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Cyndee Schwartz is a wife, mother, grandmother
and role model with a passion for drag racing. I
caught up with her to find out all about Cyndee and
her involvement in the sport...
How and when did you get involved in drag
I've have been into cars all my life. It started
when I was 8 or 9 years old and my dad called me
out to the garage to help him work on his Jeep. I
helped him bleed the brakes (I hated pumping the
brake pedal, it was tedious), and I helped him with
the front end alignments. When I got a little
older, we started attending and competing in off
road competitions like sand drags, hill climbs and
obstacle courses. That got me hooked on the racing
What pushed me over the edge, and made me want
to drag race was a friend and co-worker that shared
my love of cars and everything "engine". He talked
my husband and I into going with him to the Funny
Car Fever event at Sacramento Raceway, and after
that, I was hooked.
I entered my first drag race January 1, 2000 -
What were some of the difficulties you faced
in getting into the sport?
Probably the toughest thing for me was fear of
the unknown, and fear of doing something "stupid".
I knew I wanted to compete, but the other drivers
seemed to be so much more talented, professional,
relaxed, experienced... they scared me!
Another problem was funding. Starting out, you
have no record of accomplishments, and really no
way of showing your worth. You have to finance your
own expenses and get some experience on the track.
Lastly, I needed something to race. Of course,
this is a given, and when you have no money, it can
be a huge obstacle, right?
How did you overcome them?
I made a decision that I had to start somewhere.
In drag racing, you can start at the local level
with bracket racing. Bracket racing has classes
that range from street legal cars to pro level
cars. In this type of racing the driver determines
what the elapsed time (ET) is for the vehicle in
the quarter mile, and writes that time on the
window. When the vehicles are paired up at the
starting line, the starting lights are staggered
based on the ETs the drivers have written on the
windows. So if a 14 second car races an 11 second
car, the 11 second car's starting light doesn't go
on until 3 seconds after the 14 second car leaves.
I knew that our local track, Sacramento Raceway,
had a big bracket race every New Year's Day. Since
I didn't have a "race car" at the time, I decided
as a New Year's resolution I would go race the
street legal class on New Year's Day. This solved
the problem of not having something to race since I
could race my regular car, and it solved the
funding problem since entry fees are minimal, and
parts normally don't break at this level. But, it
didn't solve the fear problem.
On January 1, 2000, at my very first drag race
as a driver, I did what I normally do when I'm
scared. I started talking to anybody and everybody
that would listen, and asking question after
question. There were a couple of drivers in
particular that were happy to answer my questions,
and throughout the day kept an eye on me. When I
was in the staging lanes, they offered advice on
how to "watch the lights" and how to pay attention
to the track conditions. They also kept me informed
as to what was going on when other classes were
running. Without them I would've been entirely
How have you progressed since then?
Well, so far I have 5 career wins, 9 final
rounds, and 1 semi-final. Because I love the
adrenaline rush of racing, I'm always trying to
push the envelope in regards to speed.
Unfortunately, that has cut into my focus in
regards to the finesse that is required in bracket
racing, so I have less wins than what I would've
liked at this point in the game.
In the past 9 years, I have gone from racing a
slow 4-cylinder street car, to building and racing
a modified S10 pickup. In 2006, I moved up to the
Pro class, and have raced in the Super Pro class as
I've gotten over many of the initial fears I had
due to the great friendships I've developed with
other racers at the track. They are a second family
to me, and we stay in touch often during the
Financing is a huge challenge as now I'm paying
higher entry fees, and parts seem to break a bit
more often. The faster you go, the more it
Tell me a bit about the race truck...
My S10 pickup is my pride and joy. There are
nicer and faster trucks out there, but this baby
was built by my hands, and I'm really skittish
about letting anyone else around it to work on it.
I have about three close friends that I let into
the engine compartment... and that's only when I'm
totally at a loss, or I'm letting them show me how
to do something.
Here are some specs on the truck:
- Body style: 1985 S10 Pickup
- Engine: Chevrolet small block 357 cu v8
- Transmission: Powerglide
- Fuel: Alcohol
This is a new setup for me. Up until last year,
I ran a blown 266 cu Chevrolet v6 in the S10 that
ran on C16 race fuel. About mid year, in the
quarter finals of a race, I put a connecting rod
through the block which of course tore the engine
apart. At the time, the truck was only certified to
run 11.0 seconds or slower in the quarter mile. My
fastest official ET with the v6 motor was 11.03
seconds. I had two unofficial passes at 10.98 which
is very, very rare in a v6.
