The youngest winner in the history of the racecar series in which he currently participates describes what it’s like to reach speeds of 175 mph.
Hometown: Boca Raton
The back story: The son of former professional tennis player Juan Nunez took an athletic detour five years ago. His brother, fraternal twin Dylan, continued to follow in his father’s footsteps, but Tristan left the tennis court for the go-cart track, where he began racing competitively at age 12.
He quickly graduated to Skip Barber formula cars, which reach speeds of 125 mph; last year, he captured the overall Summer Series championship with six wins in 16 races. In his first International Motor Sports Association event of 2012, Nunez, now racing a closed wheel, open cockpit Prototype Lites racecar that can reach 175 mph, became the youngest winner in that series’ history with not one but two victories during a March event at Sebring International Raceway.
When he isn’t taking classes in Wellington at a school for students pursuing a career in pro sports, he educates peers about the dangers of texting and driving (the slogan “Dnt txt n drV” is on the side of his car). Nunez hopes to eventually race in the American Le Mans Series.
In his own words: “Racing is something you have tofeelto really understand. If you put a 15-pound weight in each hand and steer side to side, that’s what it feels like to drive in a race. When you get out of the car, your arms are numb. We pull about 3Gs, so it’s like being on a rollercoaster through every corner and every brake zone. Sometimes, it feels like your face is going to rip off.
“There is immense heat inside the car, especially in a closed cockpit, and it doesn’t hit you until after you come to the pits. Some drivers pass out after the race—the adrenalin rushes out of them, and they’re done.
“Driving on the highway is more dangerous than being on the track. At least racecar drivers know what they’re doing. I see it all the time—people texting and swerving into other cars. It has to stop.”