Behind The Wheel - #29 - Richelle Austin

Surrounded by adrenaline junkies, Richelle Austin was quite literally raised around cars, and to this day is still surrounded by them. Richelle grew up with her dad tinkering with his projects, and as we all know the feeling, holding the flashlight for him. She now owns a shop with her husband, Wade’s Hotrod Shop and Modern Machine, and she finds her fix in drag racing and working on her car. Aside from being a bad-ass drag racer and race-wife, she is also a mother of 2.
Even though Richelle spent her childhood alongside her dad, she wasn't thoroughly invested in racing until she met her now husband, as you guessed it, at a racetrack. Richelle told me about how she was for the time being just a spectator, but mutual friends introduced them and the rest was history. When they met, he didn't have a racecar at the time, but eventually, he built himself a Chevy Monza. She eventually got the itch to drag race after a friend of theirs let her race his Gremlin. Six years ago, someone came through and told Richelle’s husband that he had a Chevy Monza that could be used as a parts car, and that was the introduction to what became Richelle's 10-second Monza.

The 1980 Chevy Monza sports a naturally aspirated 396ci big block with 14:1 compression that she built herself, “people say i'm crazy”, she told me. Behind the big block is a powerglide and the Monza sits on some 28.5x10 slicks. She told me her biggest role model and supporter at the track is her husband. “He taught me everything about digging into engines and transmissions. He always tells me I have a brain and two hands, so I am very capable of figuring it out”, she said. She then went on to tell me the stories about building her own engine and the pride she carried throughout that conversation was admirable.

Richelle first competed in a Women & Wheels class in Oklahoma City last November, thanks to one of our own, Stephanie Martin. “Stephanie was a big pusher of me racing in it. The first local one I didn't go to because I didn't think my car fit in the rules, it was the first one ever. But then Stephanie told me ‘You’re coming!’, so I made it out to the second one”, she told me. Alongside OKC last year, Richelle was able to compete in this past weekends race in Tulsa. Although she was knocked out in the second round, she had pride in the recognition that she had the fastest ET in qualifying where she ran a 10.28.

Her next project is a 2-wheel-drive 1971 GMC 2500 long bed given to her by her dad. It was his farm truck and although he was going to leave it to her in the will, he decided to give it to her in hopes to see it completed. Like any good farm truck, it runs through a lot of fluid and she is hoping to rebuild the engine, find a 4L80E for it, and get it painted. Aside from that, she told me about how she loves her Monza being very nostalgic with a naturally-aspirated big block, but eventually her husband might win the argument, and it might get a Procharger.

The advice she would give any woman interested in drag racing is, “Just show up. We are all willing to help walk you through it”. To conclude our conversation I asked her what she thinks Women & Wheels is doing for women in the industry, "Women & Wheels makes women comfortable to try. It's amazing that you can race a 17 second Suzuki in your 10 second racecar and they can still win. The supportiveness of other girls is amazing. Sophie is fantastic and is always right there with whatever you need or will find someone to help you if necessary. The group is incredible to me”.

Richelle is a very inspiring role model and mentor to women everywhere and we are so lucky to have her competing with us and helping other women along the way.