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'Soap Box grandma' to wave green flag at IMS Thursday

At 59, she’s the oldest Soap Box Derby racer ever. Her story went national and eventually reached the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — “Who would’ve known that going down that hill would’ve caused all of this,” Debra Houston said. 

Her trips down the Wilbur Shaw Soap Box Derby Hill in Indianapolis have made her somewhat of a legend at the track. At 59, she’s the oldest Soap Box Derby racer ever.  

“There’s no other name to call me but the Soap Box granny," said Houston, who only started soap box racing last year.

She got into it on accident - originally bringing her grandchildren to the track to get them out of the house.

“I was like anything I can do to get them off those computers all the time and off those phones, I will do," Houston said. 

She ended up getting hooked herself. At the time, though, she was battling cervical cancer. Still, Houston continued to show up and race with her grandchildren.

“I had to show them too. You don’t let something get you down, you keep going," Houston said. "You just keep going and you can be and do anything.” 

Houston’s story went national and eventually reached the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where she’ll wave the green flag at Thursday’s Indy 500 practice session. 

“The people that wave that flag, I’ve never known a regular person wave that flag," Houston said. 

Earlier this year, Houston was informed she was cancer-free but a few weeks ago, doctors discovered she had lung cancer. 

“I’m having surgery, chemo and radiation," Houston said. Those procedures are scheduled to start next week, but nothing can keep her down. 

“It’s up to you. I’ve been a fighter, I’ll fight till the end," Houston said. "I’ll go up kicking. I don’t have a lot of lung usage right now, but I’m not on oxygen, I’m not in a wheelchair. I didn’t feel that great this morning, but I got on up.” 

And nothing can keep the "Soap Box granny" away from the track. She plans on racing this summer.

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