This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue.
What’s the worst thing that can happen to you while racing? Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen would probably say losing, but most of us can’t imagine anything scarier than our brakes going out at top speed.
Lexi Buckler would probably agree since that’s exactly what happened to her. Her brakes went out and the car flipped, leaving her understandably a little nervous to get back on the race track. But she did. At just 8 years old.
Buckler had many differing interests growing up. She would work out in the garage with her step dad, the owner of a mechanic shop, then leave to attend cheer practice. She started Junior Dragster at age 8 and when she was just 14, her diesel obsession started.
“Every time a truck went by I knew what kind of motor and what kind of transmission it had. I knew if it was stock and who owned the truck,” she remembered. “I was obsessed with trucks.”
The obsession grew until she was 16 and her parents bought her a car — not a diesel truck. She begged and begged for her stepdad’s pickup, a 2003 GMC Sierra 2500, and they eventually caved when she was 17 after deciding they wanted her in a safer, more reliable vehicle. With a diesel in her hands, Lexi started attending the Friday night diesel-truck racing in her home state of Maryland. Though the truck didn’t look great, she still went faster than some of the other drivers.
“You get what you pay for,” Lexi said. “Cheap things aren’t good and good things aren’t cheap. My diesel truck is almost 20 years old. This is the third motor in it but that’s just because I’ve been racing it. They last forever.”
She named the truck Pearl and started the build instantly, not to make it look nice or to win trophies at shows, but for racing. The turbo wasn’t getting enough fuel, keeping Pearl from gaining speed, so Lexi blew up the 110,000-mile motor and started over. Of course something was wrong with the new motor as well, so she and her stepdad, Tboy, decided to build their own so that if anything was wrong with it, they’d know exactly how to fix it.
After putting in new tunes, injectors and bigger headers, it was ready for the track. Almost. Lexi bought some flashy brand-new wheels that were going to put the other trucks to shame — in the looks department. She had to be reminded that they were racing for speed, not to show off. After putting the stocks back on, it posted a 13.60-second run in the quarter mile.
Just recently Lexi restored the pickup with brand-new rockers, tab corners and a new paint job. She wanted to shed the “rust bucket” nickname it had acquired on the track. Additional modifications include a Pitman arm, Cognito link, MBRP 5-inch exhaust, K&N cold air intake and an AirDog lift pump. It also has 22X12 BCR Forged wheels, a custom grille by Cutting Edge Offroad, Suncoast Stage 3 Kit and Street/Strip converter, EFILive and a DP3 Switch.
Proving The Haters Wrong
Lexi recalls working on her truck, going through the usual pre-race maintenance. She knows the truck better than anyone and, with the help of her boyfriend, took point on the decision making. The guys in the truck next to them didn’t like that.
“You’re gonna let a girl tell you what to do?” one of them inquired of her boyfriend.
He responded as any good boyfriend should, that Lexi knew what she was doing and he trusted her, but those are the kinds of comments that she deals with in the diesel industry.
“There are some men who I think get intimidated and they come off the wrong way and they get nasty, mean and degrading to women in the sport,” she explained. “At the end of the day I know what I’m worth. I know what I’m capable of. I know what I can do and they probably think I’m just some dumb, blonde bimbo but I’m not, and that’s okay because I just laugh at them and take it out on the track.”
Lexi got her chance to take it out on the track when she lined up against them and won. Poetic justice.
“It made me feel good and honored after,” she continued, “but during, I want to shake my head. I wanted to understand why. Just because I’m a woman it doesn't mean you can’t learn something from us. If people were just more open-minded things would go and flow better.”
Going forward, Lexi wants a bigger turbo, a CP3 pump, new tunes and nitrous, because any good racer who has watched the Fast and Furious movies knows that’s the key to winning, but she’s also turning Pearl into a racing truck that can hold its own at shows. Last year, she joined Diesel Hotties and the group opened her eyes to show life. She said it’s nice to be part of a group of women who understand what it’s like to be a female in this industry, but even so, “It’s cool,” Lexi concluded, “but it’s not where my heart is.”
She of course would rather be on the race track.
Cutting Edge Offroad