Racing gained a few more young fans for life this past weekend, I believe.  

If one looked closely enough, it was possible to actually watch it happen.  I saw the first glimpse when the wide eyes of a young pre-teen with her blonde hair in braided pigtails got a little bigger as she eagerly waited for an answer to her question, "What's your favorite color?" 

For the record, it's "turquoise blue" for NHRA Top Fuel drag racing series driver Leah Pruett.   And I have a feeling that amateur interviewer won't soon forget it.

I saw it again when another little girl, whose age was undoubtedly still in the single digits, asked NHRA Pro Stock driver Erica Enders what the driver does for daily exercise.  Her loyalty was visibly growing as she listened intently to the answer, obviously amazed that she was getting the chance to ask the question, much less get a fully-attentive and personal answer.

The transformation was unfolding during one of my favorite events here at Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway - the annual gathering of top-speed machine aficionados, chest-thumping-reverberation thrill seekers and nostril-filled-nitro fanatics otherwise known as the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. Specifically, it was taking place as part the ladies-only question-and-answer session we hosted for the first time on the first day of the three-day event.

NHRA Top Fuel driver Brittany Force joined Pruett and Enders for the free experience in Guest Welcome Village, and the occasion was an obvious hit with everyone there.  It provided a unique opportunity for fans and followers of every age group and gender to get up close and personal with these drivers, a trio of smart and well-spoken young women who are often seen as larger than life and just happen to go between 200 and 300 mph in four to six seconds.

On this sunny southern afternoon, the questions didn't come from reporters or media types.  Instead, they came from young girls who might just have pictured themselves following in this group's footsteps in a few years and others who loved learning more about the drag racing stars they were here to see.

The candid and conversational answers that came throughout the session made it clear each of these NHRA stars made it to the top series because they have brains equally as impressive as their beauty and skill. The message wasn't lost on at least one mom whose daughter eagerly asked a question or two. She paid the three drivers what I consider to be one of the highest compliments possible as the session drew to a close, telling them, "I would be proud to have one of my daughters grow up to be like you one day."

Somehow, I think a few of the young women who were part of the Q&A might just be a bit more inspired to do just that now.