Southeast Lancers race in Mo-Kan benefit (updated June 29)

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Savana Bennett – eliminated in the 2nd round of Juniors
Elizabeth “Izzy” Fornelli, eliminated in the 3rd round of Juniors
Dylan Lawrence, eliminated in the 5th round in the Super Pro category

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Southeast Lancers racing in upcoming Mo-Kan benefit

Three Southeast High School students who race at Mo-Kan Speedway are asking their fellow Lancers to come out on Sunday June 28 to cheer them on and support a racing family who lost a loved one earlier this year to cancer.


“What did you drive in high school?” asks a decal on the vehicle driven by junior Elizabeth Fornelli.  The vehicle driven by Fornelli isn’t your typical teen car.  And she is encouraged by her family to speed – driving more than 120 miles per hour.  “Izzy” is driving a Whiplash Supercomp Dragster and she’s not the only Southeast student who races dragsters.  Southeast sophomore Savana Bennett and her stepbrother, senior Dylan Lawrence, race as well.

“My dad grew up racing and since I was three years old I was always in the garage with him and he just got me into it,” Dylan said.

At age seven Dylan started racing junior dragsters.  While he still occasionally races the smaller dragsters, he primarily races in the Super Pro and Sanctioned Body categories.  His “expensive hobby” has already turned into a job opportunity.  Only a senior, he has already received a welding certificate.  Between the racetrack and a neighbor who welds, learning to weld was an easy decision to make.

“I just wanted to be able to know how to weld to be able to help him in the shop and looking for the future – like right now I can work at the race track – if I’m welding I can make $18 an hour,” Dylan said.

Like Dylan, Izzy Fornelli also grew up on the racetrack, as did her grandfather.  Izzy’s grandfather is Ken Snyder of Snyder Racing.  Ken’s father owned 69 Speedway in Pittsburg at one time and Ken started racing when he was 14.

“My grandpa was a dirt car racer and when my cousin was born, he didn’t want to race dirt cars so they got into juniors, and then I was always around my cousin,” Izzy said.  “That’s just how it began.  I grew up around it so it’s nothing really new to me.”

Izzy’s four year old sister can’t wait till she turns seven – she’s already interested in getting into the family business.

But Izzy explained drag racing isn’t just about going 125 miles per hour.  Drivers set a “dial-in time” – they set a time mark and then try to hit it.  Whoever gets closer to their dial-in time without going over wins.

That means it is extremely important for a driver to have total control and know what is going on.

“Reaction skills, like paying attention and leaving when you’re supposed to – following directions – especially when it comes down to the finish line,” Izzy said.  “It’s really difficult actually.  Most people, it takes years to learn.  Some people, it comes naturally.”

While Dylan and Izzy got into racing because of their families, Savana Bennett’s path to the track was much different.

“There’s a movie on the Disney Channel – ‘Ride On Track’ – and my sister and I were watching it and we just ran down the stairs and told Mom that we wanted to race and be like the Enders sisters,” Savana said.

The Disney Channel Original Movie “Ride On Track” is based on a true story about Courtney and Erica Enders, two sisters who started junior drag racing in the early 90’s and went on to win national titles.  Both are still involved with drag racing today.

The movie prompted Savana and her older sister to give the sport a try.  Savana was eight years old when she started racing.

“It’s just another sport like volleyball or basketball,” Savana said.  “It’s just what I do and it’s what I love to do, and I like going out there with my family and just being able to say ‘this is my family’s sport’.  As other people who like football or basketball, my family loves to watch me drag race.”

Racing being a sport that involves the whole family is a reason why the benefit race on Father’s Day is so special to the three Lancers.


Twenty-seven year old Jeryka (Lobner) Lawrence died in January after a 2 ½ year battle with cancer.  Originally from the Kansas City area, Lawrence was an avid gymnast, had coached for the Pittsburg YMCA Shooting Stars and graduated from Pittsburg State University.  She also raced dragsters and won the 2012 NHRA Nationals in Topeka.

Savana used to live near one of Jeryka’s family members, and the two raced at the same track when they were in the Kansas City area.

“When I started racing she raced at the track I raced at, so we know her and her family,” Savana said.

That track closed and Savana’s family moved, but Jeryka’s family races everywhere they can – including Mo-Kan Speedway.

“We still saw them at Mo-Kan and she’s just a great inspiration,” Savana said.  “No matter what life gave her – cancer – almost dying – she wanted to race.  She wanted to be in a dragster.”

“She was such a big part of the whole Mo-Kan family,” Izzy said.  “Our racetrack is one of the most unique racetracks because it’s small enough that we all know each other.  So if something happens to someone it has a big effect on all of us.  It hurts inside because you know that family member won’t be there to race the next weekend.”

For the three Southeast High School students the benefit is a special one, and they hope their fellow Lancers can be a part of what is sure to be an emotional day.

“We all kind of grew up racing with her – she was just a really nice person all-in-all and it means a lot to support that family,” Dylan said.  “They race everywhere.  They’re just really nice.  The race means a lot to everyone.  Everyone from throughout the United States will be traveling to that race just to support the family.”

“Even though (Jeryka) raced everywhere else, she loved to call Mo-Kan home,” said Izzy.  “That’s what I love about it.  It’s such a small community.   It’s home.  It’s my second home.  It’s where I grew up most of my life.”

On Sunday June 28 – drag racers from throughout the nation will be at Mo-Kan Speedway racing in the Jeryka Lawrence 545 Memorial Race.  Gates open at 8:00 a.m.  The first time run is at 10:00 a.m. and the elimination rounds follow.  Spectator admission is $10.  For those attending, Savana Bennett’s dragster is number “513X”, Izzy Fornelli’s dragster is “5444”, Dylan Lawrence’s Super Pro dragster is “5X42” and his Sanctioned Body dragster is “544X”.

CORRECTION: It was originally posted that June 28 was Father’s Day.  Father’s Day is actually June 21.

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