"YOU GO GIRL!" - THE WOMEN OF THE SWEENEY RUSH RACING SERIES
By Doug Kennedy
September 28, 2015 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Pulaski, PA)…Forget the James Brown 1966 hit song titled “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World”, because when it comes to the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Racing Series, the women have landed on the racing planet. With no less than a half dozen female drivers participating in the Series via both the Late Model and Sportsman Modifieds, women have definitely made their presence know throughout the 2015, with more to come for the ensuing years.
In the RUSH Late Model Division, third year competitor Jennae Piper of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania finished fourth in points at Virginia’s Winchester Speedway. Piper also finished fourth in RUSH’s “Futures Cup” points. Her mom, Tia, thinks that racing Crate Late Models is good for her.
“She’s gained confidence and poise in life situations,” said Tia. “She can now handle herself in front of crowds and is able to interact with all types of people. She’s not afraid to go up and talk to people. If she needs something for her car, she’ll ask another driver.”
“Racing has made me put myself out there and talk to people and not just keeping to myself,” said Jennae. “It helped me grow as a person by interacting with other people and carrying myself in a positive way. People see how you act at the races, particularly with me being a girl.”
She points to a Twitter message she received from a guy who said that his five-year-old son loves watching her race and asks his dad which one is the girl racer. “I would love to meet that kid,” said Jennae.
Jennae feels that she is accepted by her fellow drivers. “Whenever we’re on the track, we are all individuals and I don’t think anybody looks at me as being the girl on the track, at least I hope not,” said Jennae. “I’m younger, but I don’t think it’s a big topic.”
“I think with the tracks around here and with the drivers she races against on a weekly basis, they are very accepting of her,” said her mom.
“I don’t know her other then to say hi in the pits,” said fellow driver, Kris Eaton, who finished second in points at Winchester. “As a driver, we have raced all year at Winchester and she’s as good as anyone out there.”
“I talk to her a little bit,” said driver Timmy Booth. “She does a great job driving the car. Honestly, I can’t tell who’s driving the card regarding their gender. We all look the same when were inside the car.”
Even when she takes her car to Path Valley Speedway, the guys have accepted her as one of the drivers. Another track she competes at is Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex, the sight of her first ever RUSH Late Model win in 2014.
With the help of her mom and dad, Jon, Jennae hopes to continue competing in the Late Model Division which may include the Touring Series for 2016.
On a personal note, Jennae is now a freshman at Millersville University located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where she is majoring in Biology.
Caley Weese of Carrying Place, Ontario has been racing for 13 years. Her career began with the Comp 4 Cylinder cars where she won a championship before moving on up to the Pro Stocks. During her five years in that division, she was able to capture a title with the Eastern Ontario Stock Car Challenge Series. For the last six years, it’s been a Crate Late Model where she competes at Brighton Speedway against the likes of standouts Charlie Sandercock, Corey Earl, Phil Potts, and others.
She finished ninth in points with nine top ten finishes in her 11 races, but you wouldn’t know it to hear Caley downplay the 2015 season.
“This is the worst season I’ve ever had in a Late Model,” said Weese, who started the year with nine straight top 10s, but hasn’t had one since July 25. “It’s disappointing because we have a great car and something like a flat tire takes us out.”
As for racing against the guys, Weese said, “They are a great group of guys that I race against. We have a pretty close knit group of friends. I have their support on and off the track. If anything would ever happen to my car, there would be someone from every driver’s team who would come over and help us out “
She also points out that she has raced against these guys in other divisions before getting into the Late Model; however, she has one important belief- “Nobody wants to get beat by a girl.”
Charlie Sandercock, the RUSH Late Model champion at both Brighton and Can Am Speedways, said of Caley, “She’s good to race with and is always competitive. She’s an all around good person with a good personality on and off the track.”
Another driver, Phil Potts, is the polar opposite of Caley with regards to their racing styles. “He’s just wild on the high side and sideways all the time, but he makes it work.” said Caley. “I come from Pro Stock and I love a nice straight car that stays under me.”
“I’m wide open on the edge hoping for the best and she’s what we call a bottom feeder,” said Potts. “She’s likes to stay at the bottom of the track, but when she’s out front you have a hard time catching her. She’s fast.”
“She can give it back to you as easy as you can give it to her,” said Potts.
