By Robin Smith Meiser
I started out in this sport as a racing widow. It grew on me as it has thousands of other women throughout the country. It became a way of life; it actually becomes your life. One of my daughters carried on the tradition and married into a racing family, what was that song in the Lion King, 'The Circle of Life'?
What is strange is that sometimes when the circle of life is at that down turn and racecar goes away after being part of your life for so many years, and then a marriage can fall apart. Kind of like empty nest syndrome, I guess. The really funny thing is that after my marriage ended to a stock car driver, he was no longer involved in the sport but it was then that I totally immersed myself in it. For the past seven years, I have lived and breathed racing day in and day out.
In those years, I have met many of the new breed of racy ladies, as I call them. The ones like Luann Nieborg discusses in her Racing Widow story. I have met some tremendous women in the past few years, many of them drivers, racing with the full support of their spouses, children, parents, grandchildren, other family members and friends. I even tried my hand at racing a couple of Powder Puffs in the late 1970s. The first was at the old Suncoast Speedway, which now lies in the underbrush off of US 41 in southern Charlotte County. The first race I ran in, I was leading the first lap going into Turn Two when I felt a huge jolt and my car went flying.
Luckily, it was a jalopy division car and it came back down on all four wheels. I had been sent flying by a young lady by the name of Susan Meier, the wife of Peter and mother of Jeremy, who race at CCS intermittently. She won the race but I did manage to finish fourth out of four cars! I got out of racing as a participant shortly, thereafter. I always tell people though that Susan should have gone on racing because she would have been one of the best!
The first lady driver in a regular racing division I really knew was a woman by the name of Karen Fowler, who used to race at Charlotte County Speedway in the early 1990s. Karen is a gutsy lady, whose ex-husband John is now the crew chief for limited late model/sportsman driver, Buzz The Bomb Martin. John used to do all of the work on Karen’s car and Karen would drive the wheels off of it. She could have driven in the ladies division as CCS had a Lady Road Warrior class back then but for some reason she didn’t.
I am getting older now, a grandmother you see, so sometimes I forget things like my story last week when I said CCS opened in 1991, it was actually in the late 1980s, I believe. Anyway, one hot summer night Karen was racing in the last race of the evening and was coming down the backstretch when she wrecked with another car just before the entrance to the pits. All at once, the ground shook from a horrific explosion, as Karen’s car became a fireball, totally engulfed in flames. Some brave fellow driver reached in to get Karen out and got burned himself. I can't remember who it was but I am sure someone will be happy to post it on the message board for me. The track workers whisked Karen off in an ambulance to the hospital and we all knew she had to be seriously injured, it was the worst fire I had ever seen at CCS, second only to Leroy Porter's wreck many years ago at DeSoto.
Most people who go to CCS know that the Speedway gas station on Jones Loop Road is a very happening place for local racers after the lights go down at the racetrack. On that particular night, we all sat in the parking lot and worried about Karen Fowler. Imagine our surprise, when scarcely an hour after the accident, Karen and John pulled into the lot. Karen got out of the truck, bandages covering both her arms. She had burns underneath but that was the extent of the damage, she was a lucky lady. At any rate, the first story I ever wrote about a woman driver was Karen after that incident. She doesn’t race anymore but left a lasting impression on me.
Right now there are at least three gutsy women drivers at Charlotte County Speedway who race in regular division racing and their husbands do all the work on their cars and then pace nervously in the pits while the little woman is out racing with the men. The one with the longest racing history is the current points champion in the Cowboy Cadillac (although it should be Cowgirl or Cowperson Cadillacs since she is the current champion, HA HA) division, Cheryl The Pearl Weaver who prides herself on being a racing grandmother. A very active member of Racers for Christ, she races her purple and white Chevy truck with a stuffed Elmo hanging out her passenger window.
Elmo is there because her granddaughters love him so much. Last Halloween weekend for the annual Trick or Treat the Drivers, Cheryl ensured a special appearance by the red monster and at the 2000 points banquet; Sesame Street balloons marked her table. All the other champions were decked with black and white balloons but then Cheryl is just a really special lady and is loved by everyone at the Speedway. Cheryl's husband, Dave, is her biggest fan and they have been married for over 30 years after being high school sweet hearts.
Probably the scariest moment of his life though was the time when she climbed out unhurt after she rolled her car on the front stretch of the track. As soon as the car was towed into the pits, Dave started working on it, changing the springs and Cheryl climbed back in, rejoined the race four laps down but took home a ninth place finish. That's Cheryl, she has that never say die attitude.
Fellow racing lady, road warrior driver Donna Connolly, has put her husband John through the scare of seeing her flip on two separate occasions. John is a real excitable kind of guy and both times I was afraid he was going to stroke out on us until the tough gal climbed out both times relatively unscathed. She is like a Timex watch; she takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Every time she wrecks her car, John takes it home and fixes it. That is what racing is about in the new Millennium.
