Chelsea Blevins, center, receives the David Tarter Memorial Award joined by Howard Tarter, dad Greg Blevins, mom Lori Blevins and Shelly Tarter. Photo submitted

Susanville driver earns Rookie of the Year honors at Silver Dollar Speedway

The desire to go fast seems to run in families over multiple generations — Unser, Petty, Earnhardt, Andretti, Allison, Mears, Waltrip, Labonte and Busch, for example.

And now an 18-year-old Susanville woman — a third generation driver who recently earned Rookie of the Year honors at Chico’s Silver Dollar Speedway — is the family’s latest speedster making a name for herself on the track.

Chelsea Blevins — the daughter of Greg Blevins and the granddaughter of Doc Blevins — drives No. 1B, an indigo sprint car with pink trim, and the young racer finished fourth in the points standings to claim the David Tarter Memorial Rookie of the Year Award in the 360 Sprint Car division last August.

“I’m a third-generation driver,” Blevins said. “My dad and my papa raced sprint cars. I wanted to take after them and carry on the tradition, and I just fell in love with the speed and everything.”

While the men on the track out number the women, Blevins drives hard to shatter the gender stereotypes on the track.

“When I was racing trophy trucks, it was against a hundred guys and I was the only girl,” Blevins said. “It was very challenging because a lot of the guys just brushed me off and said, ‘Oh, she’s just a girl, she’s not going to beat me,’ but I ended up beating almost half of them and making it farther than some of the best from the World of Outlaws. It puts a lot of pressure on me, but it also makes me want to do better. Everybody wants to watch the girl — they want to watch her do bad, but when she does good, they’re like, ‘Whoa, a girl’s doing better than a guy.’ So there’s a lot of pressure because I don’t want to be stereotyped as the girl racer. I want to be the competitor.”

Blevins is proud of her rookie of the year honors.

“Winning the David Tarter Memorial Award was a highlight of the 2018 season,” Blevins said. It wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for local people and my family helping pay for some of the expenses of competing, especially friends Jeff and Meredith Chew, owners of Pizza Factory.”

Blevins has been racing and competing since she was 9 years old, getting her start in go-karts.

At the age of 14, she started driving sprint cars.

“When I started sprint cars at 14 they were called limited,” Blevins explained, “and then I bumped up to 360s when I reached the age of 16. That’s when I first started racing sprint cars in California.”

This year Blevins hopes to jump up into the American Sprint Car Series that, according to the Lucas Oil website, brings the best of sprint car racing to dozens of tracks throughout the U.S. and Canada and maybe even wind up driving a sponsored car.

Blevins said the tour features about 40 races from California to Florida. At some of the big races, a first place purse can be as much as $50,000, Blevins said.

“It’s a very prestigious tour,” Blevins said, “like World of Outlaws, and a lot of big-time racers do the tour, such as Kyle Larson. We’re hoping to also go to Australia.”

Like all drivers, Blevins has to deal with fear. “If it’s a big race, or I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself, I get scared in stages,” Blevins said, “but once I get on the track, it just goes away. I just get in the moment, and I forget everything I was worried about.”

And she knows what it’s like to get injured in a big crash. Last year a crash at Petaluma left her with internal bleeding, a torn spleen, a concussion and three cracked ribs. She spent three days in intensive care and made a full recovery but missed months of racing.

“It actually made me a stronger driver,” Blevins said. “It made me realize anything can happen at any moment, but you just need to stay strong. Your family is always up for you. It definitely made me want to go back out on the track. Stuff happens, but you just have to roll with it.”

In addition to going fast, Blevins said one of her talents is being able to figure out what’s going on with the car as it roars around the track.

“I have a really good ability to understand my car between vibrations and sound,” Blevins said. “A little vibration anywhere, I can detect it. I tell my dad what it feels like, what it sounds like, and we get to the bottom of it.”