I moved to a v8 engine due to the desire to run
in the Pro Gas and Super Street classes without
overstressing the engine. Since the truck is only
certified to run 10.0 seconds or slower at this
point, I have to leave the blower off. With the
blower on, it would run in the low 9.0 second
What is your PB elapsed time? PB reaction
My personal best elapsed time with the v6 engine
during a race was 11.03 seconds in the quarter
mile. With the v8 engine, during test runs, I've
hit 10.69 but it wasn't a full throttle pass.
My personal best reaction time during a race was
.001 (one thousandth of a second). I've had perfect
reaction times (.000) during time trials, but what
matters is what happens during an elimination
What is your proudest achievement on
Winning and doing well on a race day is really
cool, but to be honest, my proudest achievement at
the track is when other racers, and race fans,
bring someone over to meet me because they've never
met a woman who not only races, but built her
engine, transmission, and put it all together in a
pretty awesome little truck. There are hundreds of
women out there who drag race in all different
classes. But there are only a few that built what
they are racing, and do all the engine and
transmission work. I've also had guys in their 20's
bring their girlfriends by to meet me. This is a
bit funny, because I always wonder what they are
trying to accomplish by that...
How often do you race?
I was racing usually twice a month during the
season, which runs from February to August for
bracket racing. There are also additional races
that occur in pre-season and post-season, so if
weather was permitting, I would race at least once
every month of the year.
With the last engine catastrophe though, I had
to cut back to the point where I essentially took a
year off to rebuild. My next scheduled race will be
in February 2010.
Are you currently contesting any particular
series? How are you going?
I normally race in the NHRA Summit Racing Series
which is contested at each local track during the
race season with a finals event at a centrally
located track at the end of the season. This year
was an off year for me due to the engine build, and
I made the decision for 2010 to race in the West
Coast Pro Gas Association Series, and some Pacific
Street Car Association Series. If funds allow, I
will also run the truck at select NHRA Lucas Oil
Divisional races in 2010.
What is the greatest distance you've
travelled to race?
The furthest I have travelled is to Las Vegas
Motor Speedway, which is about 698 miles from my
home. I love that track. They treat all of the
drivers with respect, and each time I compete
there, it is an experience to remember.
Do you have a local track?
I still consider Sacramento Raceway my home
track. It is the closest drag strip at about 50
miles from our house in Colfax, CA. We also have
Top Gun Raceway in Fallon, NV, which is about a 3
½ hour tow, and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA
which is about a 2 hour tow.
How much time do you spend working on the
truck between race meetings?
Between races, I change the oil, reset the valve
lash, and check all the major bolts and hose
fittings. I also have to dump the alcohol out of
the fuel system and flush it out with gasoline.
Depending on what happened during the previous
race, I make adjustments and repairs where they are
needed. It takes at least 4 - 6 hours, and
sometimes as much as two days to get the things
done that need to be done.
Where do you work on the truck?
Well, this could be a sore point for my husband,
but I've taken over our two car garage with my race
truck. Of course, since I do most of the major work
on the regular vehicles as well, he can't say too
much about it. But he does remind me occasionally
that he would like to share the garage with me... I
just keep dreaming to have a shop one day where it
will no longer be an issue.
What does a typical day at the track involve
I've heard that the best thing a driver can do
at the track is to keep to the same routine. From
unloading the car, to working between rounds... do
the same things each race. So my routine after
arriving in my pit area is roll the truck off the
trailer, unload all the necessities out of the back
of the tow vehicle, walk around the pit areas to
see who's there and who isn't, then go back and get
to work on the race truck.
It takes about 15 minutes to warm up the engine,
after which I drive it around in our "warm-up"
circle at the back end of the pit areas to warm up
the rear end. Then I bring it back and change the
plugs out to the plugs I use while on the track. At
this point, I get the truck through tech
inspection, and wait for the time trials.
Once time trials start, no adjustments are made
to the fuel or to the engine, unless absolutely
necessary. Only repairs are done, simply because in
bracket racing, you rely on the race car being
consistent in behaviour and speed. You need to hit
the right combination in tire pressure, timing, and
fuel delivery on your initial pass. If you get a
second pass, it's for working on the driving
In between passes, and elimination rounds, you
replace spark plugs, add fuel, check belts, hose
fittings, and bolts - and keep an eye out for
problems, such as oil leaks or pressure leaks. I
get a bit of ribbing because I'm a bit anal between
rounds of racing. I'm under the hood and under the
truck for at least 45 minutes checking and
I usually don't relax until I'm out of the race,
either by elimination, or the race is won. I'm a
little less tense once I make it through the first
round, but I'm not totally relaxed until my day is
done. That is when I'll spend the time to visit
other racers, and sit with them in the stands to
cheer on everyone else.
