In the last couple of years, more and more females have been making their presence behind the wheel of a stock car at the Kalamazoo Speedway. Why is that you ask? Why not!? Females are proving that racing isn’t just a male dominated sport and they too can hang with the guys on a Saturday night. Drivers like Michelle Sexton, Darlene Johnson, and Kelli Jo Hofacker have been good examples of female drivers that have raced at Kalamazoo Speedway in the past decade and showed that they belonged in the sport. Sexton unofficially retired mid-season in 2011 after being in a accident that destroyed her Modified. Johnson and Hofacker still make limited appearances in the Sport Stock class.

In 2011, 14 different female drivers made appearances throughout the 5 weekly classes that run at Kalamazoo Speedway every week. The Cyber Stock division saw 3 female drivers finish in the top 12 in points. Kaylee Misak who is the driver of the #14 Cyber Stock won 2 “A” Features and finished 5th in the points. The #14.2 of Lauryn Rousseau finished 8th in points and the #25 of Felicia Meade finished 12th in the final standings. Lindsey Katz #20 had some strong outings in the Modified class that led her to a 6th place finish in the points and showed a lot of improvement towards the end of the season. Ashley Markillie #5 finished 10th in the Pure Stock points and 3rd in the Rookie of the Year standings and also showed improvement as the season went on. These are just a few of the females drivers that have highlighted the weekly classes most recently.

With the addition of the Mini Stock class in 2012, I would expect to see the female driver count rise as the Mini Stocks are another good entry level class along with the Cyber Stocks. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a female win a championship in one of the weekly classes in the near future and would only make the sport even more popular amongst the female audience. So when attending the Kalamazoo Speedway this season make sure you remember that there are females out on the track too, and they are just as capable to drive the car hard into the corner and race door to door with any male competitor out there and who knows they may even beat them!

Left Turn Mania at the Zoo

Trent Hellenga

People who are not fans of racing see drivers, crew members and race fans as hillbillies or rednecks that like to drink beer and yell really loud at the racetrack. That may be true, but there is a lot more to these people then you might think. There has been a few situations recently where the Kalamazoo Speedway community has pulled together to help and support a fellow member of the racing community.

Two days after finishing 5th in the Kalamazoo Klash, driver of the #14 Outlaw Latemodel, Trent Hellenga went into surgery to have a Chondroblastoma Tumor removed from his brain. The surgery to remove the tumor was a success but is still under close watch by the doctors. The Kalamazoo Speedway community showed their support many ways including posting a simple Facebook status “14”. It may not seem like much but it’s a symbol of support for a fellow driver and friend to many at the track.

On Christmas Eve, Troy Dillon who is well known for building racecars (Dillon Racecars) lost his home in a fire. Not only did the fire damage Dillon’s home but it also heavily damaged his neighbors home that consisted of a mother and her two children. Thankfully no one was hurt but the saddest part was the two young children had no presents to open on Christmas morning due to the fire. The family suffered the majority of the damages from the fire and when many people from the Kalamazoo Speedway community offered to help, Troy Dillon unselfishly asked to not worry about him but help the mother and her two children. Several people gathered anything and everything from clothes to furniture to help the family. People like track owner Gary Howe, announcer Jason Seltzer, and drivers Bubba Brooks and Keith Wilfong just to name a few donated their time and effort to help deliver the items to Troy Dillon and his neighbors.

It was recently announced that long time Kalamazoo Speedway driver Andy Applehans has been diagnosed with cancer. He has already had one surgery and now the hard struggle and fight is on. Fellow Super Stock and veteran driver Larry Hollenbeck has opened up his shop to have a open house in honor and support of Applehans and his family. The event will be held on Saturday, January 28th from 2-4pm.

These are just a few incidents where the Kalamazoo Speedway community has stepped up to help or support someone in need. So when some people may continue to use words like hillbillies or rednecks to describe drivers and race fans, I think of words like unselfish, giving, or caring. Kalamazoo Speedway isn’t just a place to watch racing on a Saturday night, its more like a place where a huge family can get together to have fun watching or competing in what they love, share laughs and excitement, and be there for each other. I think Joe Metzger who is a crew member for Bozell Racing said it best. “I’m proud of who I spend my Saturdays with”!

By Nick Smith


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