DLM Racing: Drivers’ Wives

From 2003: Let’s face it, guys, or at least, those of us who are married: If it wasn’t for our wives we wouldn’t be doing what we do in racing. Or at the very least doing as well.

Whether you are a race car driver, sanction official, promoter, crew member, manufacturer, motorsports journalist or whatever your involvement, life is so much better with a supportive wife backing up your endeavors.

Yet, for the most part, wives of racing people usually remain hidden in the background. But if facts were known, there is probably a large majority of people involved in this wacky sport who wouldn’t be without the personal, spiritual, mental and financial support of wives.

Over the years I have discovered more and more that there are hundreds of us that are into this sport that wouldn’t be without our wives. Methinks many would be surprised to find out just how many wives are the backbones of many racing operations in this country, whether it involve race teams, race tracks or other facets.

So to show just how important and how vital wives are to those men who are involved in dirt Late Model racing, we contacted several different people who are participants in this sport in different areas to see what their wives mean to them, personally, as well as in regards to their careers in this sport.

CHUB FRANK: Defending Renegade DirtCar Series Champion:

“Mary’s been around since ’85 and she’s been through all the rough stuff and the good stuff (laughs)!” said Frank. “It’s just great to have someone there to support you and she has. Otherwise it gets real tough sometimes. She’s a big part of the team and I couldn’t do it without her.”

EDDIE CARRIER, JR: Defending STARS Battle of the Bluegrass Champion:

“Jamie means everything! Some people don’t realize how much time and preparation it takes to do this the way it needs to be done to win. And to meet and marry a woman who will put up with that and be there behind you, she’s one of your greatest fans because no matter how good you run or how bad you run she’s always there.”


“Lori means everything. She’s been with me the whole way. She’s my high school sweetheart and we’ve been together ever since I started racing. It used to be me and her going to the track and we did everything together. She used to be my pit crew. She’s been though it all with me. She has the boys to take care of while I’m gone so she doesn’t get to go as much as she used to but every chance I can get her to go I try to because I enjoy having her along.”

ERIC ZEMBOWER: Central Pennsylvania dirt Late Model star:

“Jodie really likes it and thank God because it’s a major sacrifice. Seriously, there is not ten words that something about racing isn’t mentioned between us. We talk about it all the time (laughs)! When we got married we were married in February so we could go to Daytona (laughs)! But hey, we’re all together! And like you say racetracks are a good place to race kids and I say, hey, I turned out half decent (laughs)!”

BILL REED: Car owner, driver, publisher of DIECAST DIGEST magazine & co-founder of DIRT RACING OUTREACH:

“I changed my life completely around when I was 40. Some people when asked how old they are or asked when their birthday is, will, like Ray Cook, give you his spiritual birthday. Mine would be when I was 40. Even though I know without a shadow of a doubt I accepted the Lord when I was 13 but the rededication and when I started working for the Lord came when I was 40. And that’s been 15 years ago. And Debbie has been a big part of that. We’re in love and we’re great pals.”

“Our living is racing with the magazine and our ministry is with racing. She loves to watch me race and whether I’m a superstar or not she still pulls for me. She’s my pal, my friend and we’ve been married for 15 years and it gets more every day. She is a worker! She teaches at our services and she is just a born teacher like some are born drivers. I told her that if no one gets anything out of ministry it’s helping me grow and not be ashamed.”

GEORGE LEE: Dirt Late Model driver of the Rocket/Malcuit Cowen Trucking #21:

She (Sherri) means a lot and she puts up with all the hours I put in the garage and all my frustrations when I get home and if I want to spend the night in the garage working on the car,” related Lee. “She understands. She’s enjoying racing too. We just built a new house and my honey-do list is pretty large and I promised here a lot of it would be done and there’s still some of it that needs done (laughs)! She’s a lot of support, lot of support. My biggest cheerleader.”

