I've been trying to teach my fiancee how to drive a stick forever. She constantly whines and bitches, saying, "It's too difficult," or the famous cop-out: "I'm nervous!" But my favorite line has been: "What's the far-left pedal for again?" While Yoko can't seem to grasp the manual selection of gears, Stephanie Eggum is jumping out of planes and hitting triple-digit speeds down the 1320.
Stephanie's drag racing career contains some unconventional originals. Back in 2001 Eggum, then 20, was knee-deep in skydive certification. About a dozen solo-dives into the program, something went wrong-way wrong. On a routine jump, Stephanie's chute deployed incorrectly. "I remember looking up and seeing it was all tangled," she said. "In a split-second, you remember what they tell you to do [in the classes]. I remember trying to regain control, but I just got whipped to the side." Only two of the ten cells in the canopy were able to open up. Unable to control the chute, Eggum lost her grip and began to spin viciously, so fast that she was knocked out. After plummeting at speeds between 70-80 mph, she hit the ground unconscious. That could very well be the reason why she's alive today; sounds horrible, but it's not that bad, considering that terminal velocity is 120 mph. She was able to literally walk away from the fall with only a severe concussion.
A 14,000 foot fall isn't something most people walk away from, but Stephanie did. And coincidentally, it sparked her interest for drag racing. Within two years, she went from parachutes at 14,000 with a speed of 120 mph, to chutes on the strip with a trap speed of 185. So says Stephanie, "I had been living in Chicago at the time, working as a hair colorist. After the accident, I moved back home to recover and needed a car to get around. That's when I got the Civic. One thing led to another, and I started going to a local track. The next year (in '03), I raced the entire NOPI season. I went from having a parachute on top of me to one behind me. It was either racing or trying to get a pilot's license. I have a fascination with speed and flying. . .it's an obsession. "
But based on Stephanie's workout routine, you'd think she'd be more comfortable as an extreme athlete than a drag racer. She goes to the gym six days a week for cardio and weights, and works with a trainer to strengthen her lower body; she wants to get into RWD. "For me personally, I need to do it because I was in an accident," she said. "I started out to strengthen my car. With the spool and 28-inch slicks, it's impossible to turn the damn thing."
The person is always more interesting than the car. Yeah, cars are cool; they're amazing. But there's always a story behind a car. Stephanie is one example. She's doing what she loves, even if it means giving up a few creature comforts along the way: "This is my last year racing Hot Rod. We're going to sell the car this year. From here going faster, it's either Pro Front or getting into RWD. Pro Front is an exciting class, but with the money it costs to build a car, that's as fast as you can go in a FWD. Unless I join a team, I'm not looking into getting into pro-front wheel drive."
She has the pedigree to move on from her FWD experiences. Stop getting the pages sticky and bear with me for a moment. Pretend that Stephanie Eggum isn't smokin' hot, or at least stop ogling for a moment so you can appreciate some of her past work. In '06, Stephanie won the NHRA World Finals and took second in the Hot Rod points Championship. Her Civic also won "Best Racecar" of SEMA IAS. Oh, did we mention that while Stephan Papadakis might have the distinction of placing the first Honda in the 7s (with a RWD Honda), Eggum was the first to do it with a front-wheel drive Honda.Doing some quick math, Stephanie and I quickly learn how expensive drag racing really is. "Once you get to Sport Front Wheel Drive, you're shelling out boatloads of money," she said. "When you get to the pro levels, you love what you do and have a love for the sport, but also you have to pay your bills. We spend $100,000 a year just racing." Averaging out each pass at about 8 seconds, with a total of 120 passes a year (including practice, qualifying and races), that works out to be $104.16 per second of driving or $6,250 per minute of driving. That's way more expensive that Carter's phone sex addiction. But for someone with success already in the record books, Stephanie remains realistic, but still optimistic: "It's hard to enjoy your success racing because you're terrified of not racing the next year. I'm scared s----less of going back to doing hair. [I'll be in] Funny Car 10 years from now. 100-percent without a doubt, I can't see driving anything but Funny Car. For whatever reason, I want to get behind a dragster. "
OWNER Stephanie Eggum
HOMETOWN ELGIN, IL
DAILY GRIND living life, one 1/4-mile at a time
UNDER THE HOOD Precision Turbo GT42R 74mm ball bearing turbo charger, PTE 1000 custom intercooler; MSP custom intercooler piping; custom sheet metal intake manifold; TiAL blow-off valve; HKS 60mm wastegate; Big Stuff 3 fuel injection; Aeromotive fuel regulator; Waterman mechanical fuel pump, BDL fuel rail, 74mm throttle body; custom AR Fabrication exhaust manifold; MSD ignition, spark plug wires; NGL spark plugs; CP pistons; GRP aluminum rods; Ferrea valvetrain, roller rockers; Crane roller cams; M2 ported race heads
DRIVETRAIN G-Force transmission, H-pattern shift lever; Tilton carbon clutch
BRAINS Big Stuff 3 ECU
STIFF STUFF Omni Power adjustable drag struts, upper control arms, front springs, adjustable front struts; Strange rear shocks, springs
ROLLERS front: American Racing 15x11 double bead locks; Mickey Thompson 28x10.5x15; Weld spindle mount rear wheels
STOPPERS Mark Williams front brakes; Strange rear brakes, with steel-braided lines
OUTSIDE Custom rear wing; one piece fiberglass front end; X-treme Graphics
INSIDE Sparco racing bucket; Racepak ultra dash gauges, MOMO steering wheel; Simpson cam lock harness; complete back-half chassis with tin work; 7.5-certified cage
PROPS A special thank-you goes out to Chris Miller and Tom from NRG Tech in New York, who first helped out the team at NHRA Englishtown. Needing a clutch, they drove to NYC and back to bring us one, then Saturday night, helped Jeromie work on the car. Miller also made the trip to MIR and joined the crew for the weekend. Precision Turbo, Blaze Motorsports, Omni Power, Vibrant Performance, Oakley, Kicker, Liberty's Gears, CP Pistons, Ferrea, Golden Eagle
CONNECT bigstuff3.com; cppistons.com; eggumracing.com; goldeneaglemfg.com; libertysgears.com; ngksparkplugs.com; omnipowerusa.com; precisionturbo.net; vibrantperformance.com; x-tremegraphics.com; oakley.com; ferrea.com