MINOOKA — Danielle Dobczyk of Minooka has always loved racing. It’s a love she shares with her father, Bob Dobczyk.
If Danielle had her way, she would have been in the driver’s seat of a dragster years ago, but that seemed a bit too dangerous even for this racing family.
“I wanted to get into junior dragsters, but dad wouldn’t let me,” Danielle said.
This summer, Danielle made her rookie run in a Saturn in the Pure Stock 4-Cylinder class at Grundy County Speedway.
She’d watched her cousin Dominick Terona race in the same class at Grundy County Speedway. She and her dad helped Terona with his car at quite a few races last season.
“We would go to every race and I wanted to get into it,” she said.
The Southern Illinois University freshman had no prior racing experience before the season began.
Everything she learned has been from watching NHRA drag races and stock cars with her dad since she was “just a little squirt,” said Bob, who also does all the maintenance on Danielle’s vehicle.
The first day out on the track at Grundy she had just 10 minutes to warm up her tires and get a feel for the asphalt track. She also had a little fatherly advice to go on.
“I told her to go fast and turn left,” said Bob.
Terona, who she now competes against, gave her many tips as well.
“I was so nervous and excited,” she said. “I just wanted to get out and drive.”
While Danielle didn’t have any prior experience, she did have courage and competition running through her veins. Going 80 miles per hour on the straight away on the 1/3-mile track didn’t faze her. As more experienced drivers came up from behind and passed, she didn’t get rattled. She even passed a few cars herself.
Danielle came in third in the first heat race she ever ran, and that’s all it took to get her hooked on driving.
“I thought, ‘this is what I want to do,’” she said. “There was more motivation, wanting that win.”
Although she’s watched many races and talked racing all her life, she was surprised at how driving actually felt.
“It’s a lot different than I thought,” she said. “It’s pretty competitive.”
Danielle has also had a second-place finish in a feature race at Grundy County this year. And just a few weeks ago she had her first ever, first-place finish in a heat race.
She lucked out and started in the front row. The cars behind her were too tight and no one could catch up to her. She knew it was going to be her race that night.
“It was awesome,” she said.
As of last week, Danielle was in third place in points and not too far from second place, she said.
From her dad’s point of view, Danielle is doing remarkably well.
“We’ve got the speed down, now we just have to work on going around the corners,” said Bob.
While the race season is by no means over with, Danielle will be heading to SIU later this month to study aviation.
“I always liked flying stuff,” she said.
But she intends to be back behind the wheel on Friday nights to finish out the season. Beyond that, she would love to keep racing over the summers.
“I am hoping each summer I will continue with this,” she said.
“Every time you go out there you learn something new and you get a little better every time.”