All racing season there have been four women — Amy Holland, Jessica Powers, Rachel Zacharias and Bailey Groves — competing in the huge sportsman division at Brewerton, Fulton and Utica-Rome speedways.
Amazingly three of the drivers come from Mexico: the hotbed, apparently, of female race car drivers.
Don’t be calling them “girl drivers.” Those are fighting words.
• Jessica Powers, 31, makes the longest haul coming down from Kingston, Ontario every week. With 10 years behind the wheel of a sportsman she is definitely the veteran of the class. Powers’ story is unique.
“I went and watched a friend race one night and had a good time,” stated Powers. That initial night of fun at the track launched her racing career.
“Dad (Chris) and I built it (a four-cyclinder race car) in the driveway. I’m the only one in the family that has ever raced,” said Powers. “Dad owns a auto shop back home but he never raced.”
Powers, who has a degree in ancient history and works as a recruiter at Queens University, spent four years in a starter class and then moved into a sportsman where she has raced- very successfully for the past 10 years.
Powers admits that she wasn’t really good at popular sports when she was younger and liked trying something different and “this is where we landed.”
Brockville Speedway, just over the Canadian border above the St. Lawrence River, has always been her primary track and closest to her but this season has been Powers third full season at Fulton. She is currently seventh in points and has won two feature races at the high banks this season.
Powers, in the immaculate No. 52, plans on racing the Outlaw 200 on the weekend of Sept. 28-29 at Fulton and Super DIRT Week at Oswego Speedway this season.
• Amy Holland is racing in her first full season at both Brewerton and Fulton Speedway. The 2016 Mexico graduate is a basketball star and has transferred from Jefferson Community College and will be point guard at Cazenovia College where she will major in human services. School started for her this past Monday.
Holland, 20, has been racing since she was five. Ten years in quarter midgets and the past five years in the sportsman division. “My dad (Bob) raced for
30 years,” reflected Holland. “They (her parents Bob and Michelle) encouraged me when I was younger. I’d run and get wrenches, I was brought up around racing.”
Holland is seriously competitive and because she has always been around boys doing “boy things” like racing she is “not intimidated by racing with boys” at all. Holland seems to find herself right in the middle of the action each feature race and is currently ninth in points at both Fulton and Brewerton with one feature win at Fulton.
There was never a women racer that Holland looked up to it was always her dad that was the driving force. However, she is very aware of her roll as a female driver with a lot of young girls coming up to her during autograph night wanting to meet their driving hero.
Along with school and racing Holland is finding time to work as a volunteer at Oswego County hospice with her beloved golden retriever Bristol. She’s is working toward Bristol being a therapy dog.
Holland and the whole No. 5 Holland Trucking team will be racing the Outlaw 200 weekend at Fulton and is going to try and fit Super DIRT Week in but everything depends on her school schedule.
• Bailey Groves drives the No. 19, her number is her birthday, Jan. 9, sportsman at Brewerton and Fulton. Groves also hails from Mexico where she was a three-sport athlete in high school. She got so good at lacrosse that she was recruited by Siena College and played Division I lacrosse.
Groves, 22, graduated this past spring from Siena with a marketing and management major and human resource minor.
Even though Groves has raced sportsman for seven years she has never raced a full season.
“I couldn’t start racing until the end of my high school or college sports seasons,” stated Groves.
Also, three knee surgeries and a shoulder surgery slowed her down for a little bit. Her goals are much more modest than most drivers — of course she wants to win — but is content to “get as many laps under my belt as I can.”
Groves’ dad Randy got her in to racing when he turned wrenches on the Graves cars: Freddy, Ronny and Cliff drove at Oswego Speedway. Growing up Groves admired Star Mattison, a female driver that raced at Oswego for 10 years and Nicole Hoag, a racer down at Outlaw Speedway in Dundee.
Racing at Oswego was “too expensive so this (sportsman division) was the next best thing,” according to Groves.
With her recent graduation Groves is weighing her employment options but in the mean time she is racing, working and will also be doing some lacrosse coaching.
• Rachel Zacharias, 17, is also from Mexico. There is a real Mexico connection with women race car drivers and she has been racing three years in the sportsman division.
Both Rachel and her brother Dylan drive at Brewerton, Fulton and Utica-Rome Speedway’s each weekend. Rachel is in the No. 71r and Dylan is in the No. 27z.
Zacharias dad, Rick, raced at all the asphalt tracks like Spencer Speedway, east of Rochester. Convincing his daughter to race wasn’t that easy.
“I didn’t want to be a racer at first,”laughed Zacharias. “They bought be a car (a microd) and it sat. I didn’t touch it and then they sold it.”
“I saw my brother racing and I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps” so they bought a micro sprint. Her first race wasn’t too positive. “I went out for hot laps and blew up the motor.”
Microds didn’t last too long with all the tracks they were racing at least one hour away so making the move to sportsman with two tracks within a half hour was the way to go.
Zacharias’ racing hero is her dad but she said she always looked up to Amy Holland. “I never really remember any one else.”
Zacharias, who graduated from Mexico HS will be doing on-line college to be a veterinarian assistant.
There are not too many weeks of racing left so get out and watch these great young women competing at our local tracks.
See you at the races!