It could be a toss-up whether Megan Meyer would prefer a new Racepak data recorder unit or a trip to Top Alcohol Dragster veteran David Brounkowski’s 2,800-acre Run-N-Hide Ranch in the Texas Hill Country.
Meyer, the NHRA’s Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Central Regional Top Alcohol Dragster champion, who finished third in the national standings behind Northwestern aces Joey Severance and Shawn Cowie, is an avid bow hunter who stalks mostly deer and turkeys.
“This year was the first year I got serious about hunting,” she said. “I got my first bow a couple of years ago, and it was just doing archery for fun. I did a little bit when I was in 4-H and going to summer camp and all that stuff. With my dad and his family coming from a farming background, my uncles, they always go hunting every year. My sister and I have gone with them before. I don’t hunt with guns. I’ve never been big into guns. I didn’t grow up around it. My dad taught us how to fish, but he has never been a big hunter. So when we’d go and spend time with our aunts and uncles, that’s how we learned. With my boyfriend, we just try to live a healthy lifestyle: field to table and knowing where our meat comes from. We had ham for Thanksgiving. But hog hunting is on my list of things to do.”
My dad, when I told him, ‘I want to be a race car driver, and I’m going to try to do it,’ he was like, ‘No, you’re not going to be a race car driver’ – like ‘just realize it’s too hard. – Julie Nataas
Meyer has shared hunting stories with Steve Torrence, the reigning Top Fuel champion and 2005 Top Alcohol Dragster titlist who makes annual pilgrimages to the 5,000-acre reserve at historic Callaghan Ranch, near Laredo, Texas, pursuing feral hogs, javelinas, and whitetail deer in the thick brushland. She is an adventurous eater, having tasted “squirrel, turtle, and any type of bird.”
She can clean a fish. And it’s not unusual for her to head to a drag race early or build in time afterward to go fishing. “I love fishing. That’s my favorite thing to do,” she said, almost more passionately than reliving her 2018 national-event victories at Norwalk, Ohio, and both the spring and fall visits to Charlotte, N.C. – or her regional triumphs at Tulsa and Great Bend, Kansas. She reels in catfish and bass and especially loves trout fishing in Colorado when time permits.
“My dad grew up on a turkey farm, and he wanted to get away from the farming lifestyle as much as possible, whereas I’m trying to get into it,” Meyer said. “I’d love to have some chickens and some little goats hopping around.”
Randy Meyer might not have been keen on hunting. But the multi-time TAD winner and championship driver-tuner-team owner taught drag-racing fundamentals to his daughters, Megan and Rachel. Up-and-comers Justin Ashley and Matt Sackman joined the Meyer lineage that includes Alan Bradshaw, Gary Ormsby Jr., and Bill Litton who were a part of 80 victories and 13 championships.
Now, a determined young Norwegian who also is a second-generation racer, has brought a 1-2 punch to the renowned team from Kansas. Julie Nataas, daughter of European/FIA and NHRA Top Fuel racer Thomas Nataas, finished ninth in the national standings this season. She capped her class debut with a runner-up finish to class champion Severance Nov. 11 at the NHRA Finals at Pomona, California.
Nataas didn’t win any Wally trophies, but she was runner-up also at the Las Vegas four-wide race in the spring and at the Chicago regional. And remarkably, in 11 appearances, she exited in the first round only once, in her TAD premiere at the NHRA season opener at Pomona.
The two strong Top Alcohol Dragster contenders are striking blondes and college-educated racers with media savvy and racing fathers. But they’re distinctly different, starting with Nataas’ reluctance to embrace bow hunting and foraging for her dinner. She politely confessed that her NGK Spark Plug-sponsored teammate’s interest in hunting hasn’t rubbed off on her.
“Uhhh . . . Not really,” Nataas said. “But I am jealous about the part that she gets all her meat fresh, like she knows where it’s coming from.” That’s as close as it gets to them having similar personalities.
Nataas and Meyer have different trajectories in drag racing. Three words – collectively – in response to the question whether they have Top Fuel aspirations told it all. Meyer immediately replied, “No.” In a fraction of a second, Nataas said, “I have.”
Doing A/Fuel is what I’ve always wanted to do, because that’s what my dad did and I always just wanted to do what he did. So now I’m doing it, and I’m happy with it. We’re very competitive, and we always do great every race we go to. So I don’t see a reason to leave. – Megan Meyer
Nataas said, “Eventually, some day.”