RODNEY FRANKLIN: Legendary East Coast Superstar:

“Well, I’ll tell you, she (Darlene) isn’t standing here but if she was I’d say it anyway. She’s probably been the biggest reason for my success in racing. She won’t let me get down and she wont let me get too up either, know what I mean? If I do she’ll bring me back down to ground level. Not too many times she has had to, but sometimes she does! But she’s never given me a hard time about being in the garage and being away. Most of the time my three daughters and her traveled with us all through the 80’s. They were small they went to just about every race. We’ve done it mostly together, and that’s the only way I could have done it.”

BENNY LESTER: Central Ohio based dirt Late Model driver:

“I would say Lisa means everything,” stated Lester with no hesitation. “I would not do it without her. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to do anything without her. She’s my crew, my crew chief. We do everything together with the family. She’s probably the only woman you’ll see in the pits swinging tires here and there and putting them on the car and changing the car setup and the whole nine yards. The woman is great. She goes to work everyday so we can race. If we didn’t race, she wouldn’t have to work. She gets up every morning and goes just so we can make it to the track.”

RICH GARDNER: Champion driver of the Tobber Racing #1 dirt Late Model:

“My wife’s name is Teri and we have been married since 1993. She supports me 100%. I met her at the races at the Mckean County race track .She
understands the dedication that is needed to be good at it. She goes to a
lot of family events without me and she gets ‘kidded’ a lot. People ask
her if she really has a husband or not! She always seems to give me a
pep talk when I’m down if things are not going good. Never has she asked
me to quit. She always says you’ve been through this before you’ll break
out of this slump, and she’s always right because I do!”

“As far as calling it quits, she tells me only I can make that decision, that she would never ask me to. She says I would be too miserable and I have to
make the choice as far as when I’ve had enough. It makes racing so much
more fun and easier when you have an understanding wife and she supports
all that you do. Believe me, I’ve talked to guys who’s wives hate racing
and their lives are miserable. They either end up getting out of racing
or end up divorced. Racing is a family sport and its great to have your
family behind you!”

RITCHIE LEWIS: Technical Director of the Xtreme Dirt Car Racing Series:

“My wife’s name is Leigh Anne Lewis and we are from Waycross, GA and she has been putting up me and the race tracks for over 20 years. We first meet in day care at the tender age of four. We were together until we started elementary school and met again once we turn the racy age of 16. She was dating a friend of mine and I was dating a friend of his. So, to make a long story short, they broke up and I began the honors of dating Leigh Anne. Her family and I were always at the races and that has continued to this day. We were fans one night and crew members the next.”

“We dated for 2 1/2 years and we were married and yes, here came the kids. Our sons Ritchie Neil (18) and Cole Lewis (16) have been a pleasure to raise. They are extremely smart, as I always say, like their Dad. Leigh Anne will differ with me on that one (laughs)! Leigh Anne has done a tremendous job raising our young men. She was the one at the Boy Scout camp-out with the first camp and fire built with our boys while I was working. She would make sure the boys were where they needed to be for football, scouts and track meets.

“Now we have Ritchie Neil in college and Cole will graduate a year early this spring from high school. She made sure we had all the love and encouragement we could possibly need.”

“Not only is Leigh Anne a great mother she is my best friend, my lover and most of all she understands that my drive for the evolvement in racing has been there since we were four years old. Yes, it’s tough being away from her and the boys but it’s tougher on her with me being gone on the road with the series. We talk every day while I’m gone. My day just seems like it’s not complete until I talk with her. My stomach just is empty right up until I speak to her and let her know how much I appreciate what she is giving up to allow me the opportunity to quench my racing thirst. I’ll be forever in debt to Leigh Anne for what she has done for me and the boys. She has given her life to us, to allow us to be the people we are. Thank you with all my heart and soul Leigh Anne. I truly love you!”

STEVE BAKER- racer, co-owner of Rocket Chassis, promoter of I-79 Speedway:

“My wife, Sherre, is very supportive. We just had our 21st anniversary and she has put up with a lot over the years with the racing and the race track and building race cars and all that. She has been very supportive.”

