84-year-old NHRA drag racer shares racetrack with granddaughter
Chris "The Golden Greek" Karamesines, the ageless wonder of NHRA Top Fuel, isn’t the only one upholding the family tradition at the drag strip.
Granddaughter Krista Baldwin, running a Top Alcohol dragster, raced in this weekend’s NHRA 4-Wide Nationals presented by Lowes Foods at zMax Dragway in Concord, NC. The fifth stop on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is the first time they’ve ever raced at the same event, on the same weekend.
“I think it’s great that she’s so interested in drag racing, it’s a good thing for her,” said Karamesines, a World War II veteran who remains a competitive driver at 84 years old.
“It’s pretty monumental in my career," admitted Baldwin. "I’ve been watching him all my life go down this race track, but to be at the same event racing almost the same race car as him – it’s pretty amazing. It’s awesome to go up there, and I get to stand there in my fire suit and watch him run and then he comes over and watches me run. We’ve been talking back and forth throughout the weekend, and he’s been giving me tips."
Seeing his granddaughter compete in the same sport, working her way up the ladder, comes as no surprise to the seasoned Karamesines.
Baldwin’s father, the late Bobby Baldwin, was also a Top Fuel driver until he passed away in 2001 after reportedly suffering a brain aneurysm.
“She started at nine-years-old and between her dad and me, we used to put her in our lap and bring her back from the end of a run," revealed Karamesines. "She was always around race cars and she loved it. I told her, ‘If you finish college, then you can do it.’"
Baldwin made the most of her grandfather’s blessings, finishing college and then by jumping into a gas-burning front-engine dragster and most recently the injected, nitro-burning dragster owned by Anthony DiCero.
She remembers those early rides as being the impetus to pursue a driving career.
"I totally remember those days," said Baldwin. "Ever since they would put me in their laps and I got to tow it back or tow it up to the line, it’s an overpowering feeling sitting in that seat knowing that 10,000 horsepower is right behind you and it’s ready to come to life in a matter of minutes."
Baldwin won her first round of competition in the Top Alcohol Dragster division but lost in the second while her grandfather lost in the Top Fuel division.
“I’m really proud of her," said Karamesines. "I’m happy for her all the way around. She’s a good kid.”
And yes, he says, she could be his successor if he ever decides to vacate the seat. However, Karamesines would prefer she ends up with a higher financed race team.
"She needs to find a good car to get into," Karamesines explained. "This car we have here is out here for a couple of races, and I want her to get into a nice car where there’s a lot of people helping her.”
Getting into any Top Fuel car would be a dream for Baldwin.
"It would mean the world to me to get that shot," Baldwin said. "Racing Top Fuel is at the top of my dreams. I’m living my dreams just by being out here. The thought of racing Top Fuel just like my grandpa makes me all gitty inside. Most people don’t understand; nitro has been pumping through my veins since I was born.
Bobby Bennett is the Publisher/Editor of CompetitionPlus.com, a leading independent online drag racing magazine, since 1999. For the latest in dragster news worldwide, visit www.competitionplus.com or follow on Twitter @competitionplus