When Shea Holbrook was 5 years old, she had four things she wanted to be when she grew up.
"First was a roller coaster tester, how dumb is that? Also a pilot, hair stylist and race car driver," Holbrook said during the unveiling of the Florida Institute of Technology Jet Dragster at the Panthereum on the Melbourne campus.
Holbrook is a race car driver, getting ready to make her debut in a jet dragster in Tucson, Arizona, on Feb. 6. But she admits she is also part pilot and even a roller coaster tester.
That is because the jet dragster she will drive does 280 mph with 3,000 pounds of thrust behind her. Definitely a ride.
But speed is nothing new to the UCF graduate who has lived in Central Florida for a little more than half of her 24 years.
As she got older, race car driver was not something she thought about. She was a professional water skiier and good enough that she figured she would make a career out of it.
Then came an accident in 2004. Holbrook injured her back so badly that she could not ski the next season. So she thought about joining her dad as a pilot. But in between water skiing and flying, she took a trip that would change her life.
"I did a Richard Petty Experience (at Daytona International Speedway). That one Richard Petty Experience turned me onto racing so much," Holbrook said.
FLORIDA TODAY's Mike Parsons talks with Chris and Elaine Larsen of Larsen Motorsports about their new relationship with Florida Insititute of Technology. Video by Rob Landers. Posted Jan. 28, 2015.
And she wasn't even driving because she was still just 15 years old.
"I never looked at the windshield, I was just staring at the driver," Holbrook admitted. "We are going a buck 80 on the high banks and I had never gone that fast on land. It really turned me on to what motorsports is about."
So she began driving. And meeting people. People like Elaine Larsen, who took a chance on Holbrook about a year ago.
That chance has turned into a brand new venture with the Florida Institute of Technology.
"Today made it real for us. All of the community coming out today is special," Holbrook said. "I am the new girl on the block but my mission is to uphold the integrity of the sport while promoting our affiliates to the best of my ability. I would not be here if it were not for FIT and Larsen Motorsports."
And a trip around Daytona International Speedway.
FIT unveils Jet Dragster
The Florida Institute of Technology unveiled its jet dragster in front of over 500 race fans, students and faculty Thursday afternoon.
Fans got an up-close look at the jet dragster, which will compete in the IHRA Nitro Jam Series all across the country. They also got a chance to meet with the driver Shea Holbrook and crew as well as Larsen Motorsports owners Chris and Elaine Larsen.
"These are pretty gutsy girls," Florida Tech President Dr. Anthony Catanese said. "The kids in automotive engineering are excited about this. It is really interesting to see what the race teams really do behind the scenes."
And Florida Tech students will get a chance to do just that, work on these jet dragster cars.
"It is very exciting, seeing kids progress from walking in the door and wanting to learn everything they can to walking out professionals and being able to help them get there is tremendously exciting," Justin Elliott, crew chief of the Florida Tech jet dragster. "Working with kids like that, each one has a different skill set and it will be exciting to be able to fit the students into those areas."