DAVE LEDFORD – champion racer of the Sines Enterprises #1 dirt Late Model:

“My wife, Barb, man, I wouldn’t know how to say it all right. She’s just the most wonderful, most supportive person I know. I’m a lucky man. I could have never done what I was lucky enough to do in racing without her. She has been there every step of the way in more ways than one. And not even with racing. She’s a hell of a woman and a good wife and mother. I’m lucky. Real lucky.”

JIM CUSHING – champion racer of the Rebman Trucking #00 dirt Late Model:

“Rita has just been a gem. No other like her! Love her to death. She’s supported me this year 100%. We’ve been married 27 years, where we’re having fun together. She’s never had a real vacation so I think I need to slow this thing down and give her that. I love the woman and I need to start paying her back a little bit.”

JEFF GEESEY – Race Coordinator of the MACS Late Model Series:

“Regina is a catalyst for the organization and many of the special things we do. Her outgoing and vivacious personality lends to a light and bubbly atmosphere inside a sport that can at times be tense. She is very detailed oriented with a keen eye for specialty promotions, especially geared toward the Junior Racers Club members, families, and drivers wives. She provides many professional attributes ranging from the Raceday to the banquet. Her problem solving and computer savvy keep the PR machine cranking.”

“One of the many duties she has is to obtain driver biographical information as well as interfacing with the drivers wives developing a relationship with them within the confines of the sport. She is heavily engaged in planning the drivers wives gifts for the banquet and has a flair for design and decoration expanding the ‘look’ and presentation that our banquet has become known for. She is studious about the business and can talk intellectually to anyone from drivers, owner, track operators, media, sponsors and fans discussing the Series or the finer points of short track Late Model racing. She is a sounding board for idea’s (promotions, scheduling, purse, and concepts) providing valuable insight to consummate plans.”

“All the other wives associated with the Series (Pauline Geesey, Kim Geesey, and Nancy Protzman) contribute in their own special way to the job they do.”

BO FEATHERS- champion driver of the Warrior #00 dirt Late Model:

“I’ll be honest with you, Lisa keeps everything straight and in order for the team. She makes a lot of the decisions. Actually, I consider her the car owner. She stays on top of things and she keeps both of my feet on the ground.”

BRIAN BIRKHOFER – driver of the Mastersbilt #15b dirt Late Model:

“Alissa has a real job and works for the city with benefits, which helps us tremendously and lets me go race. I feel bad when I have to stay out for a couple weeks. She lived about two hours from me and she moved here for me.”

“I love her.”

“She’s a tremendous supporter of me. She’s been excellent for me.”

SEANN ANDERSON: Owner of Panther Motorsports Design:

“Carissa, has inspired me to do what I want to do with my life, and go above and beyond the call of duty. If not for her putting a fire within me to do what I wanted, I wouldn’t of graduated college with my bachelors degree much less be where I am right now. She is the only reason I am here now doing what I thoroughly enjoy. She is an integral part of this business and couldn’t operate day to day without it. I guess that the old saying is true….behind every good man, there is a truly wonderful woman.”

DOC LEHMAN: Journalist

I couldn’t put an article together like this without paying tribute to my wonderful wife, Carol. Married nearly 25 years, she has been my best friend, my partner and the single most important person in my life. Through all these years she has put up with me and my obsession with this sport. During the years I was a publisher, she supported me. During my years as a race track promoter she supported me. During my years of running a sanction she supported me. Even when it required me to be gone from home days at a time, sometimes weeks at a time, she supported me. No matter what my druthers at any particular point in time, she has been there and supportive and graceful in her patience with all things racing.

Of course, going into our marriage she knew I was afflicted with that racing disease. And that was OK with her because, luckily enough, she, too, grew up going to dirt track races. I just take it to extremes, though.

But forgetting the racing, one thing stands out more than anything and that is her love, support, compassion and understanding she has so graciously given me time and time again, as well as our three children. She is a wonderful wife and mother, having seen three kids grow up to become adults. She is a throw-back to another era, being somewhat traditional in her dedication of love of her children.

Perhaps the compassion she has is why she is such a terrific and wonderful nurse. But all those outstanding qualities keep manifesting themselves every day and now she is truly one of the most kind, caring and loving grandmothers you will ever meet.