She has raced in Jr. Dragster, Super Comp, Top Dragster, go-karts, and Formula cars.
“I’m not very good at go-karts,” Meyer said.
“It requires a lot of training. I was at the racetrack after school three to four times a week. And then on the weekends we raced. You have to race all the time to be the best,” Nataas said. “I did that for four years, then I stepped up to Formula Basic – that’s the smallest Formula car you can get into – for two years. But it was all just too much. We’d go Formula cars and drag racing. But my heart has always been with drag racing.”
Even so, she had to convince her father she was serious.
“My dad, when I told him, ‘I want to be a race car driver, and I’m going to try to do it,’ he was like, ‘No, you’re not going to be a race car driver’ – like ‘just realize it’s too hard. You’re not going to get there.’ I was like, ‘well, I’m going to get my marketing and business degree, and I’ll go do it,’” Nataas said. “I think I’ve had him realize I want this by now. So now he’s like, ‘OK. If you can get sponsors, you’ll make it. You’ll be fine.’ So he never pushed me to do anything. I’m the one who wanted it.”
Her first big step was to move to Santa Barbara, California, where she earned a degree from Antioch University in business and marketing. She said she went “here for school, but in the back of my mind, I was like, ‘well, if I’m over here, there’s a bigger chance of me getting to go racing here. I ended up staying here and racing.” She said Swedish Funny Car racer Jonnie Lindberg helped her, introducing her to Randy Meyer and vouching for her commitment.
However, Megan Meyer – a graphic design major whose background is eight years in Jr. Dragster and six in Super Comp – said she’s happy right where she is.
“I am. Doing A/Fuel is what I’ve always wanted to do, because that’s what my dad did and I always just wanted to do what he did. So now I’m doing it, and I’m happy with it. We’re very competitive, and we always do great every race we go to. So I don’t see a reason to leave.”
Meyer said, “My dad never really said we had to race or that’s what he wanted us to do. It’s just if we wanted to do it, he’d give us the right tools and a car to drive and that way if it was something we wanted to do, we had to earn it. It’s always something I wanted to do. Same for my sister. She really enjoys working on the cars. She’s a mechanical engineer. She likes that side of racing. She graduated [from college] two years ago, so she works full-time as an engineer for [global engineering giant] Leggett and Platt in the automotive department. My dad started [drag racing] in the ‘70s, and so I grew up watching him race. My uncle also drag raced . . . and his kids. My cousins are a little bit older than me, so I got to watch them before I got the chance to drive. It’s always been in our family.”
My dad never really said we had to race or that’s what he wanted us to do. It’s just if we wanted to do it, he’d give us the right tools and a car to drive and that way if it was something we wanted to do, we had to earn it. – Megan Meyer
Sportsman racing is a curious balance between those who simply are having fun and those who earnestly are developing their skills toward a pro career. Navigating that can be a tricky proposition.
“It can be,” Meyer said. “I noticed that when I turned 16, when other kids turned 16, a lot got away from racing. They had other sports and other stuff they were into. But Rachel and I were cheerleaders from elementary school through high school. So that was the only sport that we could do outside of racing, because of the schedule with my parents racing, too. It was hard. There were a lot of times we were on our own. We’d have to drive the truck and trailer by ourselves and have someone else’s parents start our cars because our dad was doing his own thing. It made us really appreciate it and learn how to work on the cars and know how everything operates and do it on our own.”
Nataas was different from her peers in Norway. “I don’t think a lot of the kids there look at themselves as race car drivers when they grow up, because over there, it’s just a hobby. So I think they’re all just having fun. They’re doing it because they love it. And yes, of course, they want to be competitive and win championships and all that. It’s just not the same thing. It’s more for the fun part over there.” Unlike her competitors there, she said she recognized the opportunity as a stepping stone to more rewarding racing endeavors.
Today, despite their separate ambitions, Meyer and Nataas, at least for now, make an outstanding team.
“I think our driving styles are very similar, whereas with some other drivers they haven’t been as consistent with their routine. With Julie, we’ve been able to tune the car the same and not have to make very many changes in the tune-up based on the driver. So she’s doing a great job.”
How long the tandem will race together is unknown. What’s certain is they’re going to make some noise in 2019.