For Menifee resident and business owner Melanie Schneider, the devastating news coming from her doctor that she could no longer compete in the sport she loved, brought her to weep in her hospital bed. She wasn’t sobbing out of fear of the impending surgery, or for her two beautiful sons, Austin and Waren, or her devoted husband Ron, or even for her poor little broken body that she had forsaken for her sport. She cried out of the fear of losing the identity she had worked so hard to build. Forced by God’s hand, Melanie had to retire from her career as Spotter from Team Purple, an Extreme Rock Crawling team.
Melanie was the first and only female who had done what many of the men said she couldn’t do in this sport. Extreme Rock Crawling is an extreme form of off road driving using vehicles anywhere from stock to highly modified to overcome obstacles. In rock crawling, drivers take highly modified four-wheel-drive vehicles over very harsh terrain. Driving locations include boulders, mountain foothills, rock piles, mountain trails, etc. Rock crawling is about slow-speed, careful and precision driving, and high torque generated through large gear reductions in the vehicles drivetrain. Rock crawling competitions range from local events to national series. As a Spotter, Melanie moved boulders in a quick and precision manner to help make the impassable terrain passable. Since 1999, Melanie and her husband Ron had made this more than a sport, but a lifestyle. Shortly after her career-ending surgery in 2007, Ron came to Melanie with a ray of hope.
Ron suggested trading their Rock Crawler for a dragster. After discussing all of their options, Ron began to search Craigslist until their first dragster was found. They drove to Texas to swap cars, even before Melanie had ever sat in any dragster’s driver seat. She needed to learn everything about drag racing, but was convinced that nothing would deter her. Since Melanie had been 12-years-old and watched NASCAR with her Stepfather, Melanie wanted to race cars. She was met with an emphatic “No” by her conservative parents. She always knew she loved anything with a big motor, went fast, and was hot looking. A dragster seemed to fit the bill. Because of her prior reputation as a competitor, she had 10 sponsors before she ever hit the NHRA track.
Her first launch in the dragster was as miraculous to Melanie as giving birth. “I had a smile from ear-to-ear, and was absolutely filled from head to toe with joy and excitement! Having my babies were my greatest joy in life, but racing is nearly that good!” She spent months learning to launch, do burn-outs, watch the tree, drive, prepare for her drivers license, and getting her safety passes. Now she drives her dragster up to 183 miles per hour in 7.5 seconds, feeling the force of 1G at launch and 2 reverse G’s when the parachutes deploy past the finish line. She can feel her entire body, including her internal organs, compress at that moment of impact. “It is so much fun,” Melanie giggled, with an incredible sparkle in her eyes. “There is such freedom on that feeling when that motor goes and exhilaration when I feel that car fly down the track. There is so much to do in such a short time, but I truly feel I’m flying. The tires compress and flatten, all of the components are firing just as they should, and I can feel the flex in the chassis and hear the sound of the motor, blowing alcohol in the air, when I am floating over the finish line.”
“It takes an incredible team of people to make this all happen and help me to perform this miracle every trip down the track. I have an incredible crew, and they all deserve the credit for getting me through this experience safely. My husband Ron is my Crew Chief, my son Austin, who is now 18 changes my oil, and my son Waren, 11 ½ is my videographer and photographer and along with them are Dick and Lee Schneider. I pray for their safety, the safety of everyone at the track, including the spectators and myself, before every run. ‘Racing for Jesus’ is not just on my car for looks. I believe my angel is with me every run.”
These days, you will find Melanie happily conducting business during the week around Menifee with her business, Creative Concepts, a dynamic marketing business whose motto is “Your Imagination is Our ONLY Limitation!” Melanie spends her time helping other business owners increase their visibility and market their businesses. But on the weekends you will find her at the track, flexing her NHRA muscles, flying down the strip in her dragster. Wife and mother, concerned Menifee resident and business owner, drag racer and poet, yes poet, Melanie is a shining example of the many facets that women possess. “Racing has solidified my ability to do what I believed I could do. When I race, I am free.”