Christine Gibson, who drove her first open wheel modified race at CCS on August 25 after spending several years in the pure stock division, gave her husband Tom, and sons Justin and Josh, a horrendous moment during hot laps that evening.
As Christine spun, another car flew on top of her car with a portion of their front wheel poking through her window. Quick pit work by Tom and crew got her back on the track for her heat race. Tom stands on top of their trailer playing the role of spotter while Christine races. You can see the pride in his eyes every time he looks at her; they are still relative newlyweds you see, having been married less than two years.
Several months ago, the Gibson’s and myself made a visit to a middle school truancy program funded by the Department of Juvenile Justice with Christine's racecar. I had made the mistake of telling the school that driver Chris Gibson would be there and immediately the teacher and principal went up to Tom, thinking he was the driver. It was hilarious! They showed the kids around the trailer and explained how everything worked on a racecar and Christine started her car and made several laps around the school track (as in track and field). I cannot tell you the impact she made on at least five middle school at-risk adolescent girls, she is their heroine!
Speaking of adolescent girls, I have a new little racing sister who is just emerging on the race scene this year. Her name is Christy Boyett and she is in the rookie division in the Outlaw Modified series, currently running sixth in points and has had a Top Ten finish in every race except her first this year. This young lady has the full support of her parents, Bill and Nancy, and is going to try to move up into the Fastrucks next season. Of course, late models are her short-range goal.
Recently, I had a discussion with Cheryl Weaver about Christy Boyette. Cheryl and I both think Christy will go far because she has the drive, talent, and personality to make it in the big league. More importantly, she is an excellent role model for other teen-age girls. She is the kind of young woman who can show other teen-age girls, who may not have the same self-esteem that she has, that they can do ANYTHING they want to do. Like the Nike commercial, JUST DO IT!
I have two other lady racing role models who I have to discuss briefly. The first is probably the bravest lady I have had the pleasure to meet, NASCAR Goodys DASH Series driver, Kelly Sutton, who is sponsored by Copaxone. What is Copaxone you might ask? It is a drug that people who have multiple sclerosis take to control their muscle tremors. Kelly or The Girl as her admiring fellow drivers call her, takes the drug and it is what allows her to race, as she has multiple sclerosis. I cannot tell you the respect and admiration that I have for this woman who I met only twice. I hope to be writing about her for years. I can't tell you that much about her now because I don't know her that well but what an inspiration she is to the racing world.
I cannot close this commentary without discussing my personal role model and friend, Kim Scheffler. She has been written about by many Florida writers in recent years and has a litany of accomplishments both on and off the racetrack. Everyone who visits this Website knows of her work with children and children's charities. If you want to learn more about her, visit her personal Website at www.kimschefflerhays.com or read past stories written about her on this Website. I do have to sing her praises though about one thing I really haven’t discussed with the KARNAC readers yet. Several months ago, I lost a young man who was like a son to me. I wrote a story about Daniel Miller and I am sure it is in the archives if you haven't read it. He died after being thrown out of a Jeep because he wasn’t wearing his seat belt. My dear friend, Kim Scheffler, heard the sad story and with the support of her Fastruck owners, Firestine Motorsports, she decided to race in his memory for this season. Decals saying Racing in Memory of Daniel Miller were placed on the hood of her truck and she spoke of the importance of young people wearing their seatbelts. Daniel's parents, Dan and Sara Miller, were totally devastated after the death of their only son. The silver lining in their black cloud though was the evening they saw Kim’s truck with that tribute to their son on it. That was the night the healing began for the Miller family and I will be eternally grateful to Kim for her thoughtfulness. She did for the Millers what none of us could do. And as I always say, when you do good, you get good back and boy, does she have some good coming her way!
Another breed of racy ladies are women like my friends, Linda Jericka and Karen Woodruff, the head scorers at our two Southwest Florida stock car tracks. If you want to see the toughest job at any racetrack, go up into the score tower and watch what they do. You have no idea how hard that job is but if they weren’t there, you couldn't run a race. My other two girlfriends at CCS, Krista Holmes and Michelle Jackson, do the same tough job. Hats off to you, my girls, I am proud of you.
Two other racy ladies I am proud to call my dear friends are volunteers. The first is Sara Carmean, who runs the Junior Fan Club and actually introduced me to KARNAC. She is a phenomenal woman who has poured hundreds of hours or work and love into the kids at Charlotte County Speedway. The other is one we all have come to know and love in the past few months, Carol Wicks! I wont even get started on her because I am sure you will all fill up the message board on that one!
Also, what has happened to my other message board girlfriend, Missy? Are you out there still? I miss you. Finally, to my fellow Lady Karnacians, Luann Nieborg and Jane Smith, I am proud to be on the same Website with you. I want to be just like you both when I grow up (like I ever will, grow up that is!).
-Robin Smith Meiser
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