Anyone looking closely when the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown competitors are pulling up into the staging lanes at an NHRA race will see that Lindsay Wheelock isn’t alone in her Dodge Challenger Drag Pak.
For her six-year-old son and daughters, 9 and 4, rumbling toward the starting line and a grandstand full of fans isn’t all that much different than a quick zip through the McDonald’s drive-through at home at Lafayette, Ind. – except she shoos them out of the car when they get there, and they don’t get a Happy Meal.
“Everybody else is like, ‘Oh, I bet these kids think it’s so cool,’” Wheelock said. “Like, no, they have no idea. This is normal for them. They get to ride in a 2,000-horsepower vehicle, and they’re worried about when their next snack is, you know?”
And that’s what makes Wheelock, a third-year Factory Stock Showdown racer, so popular. She and husband Dustin and their children represent the core of the sport: grassroots drag racing, working on their own cars, and having serious fun, family-style. They’re ordinary, heart-of-America folks with an uncommon passion for drag racing – who are helping the sport grow.
“I feel like our family is very relatable,” Lindsay Wheelock said. “We are not the first family to come out here and do this – I get that. But I don’t know very many people that are willing to share that side of it. And I’m a very open and honest person. So, I love to overshare – that’s probably one of my biggest downfalls is I give too much information that people don’t necessarily want to know. Well, I think I’m trying to use that to my advantage, where it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, Lindsay is willing to talk to us.’ I want to be approachable.
“My greatest feedback that’s come from all this, the No. 1 question I get asked is, ‘How do I get started?’ And that tells me that I’m inspiring them to do it…because they know I knew nothing, and they know nothing – yet. They want to try it. And they feel comfortable enough to come ask me that know that I’m going to give ’em advice.”
I’m living a dream that I didn’t even know I had. I tell people that all the time. How cool is that? I don’t know how many people can say they had a dream and didn’t even know it.
And that’s the beauty of Lindsay Wheelock. The 34-year-old full-time dental hygienist, homeschooler, and race-team manager isn’t kidding that she knew nothing when she started out behind the wheel in 2020. Moreover, she really didn’t have a desire to be a race car driver, let alone one competing with the likes of decorated veterans such as Mark Pawuk, David Barton, Leah Pruett, and Ray Skillman, a Hoosier auto dealer like her father, Mike Alsop.
Her husband, she said, “has raced forever. And I’ve always loved it. I love supporting him and going and watching. Never once — I’ll be honest — never once did I ever think that it would be me in the driver’s seat. I just loved being his wife and helping him and trying to support him and go to all this stuff. I never wanted to miss a race. But I never once thought I’d be in the driver’s seat.
“I had made comments several times about my dad [having] a Dodge Demon. And I’m like, ‘I can’t believe none of you has driven that yet. I love that car so much.’ I just kept making those comments like, ‘Some of you need to take it out.’ About a week after I had given them a really hard time about that, he said, ‘Hey, you need to check your email.’ I did and it said, ‘Congrats, Lindsay, you’re signed up for the Dodge Hemi Shootout (NMCA program).’ Dodge will offer a free signup to Dodge owners. And I just panicked, like, ‘Holy crap. What did you do?’
Dustin told her, “I could just tell the way you were talking about it and you ask questions and they’re intelligent and it makes me think that you’re really interested. Look, I know you think you don’t want to race. Try it once. You don’t like it, you never have to get in again.”
She said, “And so I want to please him, right? I was terrified, but I’m like, ‘I’ll do it once for him.’ I’d do anything for him. So I tried it, and I loved it! Oh my gosh, so much fun! So then, I’m like, ‘Hey, can I do this all the time?’
“He’s like, ‘I just I could tell,’ and I thought that was so cool,” Lindsay said, “because I’m like, I’m living a dream that I didn’t even know I had. I tell people that all the time. How cool is that? I don’t know how many people can say they had a dream and didn’t even know it. But your partner believes in you that much. He is such a rock-solid supporter and cheerleader. It’s insane. He builds me up all the time. So it’s been really cool.”
But Dustin Wheelock didn’t coddle his wife. He told her that if she is going to race, she would have to build her car from front to back, and she said, “He didn’t show too much mercy.”