Her love for racing began when she was about 13 and attended a race at Brighton Speedway. “I went, I watched it, I liked it, and I said I was going to do it and I did,” said Weese, who also races snowmobiles. “I don’t come from a family of racers and I’m an only child so I’m just my own weird little person,” she said. “I was bound and bent that I was going to do it and I did.”
Sixteen year old Megan Mann of Chaptico, Maryland is in her third year of racing. Currently she races both a RUSH Crate Late Model and a Limited Late Model. After 12 races this season, there is a marked improvement in her on track performance.
“Most of the year in the Crate I made her start in the rear,” said her father, Roland. “Now wherever she draws, she starts. In the beginning of the year she had the typical push. Now she doesn’t and I don’t think there’s any Limited Late Model driver that races against her that has a problem because she’s a girl. All the Crate guys come over and tell her she’s doing a good job. In a heat race one night, she had the pole, led for three laps, and ended up finishing fifth.”
In her second year of racing, she won four races and the U-CAR championship at Potomac Speedway, her home track. This year, she is driving the car that Jason Covert drove last year when he won nine features driving for Megan’s dad.
Her inspiration has come from the likes of Super Late Model driver Amanda Whaley. “I watch her when she races at Delaware and Potomac,” said Megan. “That inspired me to race.”
She also attributes a lot of her success to Jason Covert, who she refers to as her mentor.
As for her fellow drivers, Mann said, “I like racing against the guys. They come over and support me and give me pointers.
The “Darling of Potomac” adores her fans. “The kids like me to sign stuff for them.”
Her dad and Roland’s father-in-law, Pete Cameron, own Megan’s car as well as the Super Late Model of Covert.
Warren, Ohio’s Tiffany Williams races has raced at Sharon, Sportsman’s and Tri-City Speedways in the Bicknell Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modifieds as well as making some Big-Block Modified starts.
Dwarf cars and Mod Lites were what Tiffany raced for 10 years. She would race the Mod Lites at Sharon, Deerfield, and Mercer.
“The girls can be as tough as the guys,” said Tiffany of other female drivers. “There are guys who try to intimidate you, but I don’t let it distract me. I have a lot of guys who are very happy with the way I race them.”
“For the most part, the guys don’t mind, but some of them don’t like it too much if a woman beats them, but the majority of guys will congratulate me when I win.”
Her dad, Mark, owns the Big-Block Modified that Tiffany drives, while John B. Smith owns her RUSH Sportsman Modified and her Dwarf Car.
Tiffany, who works at her aunt’s junkyard, Deforest Used Parts (a major sponsor for Tiffany and Sharon Speedway Mini Stock divisional sponsor), says that if it wasn’t for God, she wouldn’t be doing any of this.
“I’m just blessed.”
Then there are the Kriegisch sisters, 21-year-old Chelsie and 19-year-old Jessica. Chelsie began her career in Go-Karts when she was 10, while Jessica has been doing the Karts since she was seven.
Both sisters really enjoy the RUSH Series. “This is my first experience with a big car,” said Jessica. “I’ve loved every minute of it.”
“I love RUSH,” said Chelsie. “It’s a great class. I like the strictness of the rules and how they are set and they go through tech to support the rules.”
The sisters also like to compete against each other on the track. “She’s my sister and competitor but it also brings out a rivalry between the two of us,” said Chelsie. “It’s a friendly rivalry, but I do look out for her because she is my baby sister.”
“Racing against her has helped me improve and we can talk after the race about what was good and what was bad,” said Jessica. Currently Chelsie sits in eighth in Bicknell Weekly points, while Jessica is 14th, but in the Bicknell Touring points, Chelsie is in fourth, while baby sister is in ninth.
Jessica does remember one incident that happened at Lernerville this past season. “I pushed up high and then she slid up and I came down and we bumped into each other,” said Jessica. “We actually got out of our cars and had a good laugh about it.”
The Ellwood City, Pennsylvania sisters have a terrific owner in Jerry, “Goose” Schaffer, who competes against the ladies in the RUSH Sportsman Modified division.
Jessica points to Schaffer as well as two other drivers, Greg Martin and Nick Ritchey, for helping her out and motivating her.
“They’re both really good girls,” said driver Nick Ritchey. “I like the girls getting involved and it should be open to anybody. Once both of them get everything squared away, they’ll be just fine.’
He also sees more girls getting involved. As with the other drivers in the RUSH Modified Series, he sees it as one big happy family.
