Ashly Ruf has never been afraid to compete against the boys. She's also not afraid to rub it in a bit when she beats them.
On the back of her boat, Kwitchabitchin, is a decal that says "If you can read this; you just got beat by a chick." It's a slogan she's hoping gets viewed often heading into today's qualifying rounds of the Augusta Southern Nationals.
The 18-year-old, from St. Charles, Mo., is the only female racer in this year's competition. She's one of only a few women in the 24-year history of the Augusta Southern Nationals to race down the liquid quarter-mile.
"I kind of grew up around (drag racing) being the adrenaline junkie that I am," Ruf said.
Ruf's father, Keith, a drag boat mechanic, got his daughter into racing. Before she was 16, Ruf was drag racing on jet skis in tournaments on the Mississippi River. Yet even then, she was ready to move up to bigger and faster machines.
"The jet skis were too slow," said Ruf.
At 16, she moved up to race flat bottom boats, -- they resemble family ski boats in shape -- in the International Hot Boat Association. That was when she first stepped onto the scene in Augusta, finishing runner-up in the Modified Eliminator division.
An engine mishap in the semifinals last year ended her hopes of returning to the finals.
Shortly after her 18th birthday, Ruf became the youngest to receive a Pro Mod Drag Boat license. Her racing team, Little John's Motorsports, put her in a Pro Eliminator boat to see if she could handle the increase in speed.
"I think they were trying to scare me," Ruf said. "But I guess I impressed them because I skipped right past the flat bottoms and moved straight to the Pro Eliminator."
Ruf shrugged off her naysayers and found success both in the boat, where she recently scored her first Pro Eliminator win in Kentucky, and in the classroom, where she will attend Saint Louis University to major in biology with hopes of going to medical school.
Ruf said despite being one of IHBA's top young stars, she considers drag boat racing a hobby.
Team owner and crew chief "Little John" Bicknese said she'll have a ride for as long as she wants it.
Reach Joey Jones at (706) 823-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
GATES OPEN: 8 a.m.; qualifying begins at 10
TICKETS: $18 at the gate; series, $30; patron badge, $70