Even she laughs at her first task in the garage. Dustin, a technician at her father’s dealership, handed her a tool and instructed her to remove the valve covers. Her reaction was to reply, “All right. What’s a valve cover?”
She said unashamedly, “I’m not a pro. I hadn’t touched a wrench my entire life. The first time I ever picked up a wrench was in 2020. I’m not too proud. I’ve been honest with everybody: in the beginning, I was like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just trying.’ So he’d show me. And then I’d start. He’d just let me suffer. And it would take me probably 20 times as long as it would take him, but he let me simmer in that pain and suffering to figure it out.”
She realized she never would learn anything if he did all the work for her – and she wanted to become as accomplished at the toolbox as she did behind the wheel.
“Here’s the thing, I mean with marriage, right? That’s his life. He loves drag racing. He loves cars. That’s all this dude wants to talk about. And I want to have conversation with him, and I don’t want to be unintelligent. I want to know what he’s talking about. So I’m super interested,” Wheelock said. “Before I die, I would love to be at the caliber that he is as a mechanic. I don’t know if that’ll ever happen, but I want to be good at it. So I’m all ears when he’s talking. And it’s been a lot of fun. I’m getting there. I feel really knowledgeable. I’m by no means at the level that he’s at. But I’m at least a help, you know?”
She said she has such respect for his skill level – and she’s grateful that he hasn’t minded sharing his expertise with her.
“I’m just so thankful that he’s taking the time to show me that stuff. First of all, not many spouses would be cool with their wives coming in and taking the spotlight and racing alongside you and possibly even making you look bad by being a better driver. And then not only that, but then taking the time when he’s a pro, quite literally a pro. He is one of the best mechanics in the world, hands-down. I know I’m biased, but I’d line him up against any other mechanic. He’s so good at what he does. And he’s going to stop what he’s doing when it would be just as easy for him to just do it himself, if not easier, to help me. It’s just been cool,” Wheelock said.
Dustin Wheelock, who raced a Pontiac Firebird and a couple of Toyota Supras in years past, drives the COPO Camaro they started with. Now he also is testing and tweaking Jason Lee’s NMCA Extreme Street Ford Mustang they recently have added to the garage, thanks to financial support from Alsop Chevrolet Buick, VP Racing Fuels, Covered Dogs, Hoosier Tire, and E3 Spark Plugs.
…you could take your minivan, for Pete’s sake, take it to a Wild Wednesday, a test-’n’-tune. It’s really cheap and open to whoever. Just try it. It doesn’t have to be a crazy-fast car.
“We have two COPOs now, and I drive the grey COPO and the Drag Pak” at NMCA events, Lindsay said. “Because we’re a one man show, on a budget, I’ll drive whichever one is behaving at the time, whichever one’s going to provide us a greater chance of winning.”
The Factory Stock Showdown class has just eight races in 2022, and Wheelock said that’s a relief, “because it’s very expensive. It’s as expensive as Pro Stock, so we’ve been told. It’s not considered a pro class, and yet it very much is treated like one.” She said the learning curve has been steep: “These are tough to figure out.”
However, what has struck her as remarkable is just how simple it is for anyone with a desire to become involved with drag racing.
“I would have never known I didn’t know is that easy. I mean, you could take your minivan, for Pete’s sake, take it to a Wild Wednesday, a test-’n’-tune. It’s really cheap and open to whoever. Just try it,” Wheelock said. “It doesn’t have to be a crazy-fast car. That’s what I’ve been telling people, and maybe others would disagree, but I don’t think there’s much to it. You can walk into any dealership – you can walk into my dad’s dealership, buy yourself a stock car and you can come out and have a blast drag racing that thing. Cars are powerful nowadays. You can buy in with a lot of horsepower.
“That’s ultimately why I started social media for the team, was to bring it all back to the dealership. We use this as marketing – not only to have fun and make memories, but to bring revenue and share that same customer service that we have here at the track with our customers in the dealership. It’s a cycle,” she said.
Wheelock’s best outing this season so far came in June at Bristol, where she qualified ninth and came within .0157 seconds, or about four feet, of defeating David Janac. Her next Factory Stock Showdown appearance will be this Labor Day weekend during the Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis. Events in September at Reading, Pa., and October at Ennis, Texas, will complete her third year.