For the Morley family, life is a drag!

Q & A KEN JENN outside with photos

Ken Morley and daughter Jennifer Morley-Downey have a passion for drag racing.

For some, life can be a drag.

It is for Georgetown resident Ken Morley.

It is for his daughter Jennifer Morley-Downey, 23, and perhaps someday her husband Paul Downey and maybe even her younger sister Ashley, 20.

Drag racing is a family affair for the Morley’s.

Following in the footsteps of his father Tom Morley, one of the original flaggers when U.S. 13 Dragway opened in 1963 who soon after took to the wheel, Mr. Morley for several decades has competed in several divisions, both full-time and part-time.

CHEER dragster kevin lewandowski with ken morley

Drag racer Ken Morley of Georgetown poses with a young fan at the CHEER Car Show in August.

The torch was passed to Jennifer, a proud Sussex Tech High School graduate. She competed in the Junior Dragster ranks from 2006 to 2010 until she reached the junior age limit of 18.

Their shop is based in Milton, where Mr. Morley’s father resides.

Morley’s Racing sponsors include: Rehoboth Car Wash; Garrison Homes; Sposato Irrigation and Landscaping; Rogers Sign Co., Inc.; Lewes Meineke Car Care Center; Community Auto Repair; Pete’s Steak Shop; Snookies Speed Parts; Sunoco Race Fuels; Preferred Auto; and Bayside Exteriors.

Let’s meet the father/daughter drag racing duo.

What do you do for a living?

Ms. Morley-Downey: “I am a licensed veterinarian technician in the State of Delaware – basically the equivalent of a nurse. Right now I am working on helping to start a new animal preserve in Delaware – Barn Hill Preserve is based out of Baton Rouge, La. That is what I am working on right now. Before that I was at Georgetown Animal Hospital.”

Ken Morley: I work for Sussex County government, in the building code department as a building inspector.

Talk about your need for speed:

Jennifer Morley-Downey: “It’s not necessarily the speed for me; that’s always great. But it’s more of the science behind it, like learning how the weather affects the things in your car, trying to really predict what you are actually going to go. If you go too fast you lose. If you are not quick enough on the “tree,” you lose. So it is the competitiveness that really strikes my fancy – and also your ‘family’ that you develop there, your friends. These are lifelong friendships that I have been developing since I was a toddler. We’ve all been there in diapers running around the race track. It is just the whole atmosphere.”

Ken Morley: “I am a competitive person by nature. I mean, I don’t care if we’re playing Jacks, I want to beat you.”

What sparked your passion for drag racing?

Ken Morley: “My father flagged for just a few races and then he decided he wanted to race. He started sneaking his father’s car to the race track. That is how he started. Way back in the mid-60s, late-60s we grew up at the track and saw all of the big racers. Back then we had a lot of the big-time racers coming to the track; the sport was just really taking off.”

“In high school I played football and didn’t really do well because of the injuries and stuff. I loved the sport and still love it to this day. Then I started racing motorcycles. That was a little dangerous as well. Then of course I turned 16 and muscle cars were the thing. I loved the thrill and the speed. And definitely we pushed the envelope; my brothers and myself, we wrecked a few cars and got in trouble with the law. Finally, my dad said, ‘That’s enough. If you are going to do it, you are going to do it right and you’re going to do it in a safe environment.’  That was the start of it. We started looking for a car … in 1981. We found a Trans Am and started racing that a little bit. Then we went into the ’67 Firebird.”

Jennifer Morley-Downey: “He (dad) was very competitive when we were younger, so every weekend was spent at the racetrack. There are old pictures we have where my mom is pregnant with my sister and I was like two years old sitting in the race car. My fondest memories are waking up from a nap in the camper and waking up to the sounds of race cars. I always liked sleeping at the race track versus sleeping in hotels …”

“During one of the off-seasons when I was in the middle school, he was storing two junior dragsters for a friend. And I went out there and sat down in one – and I needed help getting out of it. That is what peaked my interest. Then when I was probably 14 we found a ’68 Camaro that we got and we were going to restore together. That was going to be my first car. Then I decided I wanted a dragster instead. So we sold the Camaro and I got myself a nice hot pink junior dragster.”

Ken Morley: “For me I had a selfish motive. When she was a young teenager, I wanted to keep her close to me. And she liked going to the racetrack and all of that stuff and showed an interest that way, so I told her that we’ll go ahead and pick a car out for you. She kind of liked the Camaro. She liked the pictures of our old Camaro. I found a 1968 Camaro, original owner, one owner car. I went out and bought it and I brought it home that weekend. She and I both jumped on it right away. She was out there with me for hours …”

“As we were going to the track and all of her friends were racing juniors (dragsters). She was like, ‘I have got a nice Camaro but you guys are having fun now.’ (It was) ‘You know dad, how about we sell the Camaro and then I’ll sell that (dragster) in a few years and then we’ll go and get another one.’”

Jennifer Morley-Downey:  “Now in my life I sort of regret that decision – now this is the most fun I’ve ever had (racing dragsters); I absolutely still love these cars – but now I could be racing.”

What are your future plans?

Ken Morley: “I have been racing part-time … for the last 15 years, while we were raising the girls and getting them through school and college and married, just trying to meet those demands. My plan is to get back into it fulltime. This was our first year back, not fulltime but a little heavier schedule. I was racing maybe four or five races a year for the last 15 years. This year I’ve probably got seven races locally and a couple of different other sponsor obligations – car shows and different charity events.”

“Next year is going to be the year we really expand it out a little bit. We definitely want to make all of the divisional races next year. That’s real important to me because that’s really the racing I like most – the Super Comp racing.”

Jennifer Morley-Downey: “Hopefully, we’re going to hit all of divisional races.  And hopefully I’ll be doing my license passes in the car. That was supposed to happen this year but I didn’t get around to it. To license in the car have to do it kind of in intervals. You have to only do a certain length down the track and then a certain mile per hour until you work your way up to licensing in an 8 second car. So that does take several passes. And you do have to wait your turn. You have to wait for everybody who is competing to go ahead.

Ken Morley: “Or you can do at a test session, which was definitely the plan but we had a little glitch … (motor problem).”

Jennifer Morley-Downey: “Whenever I don’t go to the race track he seems to blow up a motor. That happened Sunday (Sept. 6), and it happened two years ago while I was at college. He cannot go racing without me!”

“And my husband is also very interested. Actually, my sister (a pre-law, environmental studies major at the University of Delaware) seems to be interested in racing. She doesn’t want to be in a dragster but she has expressed interest.”

Any particular memories or thoughts on drag racing?

Jennifer Morley-Downey: “Other than all of the lifelong friends that I have met – I am still very good friends with my friend Susan, who we raced together – I came back from a missionary trip in Ecuador and I hadn’t raced for probably a month or two. I was completely out of it and I ended up going to the final round that night. I had only been home for like a day or two. I was racing my boyfriend at the time. In the final round – he won.”

Ken Morley: “In the sport of drag racing we attend a lot of the fundraisers and charity events and different things like that, community events. We want to continue our fundraising efforts for Make-A-Wish Foundation, the American Cancer Society and other local charities that we have been affiliated in the past. We have also had the opportunity to share the sport of drag racing with several local schools and continue to make those visits a top priority. We are looking forward to continued opportunities to promote the sport of drag racing as well as our sponsors.”

MORE INFO

For more information on Morley’s Racing, visit their website: www.morleysracing1062.com/.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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