BELMONT — Francis Anderson celebrated her impending 88th birthday Sunday by driving a 600 horsepower NASCAR race car around the one-mile oval at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, hitting 88 miles an hour on one of her eight laps.
''I wanted to hit 100 but I didn't quite get there,'' said Anderson, who will turn 88 on Thursday and was in the race car by herself.
She said that she hadn't driven a standard shift car in about 60 years but that shifting the car came back to her once she got behind the wheel.
''It was quite an experience. There I was chugging along when this guy right beside me was going well over 100 miles an hour when he passed me,'' said Anderson, who was in contact with her spotter in the tower through the headset she wore.
Anderson received the ride as a birthday present from her daughter, Pat Bushey of Belmont, and her four sons, including Fred, of Campton, who is CEO of the N.H. Electric Cooperative.
''I didn't realize getting to driving a race car was such a big deal. There were a lot of people in line waiting to get out on the track when we arrived,'' said Anderson, who drove a car provided by the Rusty Wallace Race Experience. She waited nearly two hours before getting onto the track.
She's always been an adventurous soul, however, having made it a point to drive her age on the highway on her birthday in recent years, which led to her children to think that it would be better if she did her speeding in a more controlled environment.
''I think my kids had more fun than I did. My biggest worry was getting in and out of the race car. There's no door and you have to climb in through the window,'' said Anderson, who has an artificial hip, two artificial knees and wears a pacemaker.
She grew up in Medford, Mass., worked in the legal department at the Boston and Maine Railroad in Boston where she met and married Fred Anderson, an accountant with First National Stores in Somerville, Mass.. They later moved with their children to Connecticut when First National relocated and after Fred retired moved to Sawyer Lake in Gilmanton 26 years ago.
Her husband died a few years and she now lives in the Heritage Terrace senior housing development on Shaker Road in Belmont.
She said that she's had a full and adventurous life, including white water rafting in Canada, flights over Alaskan glaciers, leaning out over a precipice to kiss the Blarney Stone and hiking up to the historic Masada fortress on a mountain in Israel.
She's an active member of the Elder Friendship Club, which meets in Laconia, and still continues to drive her own car, often providing rides to her friends who no longer drive.
''I've had an interesting life and there are still a lot of interesting things I'd like to do,'' says Anderson.
Francis Anderson of Belmont celebrated her impending 88th birthday Sunday by driving a race car 88 miles an hour on the one-mile oval at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. (Courtesy photo)