Alexis Thompson is not a typical cheerleader or a regular high school student.
After cheer practice, games and homework, she spends the rest of her time drag racing in her dragster. Thompson , 18, took up the high-thrill sport after watching her father and older sister get involved. At age 12 , Thompson started racing a junior dragster. At 17, she got her license to race the big dragster after rigorous testing and meeting certain marks on the track.
The Arbor View High School senior likes standing out, and that is part of the appeal of racing, she said.
“Because nobody that I knew did it, and I wanted to be that girl that stood out and raced dragsters,” Thompson said.
She said she is unable to practice racing as much as she would like because the sport is expensive and she has a demanding schedule. Like cheerleading, she said racing requires a lot of practice and focus.
“It’s expensive to have a car, and gas is extremely expensive because you burn through it like crazy,” she said.
Her family has four cars to race.
“I learned a little bit from junior dragster, but it’s completely different from racing a big dragster,” Thompson said. “I was taught by my dad and learned by watching my sister.”
She and her 20-year-old sister have their own dragsters.
“We’re fortunate to be racing as much as we do,” Thompson said.
Her father, Shane Thompson, said he first bought his older daughter a junior dragster in 2007 and the family is cognizant of keeping competition healthy and fair among the girls as far as racing each other.
“It’s good to have the competition, so I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Alexis said.
Even though he loves the sport, too, he said he keeps Alexis focused on academics.
“Obviously, school comes first and school-related activities,” he said. “You can always drag race.”
He said he has seen his daughters drive as fast as 180 mph, but he is not nervous.
“No, I don’t have any concerns, because we go through safety scenarios every time when we’re out on the drag,” he said.
Neither of his daughters has been in an accident, and, “They have more respect. They understand,” he added.
Alexis plans to attend the University of Nevada, Las Vegas but does not intend to be a cheerleader because she wants to focus on her studies. She plans to study biology and become an orthodontist.
“A lot of people don’t understand it’s really complicated,” she said, referring to racing .
She said she plans to race through university and beyond.
Arbor View assistant principal Denise Tomchek said Thompson’s talent is not well known at the school. It was only after Thompson began working with Tomchek as a student aide that it came out.
“The more and more I talked to her about it, it’s obvious she’s so into it,” Tomchek said.
Tomchek said it’s not as though Thompson can walk around in a team shirt at school to advertise her racing. Tomchek described her as “sweet” and “dependable.” She said she pictures Thompson as Clark Kent who turns into Superman as the blonde cheerleader gets behind the wheel and transforms into a racer.
Her father added, “Alexis does a fantastic job not only with school and just being a wonderful lady that she deserves to have some fun in her life because she works so hard.”