She might wear mascara to welding class but 18 year-old Katie Fry has no fear of getting her hands dirty. Flinging mud is just fine, too — especially if it’s from the tires of her 4×4 mud drag truck.
Like her friend Cody Leach, Fry has caught the mud-racing bug and her parents, James and Lesley Talarico are in full support.
“I’m driving a ’46 International on a K-5 Chevy Blazer frame,” said Fry, after work at her dad’s shop last Thursday. “It used to have a 350 stock block but now I’ve got a 383 stroker GM block. It’s from the high school’s S-10 drag truck that was raced at Mission Raceways when Mr. Unger was here.
“My parents bought the truck off the school, then we kept the motor and gave the truck to Mr. Unger for the shop class at his new school.
“I use a number 8 for the day I was born, September 8,” she explained. “James uses a 13, for his birthdate of December 13.”
Fry’s love of all things mechanical got started when she moved to Hope at age 7 and her mom met James, who runs an excavation business and maintains and fabricates equipment in his shop. As well, Talarico has been a long-time promoter and participant in local motor sports.
“I was helping him work on the backhoes and I started learning how to run backhoes at age 10,” said Fry. Now she does much of the work on her race truck.
“For me, mud racing also started when I was little and I always went to watch with my family. The first time I ever went, I knew I wanted to do it. When I turned 16 that was one of the biggest things for me, being able to mud race — and race with the people I always admired.
Fry entered the Brigade Days 4×4 races in 2014 and her uncle, Dave Talarico went along for the ride.
“What a ride it was!” recalled Dave. “We were headed up the hill, after the mud hole and she thought I said ‘Go!’ — but I said ‘Slow!’”
The truck went flying over the crest and landed hard enough that Fry hurt her back, though she kept driving.
“My door flew open and I grabbed it and held it shut for the rest of the race,” said Dave.
“I got ‘Crowd Pleaser’ and I think I got second place that weekend,” added Fry. “But when I got out and walked around, my back definitely hurt. My friends took me to the hospital and it was so uncomfortable, waiting in the chair.”
CT scans at Chilliwack General confirmed compression fractures in her lumbar and thoracic spine, though she was able to mend without surgery or body casts. Pain persists, though.
“I kind of just suck it up,” she said. “I love racing so much. I’ve learned how to launch it a little better, though.”
Fry’s best result so far at the mud drags is sixth place, which is quite a feat, when you consider there are almost 100 trucks at some races.
She also dabbles in mini-stocks, racing a front-wheel-drive Honda Prelude around a figure-eight track, with the requisite traffic jam at the intersection. At Brigade Days last year, she took first place.
“You’ve got to put your foot into it,” she said. “Or wait — and I’m not one to wait.”
She’s not one to wait on her career goals, either.
“I got my C welding ticket, with the TRU mobile welding lab that we had at school and I’ve been accepted to UFV for the Heavy Mechanical Foundations course. It’s a 36-week course and I’ve also applied to apprentice with Reed Golos at Hope Mechanical. I’ll get all my hours done, working with Reed and my dad,” she said confidently.
You can see Katie Fry put her work into action at Hope’s Summer Smash events, July 16 and 17 at the sports bowl behind the Hope Arena.