately.”
As a Jr. racer, the young woman enjoyed a fair amount of success, including winning the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod at Bandimere Speedway in Jr. Dragster on the same day her mom won in the King Street class.
“That was a dream come true,” she says. “It was always something we had talked about as a family, how cool would it be to pull together a win on the same day. It’s hard enough for just one driver to win, but for us to be able to do it together was huge.”
Hill-Beakley called Bandimere Speedway home, and she came up from Jr. Dragsters to race in the local Pro E.T. series. She found enjoyment in all aspects of racing, but something was tugging on her heart.
“The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to be in the NHRA world and be a professional drag racer,” she says. “It was my goal for a long time, and there was a 1988 Mustang online that I looked at all the time, but we already had a race car. I wasn’t going to ask my parents to sell that one and buy another, but we all fell in love with it. We ended up buying it, and that started my NHRA journey.”
Hill-Beakley raced Stock Eliminator amongst some of the best in the country, and as her dreams grew larger, so did her opportunities. She learned about the JCM Racing driver development program – created by Joe and Cathi Maynard – that offers young drivers the opportunity to grow their driving skills and get a firm grasp on the inner workings of the industry while working toward a career competing in NHRA’s professional ranks. She decided to reach out and was selected, along with Wyatt Wagner in Super Stock and Waylon Bennett in the Jr. Drag Racing League, to round out the program this past year.
“It’s been a life-changing opportunity,” says Hill-Beakley, who now races Super Comp with her vision set on Top Fuel. She also received her Advanced E.T. license this season. “The program has given me access to all of these super-smart people – Joe Maynard on the business side of things; Tony Schumacher, who I was able to call and chat with in my rookie season in Super Comp; Tim Wilkerson took one of my broken motors to his shop and rebuilt it.
“There is a whole lot to this program, so much support and so many contacts and resources,” she continues. “The best part of the JCM program is how excited people are about sportsman racing. You don’t usually see people this big working with sportsman drivers, and to see so many people get excited for a little Super Comp racer has been really nice.”