On a side note, after breaking a rear end at Sharon, Nick put a call into the girls’ car owner, Jerry Schaffer, to see if he had a spare car he could race so that he could keep up with his points. The response by Jerry was for Nick to come down to Ellwood City and pick it up. Ritchey did and went onto finish second in a race at Sportsman’s the very next night.
Another example of the togetherness these drivers have for each other came when Jessica broke a front spindle and Nick told her to just go to his trailer and pick out the parts.
“All Jessica needs is to get more seat time,” said Ritchey. .
“Overall, the guys are very accepting,” said Jessica. “I take every race as a learning opportunity and I just want to improve and show everybody that I’m capable of doing this. I want to get the respect from all the other drivers.”
She says that there are people who look at her as being a young girl out there racing, but she feels she’s the same as any other competitor. With this being her first year, she’s not trying to win races, but just trying to gain respect.
“She’s only run a half dozen races with me,” said Schaffer of Jessica. “She’s a go-getter. Sometimes you need to pull those reins back, but that’s a good thing. She’s got the fire in her belly and really puts the hammer down. I’m impressed with her for her age and more importantly, she’s doesn’t let the other drivers intimidate her. All she needs is a little more seat time.”
Chelsie is actually in her second year of competing in the Bicknell RUSH Sportsman Modified Series, albeit for a limited number of races in 2014.
“I don’t want the guys to look at me differently because I’m a girl, I just want to be a competitor,” said Chelsie. “The guys help me a lot.”
“Chelsie has 100% car control,” said Schaffer. “She excels when she runs the hard, slick tracks. She earned her ride-it was not given to her. I see her winning races very soon.”
He points to the opener at Lernerville this season when he and Chelsie shared the front row and battled each other for three to four laps for the lead. “That was probably the most fun I had.”
“He’s almost like another dad to me,” said Chelsie of Schaffer. “The RUSH Modified drivers as a whole are like a small family. The group of guys we race with makes the class as strong as it is.”
When asked about the other drivers having a problem with the girls, Schaffer was quick to say that there are no drivers who are resentful that a girl is driving a car.”
Two other female racers, Lindsay Barton and Lexi Wilson, have recently got their feet with the Sweeney RUSH Late Models. Barton, of central Pa., is certainly not new to Late Model racing as she's competed in the open engine ranks, but debuted with the Series in the first ever Crate Late Model race held at Path Valley Speedway Park back on August 14 and then two weeks later made the trip to Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway to race. Wilson meanwhile was a former asphalt standout at tracks such as Lake Erie Speedway, but during the summer has taken over the RUSH Late Model duties from her father Dave at Freedom and Bradford Speedways.
"Obviously I really love watching these girls go wheel-to-wheel with our guys," stated Series Director Vicki Emig." However, to be perfectly honest with you, when the race is taking place you simply forget they are girls because they are so competitive. I think that today gender is pretty much a moot point in auto racing and I believe them when they say they never think about being a female when racing. Personally I have worked in male-oriented businesses my entire life. Whether running my family's refuse business, promoting Mercer Raceway Park, or now being the Series Director of RUSH not once has being a female ever affected the outcome of my goals and I think the women of RUSH have already shown it won't affect theirs!"
Should we say it’s becoming a Woman’s World?
RUSH Late Model marketing partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bilstein Shocks, Sunoco Race Fuels, Bazell Race Fuels, Insinger Performance, MSD Performance, Maxima Racing Oil, Jones Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, ARbodies, TBM Brakes, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, Beyea Headers, FK Rod Ends, Bobby Lake Motorsports, Velocita-USA, High Gear Speed Shop, CrateInsider.com, B.R.A.K.E.S., RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.
RUSH Sportsman Modified marketing partners: Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Bicknell Racing Products, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bilstein Shocks, MSD Ignition, Maxima Racing Oil, Jones Racing Products, VP Racing Fuels, FK Rod Ends, Sherwood Racing Wheels, Velocita-USA, Precise Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, K&N Filters, TBM Brakes, Lincoln Electric, CrateInsider.com, Rocket Racing, and B.R.A.K.E.S.
E-mail can be sent to the RUSH
Racing Series at [email protected] and snail mail to 4368 Route 422,
Pulaski, PA 16143. Office phone is 724-964-9300 and fax is 724-964-0604. The
RUSH Racing Series website is www.rushracingseries.com. Like our Facebook page
at www.facebook.com/rushlatemodels and follow us on Twitter @RUSHLM.