Niagara Gazette

August 20, 2012

"Nana & PapaVroom Vroom"

LaSalle couple spends leisure time drag racing vintage Chevrolets

By Michele DeLuca,
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — This is an inspirational little story about a grandmother who recently took up drag racing.

Granted, she doesn’t look like a grandmother and she surely does’t act like one, but she really is a grandmother. 

LaSalle resident Lisa Kresman has three grandchildren and you can only imagine how her two 5-year-old granddaughters and her 2-year-old grandson are going to feel when they go to the racetrack to watch their grandmother leave the other racers in her dust ... including her mentor, mechanic and husband of five years, Brian Kresman.

The grandkids call the pair “Nana and Papa Vroom Vroom.” 

The best part of this story is that it’s a life-long dream come true for Lisa, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Talarico (one of her racing sponsors) who remembers being star struck as a girl by Shirley Muldowny, the Drag Racing Queen.

Not surprisingly, she met her second husband, Brian, at the racetrack. “I rooted for this guy because he was from Niagara Falls,” she said. “Come to find out when we met a few weeks later that it was him, and I was rooting for the man I ended up marrying.”

Brian, a state Power Authority mechanic, is a respected drag racing veteran who has always preferred vintage cars. He also started young and remembers when his father, Bill Kresman, first took him to the Niagara Drag Strip that used to be out near the Niagara Falls Air Base. He and his dad built their first engine together.

Since then, he’s been racing vintage cars and currently runs a 1964 Chevy Nova. He’s a member of a group of racers that meet regularly in the Gasser Series, facing off on eighth-mile strip at Empire Dragway, just outside of Batavia, where the camaraderie is just as important as the speed. 

”We call ourselves ‘a picnic where a race breaks out,’ “ said Mary Cedano, a spokesperson for the drag racing group.

“It’s old time racing,” she added, noting that the name “Gasser” in the Gasser Series defines cars that race on good old fashioned gasoline rather than more contemporary fuels. And they can’t have electronics or computer chips either.  “We don’t allow any of that,” Cedano said. 

Brian had been drag racing vintage cars for years by the time he met Lisa. He had a pretty good reputation for himself so when his new bride expressed an interest in driving last year, he had no problem putting her behind the wheel. And then, she started winning. She even beat him in a jovial “grudge match” last year.  But, her husband is more proud than begrudging. “She’s my sweetheart,” he says.

The key to her success? “She listens,” her husband says. Potential problems? “She just wants to keep going faster.”

With her drag racing husband, her own 69 Chevy Nova race car, and a growing stream of wins, including her fastest time of 146 mph in 9.23  seconds, Lisa still can’t quite believe that her dreams have so fully come true. “When you have a dream you just kind of put it aside like it’s never going to happen — and then all of a sudden you have an opportunity ... it’s a good time.”

She’s certainly making the most of the opportunity. She and Brian are racing this weekend at the Gold Cup at the Empire Dragway. They have several more races there in September but then, Lisa says, “it will be a sad thing when we can’t race until next year.”

In the meantime, she will happily keep her eyes on the road. “It’s an adrenalin rush. The power you have — it’s an awesome feeling,” she said, adding “We’re living the dream.”