Auto Racing

For 15-year-old Rylie Mullin, racing at Hawkeye Downs started 'as a joke,' but is now a passion

CEDAR RAPIDS — Although she missed part of the season getting her car in order, 15-year old Rylie Mullin is back racing each Friday night at Hawkeye Downs.

“It’s cool because it’s not something that a lot of kids my age do,” Mullin said. “Especially not girls.”

Mullin turns 16 on Aug. 31 and will begin her junior year at Prairie once schools return to session.

Along with competing in the Hornets class Fridays at Hawkeye Downs, Mullin occasionally takes her 2003 four-cylinder Chevy Cavalier named Suzan around the area with the Midwest Compact Touring Series.

The car is black with red and white stripes and features the No. 12 for a very specific reason.

“Two years ago I was helping Elliott (Vogel) in the pits when a tire flew off a Modified,” Mullin said. “It smacked me in the head and knocked me unconscious. It was the No. 12 car on August 12 so that’s where I get my number.”

The way Mullin got into a car in the first place was also unorthodox.

“It started as a joke between Elliott, Caleb (Slouha) and I,” Mullin said. “I said I wanted to race and Elliott said I could use his car. I ended up using it to practice all season.”

Mullin gets really nervous up until leaving staging, but once she hits the track, “I’m fine and all of that goes away and I’m just excited.”

Mullin talks to Suzan, telling her everything will be OK and that “she’s doing a good job.”

She also likes to keep it clean with Suzan and the other cars.

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“I try to appreciate the other racers on the track,” Mullin said. “I’d rather have a full field instead of a few cars because it makes it more exciting.”

While respect can be hard to come by with teens, Mullin has a different outlook on being the girl of the group.

“I think it’s fun being the only girl and them still respecting me,” Mullin said. “It’s really cool.”

Outside of racing, Mullin enjoys science and archery.

“I really have to focus on both,” said Mullin of racing versus shooting a bow-and-arrow. “The only difference is that archery is more singularly focused while a racecar you have to focus with a lot of other stuff going on around you.”

The support staff that allow Mullin to compete in such a broad array of events when she isn’t working at Freddie’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers is her mom, Donelle and her dad, Jason.

“Without my family I wouldn’t even have a racecar,” Mullin said. “They help me fix it and encourage me and that gives me more confidence.”

That good feeling Mullin gets from racing is something she wants to give back to the fans.

“I’m glad that they are back out there because they make the show. Without them, it’s not as fun,” Mullin said. “I have little kids that come up to me and get so excited. It’s just really cool because I like inspiring people.”

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