Payson High School graduate Karinda Oswald is not attending college to become a doctor or a teacher. Instead, she wants to be a racecar driver for NASCAR.
"I don't care how silly or goofy it sounds for a girl to be a NASCAR driver," said Oswald, 18. "I've always been around cars and I want to do this."
Oswald said she began driving at 10 years old in her uncle's '57 Ford.
"My grandfather and uncles had this big lot that we would have courses on," Oswald said. "We set up cones and other obstacles and raced quads, dirt bikes and even cars."
Oswald moved to Payson from Oklahoma at the beginning of high school. She enrolled in automotive classes as a sophomore and has been taking them for the past three years.
"My teacher's speech to newcomers is that no girls are allowed to take this course," said Oswald, smiling wryly at the joke. "There were three other girls in my class. I've never felt intimidated around cars because it's basically my lifestyle."
Oswald can tune up an engine, change oil and replace blown gaskets.
Oswald said she is not worried about the potential dangers of injury or death from racing.
"I know the risks," said Oswald, who job-shadowed at Fletcher's Tire and Auto Service.
"I live life to the fullest."
Her grandmother and others taught her to not think twice about jumping at an opportunity, Oswald said.
"I know a lot of older people who say, ‘I wish I could have done these things when I was your age,'" Oswald said.
"All of my friends are right behind me. They actually think it's pretty cool."
Several schools offer NASCAR training programs. Oswald said she is leaning toward Oklahoma State University.
"That's my home state and where all of my family is," Oswald said. "Although I'll miss my mother."
Oswald's mother, Kristie Martin, said she wants her daughter to be wherever she is happy.
"This is where her heart and soul is, where she will develop and flourish," Martin said. "I told her, ‘If you can smell the oil, if you can smell the rubber burning, go for it.'"
Oswald said she has not yet driven on a racetrack.
"I've raced streetlight to streetlight," said Oswald, who drives a Ford Taurus. "I went 100 mph once when trying to get home."
Last November, Oswald traveled with her automotive class to the SEMA show, an automotive specialty products event in Las Vegas, Nev., presented by Specialty Equipment Market Association. It is not open to the general public.
"We got to see some races, but people mostly came to buy and sell parts," Oswald said. "There were NASCAR drivers there and I talked to some vehicle drivers and owners."
Posters of Oswald's favorite racers -- the late Dale Earnhardt and Kasey Kahne -- hang in her room.
"I'm going to try and be a NASCAR driver," Oswald said. "If that works out, I'll get tickets for everyone."