Moffat County grad chases automotive greatness in a heavily modified Chevy S-10 |

Moffat County grad chases automotive greatness in a heavily modified Chevy S-10

Alina Aubakirova is shown in front of a modified 1997 Chevy S-10 that will be entered in the Texas Mile. The 2020 Moffat County graduate is currently a diesel technology student at Illinois' Universal Technical Institute.
Courtesy photo

In the coming weeks, Alina Aubakirova will be behind the wheel of a vehicle that could make history.

But even if the rig doesn’t set the new speed standard Aubakirova and her team are hoping to reach, the process of building it has meant everything to Aubakirova, a 2020 Moffat County graduate who will be part of a racing group competing March 24-26 in The Texas Mile.

The event at the Chase Industrial Airfield in Beeville, Texas, challenges racers to push the limits of their vehicles and hit a high speed for one mile. Aubakirova is hoping to hit a record speed of 170-175 mph — if not faster — in the standing mile for the Modified Mini Pickup Category.

The vehicle she’ll go for the record in is a 1997 Chevy S-10, which has been heavily upgraded from its original form. The 350 cubic-inch Chevy LT1 is estimated to have 400 horsepower, while an additional Nitrous Express Proton system is expected to bring that up to 600 horsepower.

The truck also features a custom chassis, modified suspension, a roll cage and fuel cell. Aubakirova said while she hopes to do big things at the Texas Mile, the team’s effort has meant a great deal to her.

Crew members work on a 1997 Chevy S-10 that will be entered in the Texas Mile race.
Courtesy photo

“It’s not really about competition; it’s more about showing our skills. We have this homemade V8 engine, and we want to see where we can go and what we can do with it,” she said. “It was more about the participation and the time it took to work on it and put it together.”

Aubakirova is an industrial diesel technology student at Universal Technical Institute in Lisle, Illinois, near Chicago.

Since last fall, she has been working with a largely female crew to get their vehicle race-ready. Many of the team members are younger automotive students overseen by Aubakirova’s father, Greg Ditch, at Naperville North High School in Naperville, Illinois.

“You explain things to them like where the bolts go and how this system works and where these things go; they want to learn, and that’s very awesome,” Aubakirova said.

The truck was originally purchased when Ditch and Aubakirova were living in Craig and has steadily been upgraded.

“When we lived in Craig, my dad used to work for Steamboat Powersports. I’d always be out there watching him make repairs in the garage,” she said. “I was always curious about it.”

Among the more recent additions to the Chevy is a pink paint job to highlight women in the automotive field. Aubakirova also hopes to make a statement with the upcoming race, namely that more young women can pursue careers in the automotive trade.

“It’s very profitable, you graduate quickly and there’s such a demand for technicians, so something that’s really hands-on is the best way for them to go,” she said. “I hope that women aren’t scared to go into this field, because it’s a great opportunity to make money, to be stable, and you really want to have a useful degree. If a trade like this works for you, then you should do it 100%.”

Part of that stems from her younger days on the other side of the globe, as Aubakirova relocated to Colorado from Kazakhstan in 2017.

Though she still has love for that nation, she believes the United States has been a better place to pursue her dreams.

“America definitely gave me a second chance in life, really. I don’t think back home I’d be able to do such hands-on projects,” she said. “Back home, that’s just not a thing, and women don’t participate. It’s really frowned upon. Not a lot of women drive there, either. Here, I like that I have the opportunity to even do this.”

The Texas Mile is only one stop among many Aubakirova sees in her career path. As a recipient of educational funding from agricultural vehicle manufacturer Fendt, she will likely pursue work in that sector, as well as looking toward more racing in the future.

“We have plans to keep improving the S-10, and I want to learn more as a driver. Our goal is to get out to the Bonneville Salt Flats (in Utah) in the next couple of years and compete on more of an international level,” she said. “I also have a standing offer to work with MBM Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup Series. We just need to see how everything plays out over the next couple of months.”

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