Many a racing career has begun at the Junior Dragster-level of drag racing, and the career of NMRA Edelbrock Renegade competitor Valerie Clements follows that arc. The 20-year-old engineering student from Central, South Carolina is a budding superstar in the incredibly-difficult class that features the likes of multi-time champion Brian Mitchell as well as Clements’ own brother and former champion Alton Clements.
“I started racing when I was eight, back in 2001. When you’re that young, you start out running 12.90’s in the eighth-mile in a dragster. Once I turned 10, I moved up to 8.90’s, then at 13 I moved up to 7.90’s, and finished my Junior career in a class called Outlaw 330 [ed. Note – Outlaw 330 races heads-up to the 330-foot mark]. Outlaw 330 is a heads-up class, and I feel like it’s prepared me well in terms of the competitive aspect to be on the racetrack,” she explains. “I see a lot of guys come out and it seems like they beat themselves on the track, whereas I feel like I’ve had enough experience that I don’t do that.”
Once the car starts you forget about everything else and it’s fun! – Valerie Clements
The old racing tenet says, ‘there’s no replacement for seat time’, and in Valerie’s case, that’s been proven true. It’s a large jump to go from a 7.90 eighth-mile car to the 5.30 eighth-mile and low eight-second quarter-mile times she’s running today. “I didn’t realize coming out of Juniors that I was going to be in this kind of car right off the bat; when my brother came out of Juniors he got to slowly transition into a car that was running in the sixes in the eighth. I jumped from Juniors right into this car, and I was nervous at first,” she says.
Valerie spends the bulk of her time in school, where she’s studying Industrial Engineering.
“My dad’s an electrical contractor, and pushed me towards engineering, but going into college I didn’t really know what I wanted to pursue. Industrial Engineering is the most broad, and I’m interested in working in the medical field – I can do anything I want, and am planning on keeping my options open at this point. I’m a junior now, but I have probably two years left and am looking for internships now. Right now I’m in a materials science class that has a lot of chemistry, and I find that class real interesting. Last year I had a Physics class that I was able to relate a lot to racing,” she explains.
The car is prepared by her brother and father, since she’s busy with college and doesn’t live at home at this time. Alton Jr. and Sr. work on the car at home, but when Valerie goes to an event she’s hands-on, watching and learning in an effort to gain more knowledge each time out. She says, “At the track my claim to fame is the ‘spark plug changer’, but I love to work on the car when I’m given a job. I love to get dirty and work on the car, and learn about how to tune it, but I’m not the mechanical one that’s been wrenching on cars my whole life. My brother teaches me here and there whenever there’s information to be given.”
In order to produce the video up above, the Power Automedia team trailed Valerie all weekend long at the NMRA’s Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing back in July; unfortunately we were first-hand witnesses to a mechanical mishap that had her riding the wall and spinning out. The end result is that the car needed to visit the body-shop and have mechanical repairs performed in order to make the upcoming NMRA World Finals at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where Valeries sits solidly in second place in the Edelbrock Renegade class entering competition.
“When we got back from Joliet, my dad pulled the engine and everything else out of the car before taking it to the body shop; it was there for two weeks. We pulled the left rear corner from a wrecked Mustang, had the body shop install it, and then they painted the car – you can’t even tell now that it’s been redone. We also needed to replace a few rims and the rear shocks, which were damaged in the accident. The left one was actually broken after I got off the track,” she explains. There was a mechanical failure that caused the spinout and put her into the wall – she did a great job of keeping the car out of opponent Scott Lovell’s front end. The engine was subsequently repaired and she’s ready for the World Finals.
The car she races actually has a bit of a history within the NMRA. It was originally built by Aaron Stapleton’s Fast Forward Race Cars as part of the SuttonHP team, where Stapleton raced to the number three points position in Renegade back in 2006 and number five in 2007. The Clements family acquired the car and had Dave Zimmerman at Team Z Motorsports updated it for 7.50 elapsed times.
With Valerie in the seat this season, the Tim Matherly/MV Performance-built, Vortech YSi-supercharged Four-Valve Modular engine has acquitted itself well, as she’s currently number two in points headed to the last race of the year. A quartet of Comp Cams custom camshafts lets the air in and out of a set of Cobra DOHC cylinder heads, while Pro-Formance Transmissions in Delaware gets the nod on the Renegade-spec C4 transmission and torque converter.
So far, Valerie’s managed an 8.36 best ET at 163 MPH with 1.21 short time, and credits her team for all of her successes. Alton Sr. and Jr. provide the motivation, Mom is the cheering section, while help is also on tap from former Renegade racer Brent Weston along with Bill Gillen and Devin DeAngelis, with sponsorship from SCT that makes it all possible.
This longtime racer is only getting started – keep an eye out for her for years to come. She earned a spot in the winner’s circle earlier this season in only her second year in heads-up racing, and there’s plenty more where that came from!