WINCHESTER, N.H., Aug. 8, 2006 -- She may need her family to drive her to the mall, but 13-year-old Tayla Orleans is hardly a novice driver.
She's a first-place contender in the Allison Legacy Race Series, where the cars are three-quarters the size of those used in NASCAR races.
Orleans is the youngest driver on the track, and the only girl.
"There was one race I saw her, and she came from dead last and finished fourth or fifth," said one fan. "Pretty aggressive? Yeah, that is pretty aggressive."
What separates this driver from the pack could be her cutthroat style, or her good luck charm, which is a fluffy pink pillow. She also keeps a drawing from her 3-year-old sister in her car.
Orleans started driving a go-cart when she was 5 years old, racing it around her backyard in Wrentham, Mass. By age 11, she was racing in a league in Boston.
"I like going fast and passing cars," Orleans said. "When I pass cars, I feel really good."
When asked what else she likes to do, the middle school student said, "I like to talk on the phone, obviously. I can talk for hours, and I like to go shopping."
Orleans races against guys in their 30s and 40s, though drivers as young as 12 are allowed in this league.
She admits some of her friends at the track gently tease her about her age, and tell her, "I can't believe you're still in junior high," but she added their chides are "not that bad."
The trained drivers can get the stock cars to a speed of 115 mph. Orleans said she has averaged 93.5 miles an hour, something she considers "pretty cool."
She swears she never gets scared but admits she has had accidents, counting just a few bruises among her injuries. "I have, but I tend not to talk about them," Orleans said.
Her father is also her coach and pit crew, and he does get a little nervous when she's racing.
"I'll wear out a pair of shoes walking back and forth -- of course, I get nervous," Barry Orleans said.
He said when she first learned to drive she would intentionally go in dirt and snow to do doughnuts and maneuver the car in circles.
"She can usually get herself out of a jam that most people would have a problem with," he said.
And she can also get her car out of a jam if repairs are needed.
"I change the tires, sometimes change the gears and everything," Orleans said.
She counts Dale Ernhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin among her favorite drivers and hopes to eventually race the NASCAR circuit when she grows up -- after she gets her license.