- Associated Press - Sunday, July 27, 2014

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) - Rose Wehr feels the need for speed.

Thanks to the nonprofit program Ford and Mustang Racing for Kids, she’s living her dream of racing down a dragway and reaching speeds of 100 mph in her Mustang.

“I’ve just always loved them,” Wehr said about drag racing cars. “The way they look, the way they sound, how fast they go.”

Wehr, a 2006 Pinckney Community High School graduate, grew up listening to her father telling stories about his drag racing days. Since she was 13, she constantly peppered him with questions about “how it felt, what it was like, how fun it was.”

Although she’s thrilled to be racing her Mustang, the 26-year-old Wehr said she enjoyed the time she spent with her family putting together the car. Starting off with a salvaged rusty frame, Wehr, her father, Dan Glover, and her brother, Robert Glover, turned the car into a sleek, green-and-white race car. Her sister, Peyton Burkhart, also helped.

On July 9, Wehr test drove her 1979 Mustang at Milan Dragway.

“It was a lot of fun,” Wehr said. “It gave me a chance to really work with my dad and brother to put it all together.”

She said it was a long process, “frustrating but fun.” They assembled the car in six months, completing it in May.

“I’m excited for her,” Putnam Township resident Dan Glover said after watching her test drive the car at Milan. “And absolutely proud.”

“I get an adrenaline rush each time I see her out there,” he said.

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Ford and Mustang Racing for Kids provides participants with all the parts to assemble a racing car. The group is dedicated to helping kids race in a safe, legal way and providing them a chance to have fun.

Steve Hoffman said he started the program to share his passion for drag racing. The Livonia man raced nitro funny cars for 30 years.

He launched the program in 2006 in Livonia and recently expanded the program to Livingston County.

He said he often helps teenagers who are faced with personal struggles; sometimes, the teenagers have dropped out of school.

“You go back to school, I’ll help you,” he said.

He said he also wants to teach a new generation of young people how to work on cars. He said many teenagers prefer video games over race cars.

“It’s dying,” he said about interest in cars and drag racing. The only way it’s going to come back, he said, is for somebody to “start showing these people how to do this . and that’s why I did it.”

He said the program’s participants have ranged in age from 16 to 30. He said all the parts for the cars are donated.

His two brothers also help with the program.

Brother Don Hoffman, a Brighton resident, said he enjoys giving advice to teenagers and spending time with his family as part of the effort.

“To a young girl, the most important thing they’ve got going is their education,” Don Hoffman said. “That’s their power in life.”

He’s also “thrilled to death” to see the new members are mostly young women.

“It’s funny that they actually kick the boys’ butts” when it comes to racing, he said.

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Steve Hoffman said the newest crop of participants in the racing program is young women, and that’s fine with him. He said the girls are picking up the interest in the sport and doing fine.

“This one here is amazing,” he said about Wehr. “She can carry all the parts, knows what she’s got to do on the car, how it’s got to be done, and has only been doing it for six months.”

Wehr, who works in accessory sales at Wilson Marine, said she feels comfortable racing cars even though the sport has been dominated by men.

“I never thought too much about it because when you’re out there, it’s just you and your car,” she said.

When she races against a guy and beats him, she said, “That’s even better.”

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Wehr said she was a little nervous after her first race, but the “butterflies” soon left.

“I’m doing 100 mph in the quarter-mile,” she said.

She also said she’s far from taking her foot off the pedal.

“I’m just getting started,” she said.

“I definitely see myself staying with it,” Wehr said. “I love this. It’s so much fun. I get to work with kids and show kids how to really love this sport too.”

To learn more about Ford and Mustang Racing for Kids, visit the group on its Facebook page.

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Information from: Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, http://www.livingstondaily.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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