What do you like most about drag
There is a lot to like about drag racing - the
adrenaline rush, the smell of fuel and oil, the
rumble of engines warming up, the excitement of the
fans when someone blasts down the track after a
smoking burn-out, the camaraderie with like-minded
people, and being considered one of the family. All
of these things are the best things about drag
What do you like least about drag
When tempers flare-up. Since this is a high
adrenaline sport, there are those who can't, or
won't, control their emotions. They have to be
dealt with by officials, and it puts a tarnish on
what otherwise would be a great day. Something just
as bad would be listening to complainers... the
ones that are never happy with the track, the
announcers, the track personnel, other racers...
etc. etc. For myself, I am thrilled to be able to
do what I do! I get a little impatient with those
that try to spoil it by complaining about
What are your future drag racing
For 2010, my focus is to run in the WCPG D-gas
class which is a 10.60 index. Due to the economy
and my finances, I will probably stick with one
race per month during the race season. However,
those races will give me and my associate sponsors
pretty good exposure since the races are run at
combined events where the stands are normally
pretty packed with fans.
For 2011, I will put the blower back on the
motor and move to running Super Gas at the NHRA
Lucas Oil Divisional races. Hopefully I will be
able to build enough points to run at a few
National races as well. I will also continue my bid
in WCPG but this time I will move to C-Gas which
runs on a 9.60 index. That's as far ahead as I want
to look for now.
What is your day job?
Currently, I'm a software test engineer for Sage
Software in Rocklin, CA. I've been working for Sage
Software for almost 15 years now. They have been
really good to me and I'm grateful to be employed
during this economic crisis.
What do you like to do to relax?
Okay, don't laugh, but my favourite relaxation
thing to do is baby-sit my four grandchildren. They
range in age from 14 months to 10 years old, and
they take my mind off of all the worries, stress,
and conflicts of the regular working day. They help
me keep perspective on life, and their love keeps
me on track. I also love to spend time with their
parents - my son and my daughter-in-law. I can work
in the garage with my son, or work on scrapbooking
with my daughter-in-law, and it's great to be able
to be close to all of them.
What is the best piece of advice you have
ever been given?
Remember always that racing is supposed to fun.
When it stops being fun, it is time to step back
and look at what you can do to change the
What advice would you give to others wanting to
break into the sport?
Start at the local level. Most tracks - if not
all - have a "street legal" class that allows
anyone to compete as long as certain safety
criteria are met. Street legal entry fees can be
$15 or less at most tracks - which is less than the
cost of going to the movies! Most likely your local
track has a website that has all the information
you need to compete at their races. Another thing
you need to remember is when you finally compete in
your first race, don't be afraid to ask questions,
and definitely do not assume that you know
everything you need to know. Ask!
Who do you receive support from?
I get different types of support from different
companies - from discounts on engine parts, oil,
coffee (fuel for the driver!), shirts, energy
chews, and other items.
Here is my current list of sponsors:
Mafia Motorsports, Christopher Bean Coffee,
Livewire Energy, Inner Cooler, DragonFire Racing,
ARS - Aluminum Rapid Shelters -
E&J Engineering - Custom Drivelines. I also
get additional help from Summit Racing Products,
and Riebes Auto Parts.
Is there anything else you'd like to
First, I'd like to thank Girlracer for the
exposure they are giving women racers. I don't
think I'm speaking just for myself when I say that
it is really appreciated!
Second, I'd like to thank each of those
companies listed above for all the discounts, the
encouragement, the shoulder to cry on when things
don't go so well, and the cheers when things go
Most of all, I want to thank my dad, my husband
Kris, my son Robert, my daughter-in-law Becky, and
grandkids Isabel, Miranda, Lewis, and Mirabel, for
always being there for me and encouraging me to
keep building and keep racing. Thanks guys...
And thanks to Cyndee for answering all our
questions and for providing inspiration to women
all over the world who are chasing their
Source: Chelsea Woods for
Girlracer Magazine www.girlracer.co.uk
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