JEROME, Idaho — Sixteen-year-old Celsey Kidd lives in two very different worlds.
The Jerome High School senior is a cheerleader, a singer, and an experienced model who took part in southern Idaho’s Next Top Model competition during the summer.
On weekends, though, she buckles a crash helmet and hits 100 mph in her dragster at High Desert Speedway in Gooding.
Kidd began racing in 2009 in a junior dragster and progressed rapidly – moving up to Pro Class this year and leading the point standings against adult drivers.
Jodie Johnson, who owns High Desert with her husband Mitch, marvels at how quickly Kidd has sped to the front of the pack.
“I attribute her success to her supportive family,” Johnson said. “The entire family is into racing. Celsey is a very determined girl and when she sets her mind to something, she hates to fail.”
One of her highlights came during the Thunder on the Butte event, a big-money race that draws drivers from across Idaho and other states. Kidd beat a veteran top competitor from Nevada in the finals to become the youngest person ever to win the race.
Her mother, Lisa Kidd, says this is the first year her daughter has gone really fast. That’s because she’s using a 1982 Mazda RX7 with 355 horsepower engine that her father, John Kidd, turned into a monster.
“He’s really good with engines,” Lisa said of John, who has won the Pro Championship at High Desert the past two years and operates Kidd Mechanics.
While Celsey enjoys the excitement of racing, her mother could barely watch her first few races in the Pro Class this year. “It’s something to watch your 16-year-old go 100 in that thing,” Lisa said.
Celsey replied with a grin, “She worries too much.”
John Kidd tutored Celsey in automobile mechanics and she works at the family business when time allows. Her mother said the girl “can do things to an engine most girls wouldn’t dream about.”
Drag races are won by extremely close margins, sometimes a thousandth of a second, so getting a fast start is critical. Celsey said she focuses intently as lights on the Christmas tree blink down toward green.
Success, and her age, has resulted in a fan club of young girls who show up regularly to watch Celsey race.
“They follow me around,” she said. “They’re so cute.”
Despite her father’s involvement in racing, Celsey wasn’t drawn to the sport as a child.
“But once I got into it, I just thought ‘This is amazing,’ ” she said. “I like the adrenaline.”
There’s money to be won, too. Races in Gooding can pay $100 to $800, and there will be even bigger paydays next year when Celsey begins competing at Firebird Raceway in Boise.
She purchased her Jerome High cheerleading uniform with race proceeds. Celsey’s mother says there are other big differences in the way her daughter spends prize money, compared with older male racers.
“The guys go buy beer with their winnings,” Lisa said. “She buys gummy sharks.”
Celsey doesn’t look the part of a drag racer, especially when wearing her cheerleading uniform. However, she has a strong streak of Idaho outdoor girl.
“I am a total tomboy,” she said.
Her off-track hobbies are camping, riding four-wheelers and hunting.
“My favorite gun is my 30.06,” she said. “It’s pretty.”
Celsey demonstrated her precocious nature by skipping seventh grade while being homeschooled by her mother.
“I went to public school and was so bored by the curriculum,” she said.
She’s planning to attend the College of Southern Idaho after graduating high school, and hopes to become a firefighter.
As for her racing, Celsey is a member of the “Idaho Beat the Heat” program, which encourages teenagers to do their drag racing at a speedway rather than on the streets. Participants must avoid drugs and alcohol and keep their grades up ‚Äî none of which is difficult for Celsey.
“It’s fine with me,” she said. “I can go 90 miles an hour with those terms.”
Celsey also is a member of Racers for Christ, as is her father. He said that is “very important to us. It’s important in the way we conduct ourselves at the track.”
John Kidd believes racing his been good for his daughter. It’s given her a goal to pursue and a constructive way to spend time.
“We’d like to get more kids involved,” he said.