Kyia Roussel plans to attend college in a couple of years, like several of her Deering High School classmates, but this 16-year-old is taking a more circuitous route.
She spends her Saturday nights racing her No. 42 car at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, pitting her skills against older, more experienced drivers in the Sports Series, the middle of three divisions that includes Wildcat and Pro.
“There are a few teenagers in Wildcat,” she said. “I’m the youngest in my division.”
Even though she just got her driver’s permit last spring, Roussel has been racing for years. She started on go-karts at age 5. Her grandfather, Charlie Roussel, brought her, sister Channary, and cousin Alexis to the track more than 10 years ago, to tempt them into a life most of the family had already embraced.
“He asked us if we wanted to try it,” Roussel recalled. “We all did, but I was the only one to show any real interest.”
For several years, Charlie coached her on the intricacies of the smaller vehicle and its correlation to the racecar. He cemented her interest with a family visit one day.
“I was 8 years old. My grandfather brought me to my uncle’s and showed me a car there. He asked ‘Want to jump in?’” she said. She began wondering why and received the classic grandfather non-answer.
“Just get in,” he said. Charlie’s larger plan began to dawn on her, and he started making payments on the car she now drives competitively.
“I always had a dream I’d drive racecars,” she said. “It’s very different from a go-kart, so much bigger. I wasn’t really sure what to think except ‘Oh my gosh — my dream has come true!”
Roussel says there are a couple of race fans at her high school, “but nobody that races.” The sport is suited to the individual, though, so being one-of-a-kind doesn’t seem to phase her in either emotional direction.
Roussel practices on Saturdays before the heat race (a split group to establish starting positions) and the feature race. Charlie passed away last year, but the lessons he shared with Kyia will always stick.
“He was my very best friend,” she said. “We did everything together. He taught me to always do my best at school. At the track, he taught me the basics and how to be better. He taught me to always have a goal, sort of like a finish line. He always repeated three things: be smooth, be persistent, and win the race if you can.”
She hopes to move to North Carolina after graduation and go to college in the heart of racing, “be a veterinarian and hopefully start a career down there, working with animals,” she says. She’s had this dream for a while, and confirmed her plans after a family visit there last year. In college, Roussel may not continue to race cars, but she says she will always be a fan.
Kyia Roussel’s gofundme page | http://www.gofundme.com/289d4gk
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