Continually expanding its motorsports presence, Watson Racing has joined forces with twenty year-old drag racing sensation Valerie Clements to campaign a new 2014 Ford Mustang in one of the sport’s most popular and competitive arenas. For the first time, Watson will field an entry in the Renegade Eliminator category of the National Mustang Racers Association which will combine the driving talents of veteran Clements with the engineering expertise of the Watson Racing staff.
“We’re elated to add Valerie Clements to the Watson team”, said John Phillips, the Business Development Manager for Watson Racing, “and we’re just as excited to apply some radical ideas to the 2014 Mustang we’re building for her to drive in NMRA competition. Valerie has proven herself to be a champion on a national level but we feel her addition as a team driver will benefit Watson Racing in many more ways. Valerie is an exemplary individual in all aspects of her life and, despite her age, she is already an inspiration to many”.
Clements, an NMRA National Event winner in the brutally-tough Renegade division, shared Phillips’ excitement. “I’m so proud to be a part of the Watson team! It means so much to me and my family to be selected for this opportunity”, said Clements. “To be able to go into competition with this kind of support gives us more confidence than we’ve ever had”.
It was Chuck Watson II, son of the founder of Watson Engineering, who first recognized Valerie as the perfect representative for his own Watson Racing enterprise. While her performance on the racetrack has been spectacular, Chuck was equally impressed by the fact the entire Clements family was involved in her racing exploits.
Patriarch Alton Clements was the first to make waves in drag racing before his son, Alton, Jr. became one of the original entries in the Renegade class. However, Valerie began competition at only eight years old in the Junior Dragster category at race tracks near her home in the town of Central, South Carolina. With her father, brother and mother, Janet, supporting her decision to become involved in the sport, young Valerie quickly developed into an event-winning racer long before she earned her driver’s license. Mike Galimi, editor of the NMRA’s Race Pages magazine, noted, “Valerie is a testament to drag racing’s Junior Dragster program. By the time she was sixteen years old, she already had eight years of experience and was a winner in a very fast vehicle. Valerie already knew the sport inside out when she moved into the Renegade class.”
Likewise, Valerie’s ability to compete in national racing series while attending college has attracted much attention. Seeking a degree in Industrial Engineering at nearby Clemson University, Clements hopes to graduate in 2016 by keeping her priorities straight. “My studies come first”, stated Valerie. “As much as racing is a family affair for us, everybody understands my education takes precedence over everything else”.
Moreover, Chuck Watson realized the family’s history in the Renegade category was the perfect opportunity to display the construction prowess of Watson Racing’s team of designers. The NMRA’s Renegade division was created in 2004 to showcase Mustangs with powerful engines, (equipped with either a supercharger or nitrous oxide injection), using only stock suspension components and narrow rear tires no wider than 10.5 inches.
We were very interested in this class because, basically, it’s what we do here at Watson Racing. We design and construct chassis and components to efficiently handle and apply exceptional amounts of horsepower. – John Phillips
“We were very interested in this class because, basically, it’s what we do here at Watson Racing”, said Phillips. “We design and construct chassis and components to efficiently handle and apply exceptional amounts of horsepower. The fact Renegade is one of the most popular ‘small tire’ drag racing categories means we can display our products to an audience which not only appreciates what we do but, in fact, needs our services. All we wanted was a driver and team with the same commitment to excellence”.
Valerie Clements was, indeed, that driver. After being voted by her peers as the 2012 NMRA Rookie of the Year, she was the talk of the Renegade division after becoming the only racer to break through the domination of six-time NMRA Renegade World Champion Brian Mitchell. Valerie’s victory at the fifth annual NMRA All-Star Nationals at Commerce, Georgia, kept Mitchell from an unprecedented “clean sweep” of the entire 2013 NMRA event schedule. Valerie’s supercharged 2005 Mustang also recorded the second quickest and fastest performances of the season, (8.36 seconds, 165 miles per hour), behind Mitchell.
While her brother, Alton, won the NHRA Renegade World Championship in 2009 and claimed second place in the series in 2011 and 2012, Valerie scored a personal victory by finishing fourth in the 2014 NMRA Renegade standings…one position ahead of Alton. More recently, Valerie gained global exposure in critically-acclaimed Drag Illustrated magazine as one of top twelve female drag racers deserving attention in the coming season.
Valerie will begin her 2014 campaign at the helm of her SCT Performance-sponsored 2005 Mustang at the NMRA Spring Break Shootout at Bradenton, Florida, on March 6-9. However, the debut of her all-new Watson Racing 2014 Mustang is scheduled for the NMRA Nationals at Budds Creek, Maryland, on May 2-4.
“We recently had the chance to tour the Watson Racing headquarters in Michigan and see the new car under construction and it was a thrill”, said Clements. “We will still be using our trusty 311 cubic-inch engine built by Tim Matherly at MV Performance coupled to a Proformance automatic transmission but the thought of that combination placed in this beautiful new Mustang is really exciting! Our immediate goal is to do well in Florida at the season opener but the debut of the new Watson Racing Mustang can’t come soon enough for our entire family!”