I would have been out of the racing game years and years ago if not for her support and encouragement. Myself, my kids, my grandchild, we are the luckiest human beings alive because she is a part of us. She makes us better. She makes us good. I do love her so very much.

OZZIE ALTMAN- broadcaster, announcer & president of Victory Lane Communications:

“I guess that it started on our first ‘out-of-town’ date. We went to Rockingham as I was covering the Busch and Cup races for radio back home and instead of carrying the show’s producer, we took the opportunity to use the weekend to work together and get to know each other a little better. By Sunday afternoon Patty, today my Racing Wife, ended up in Victory Lane congratulating Mark Martin and Jack Roush on their first Winston Cup win.”

“The fact that she was in Victory Lane isn’t the issue, but rather how she got there and the communication they took place between us that day. The morale of the story is how she used her sense of humor, patience and quick wits to her (our) benefit in avoiding a conflict and capitalizing on teamwork.”

“I’m pretty sure that she already had been sold before this particular day, but she certainly closed the deal in my heart that day at The Rock. My standard practice at Rockingham, in those days, was to park my vehicle in the Paddock, right alongside the fence line of the backside of Victory Lane. On that particular day as the checkered flag waved, I immediately headed into Victory Lane with my goal to be able to interview Mark as soon as Live TV (ESPN) and Radio (MRN) were done with him. Then we would head out the gate and enjoy the five hour ride home and a break for a nice dinner to cap off a great weekend together.”

“As I was made my way through the credential checkpoint into Victory Lane I was looking directly ahead toward the direction of my car, as it sat immediately behind the fence at the back edge of the Victory Lane Photographer’s Riser (stands). I could see that my girlfriend, at that time, was just about to be accosted (that means jacked with down south here) by a couple of imbibed characters who resembled, in tandem, ‘Otis’ and ‘Ernest T. Bass’ from the old Andy Griffith show. They were high octanked and on the prowl. The chosen target of the slurring pair of hustlers was my gal and they had begun staggering in on their prey.”

“In my mind I’m thinkin’ ‘Ain’t this just the ticket, I bring this gal to the races and she ends up getting harassed by a couple of trouble-makers, I’m really gonna score some points with her today…….’ As these thoughts flash through my mind I just kinda walked straight to the bleacher (riser) and crawled underneath it calling her name; she hopped from her seat on the right front fender as she saw me, reached her hand out to mine and grabbed the Victory Lane Credential that I had stuck through the fence. (For the record, this is the only time in my media career that I have illegally passed a credential on to someone not authorized to use it, I think…….anyway, she was credentialed for Media Center, Garage, Tower, etc, but not Victory Lane…..until she reached through the fence).”

“She went straight through the gate at Victory Lane, waded through a crowd, met me halfway and we began working together in a two-wide formation to ease right up to the front of the media corps. We were in prime position to get Mark’s winning comments as soon as he was done with Live TV and Radio. Her smarts, quick reaction time and ability to avoid the aggravation of us having to deal with the shady pair of revved-up characters won me over right then and there, besides I had already found out about her expertise in the kitchen and she was awfully good looking (still is). We got married the next spring. Reckon if we’d have thought about it, we would have had Judge Jack Roush marry us right there in Victory Lane, (oh, that’s just a TV commercial isn’t it?).”

“That was about 13 years ago and today we share ownership of a company that’s name is a product of that episode: Victory Lane Communications, Inc.”

“We have a lot of respect for each other. She’s a confidante, best friend and great partner as a parent of two killer kids. She’s a lot more than a wife in my life. She makes sure that the youngun’s say their prayers and handles the scheduling of business, family and social calendars without a hitch. To be able to come off of the road during racing season and feel the warmth that’s in that home is a great joy in my life. To be able to sit back and look at Straight A report cards for both of our kids and on repeated occasions is probably one of the biggest highlights of my life to date. That says a lot about my Racing Wife. Of course she gets more help out of me during the ‘off-the-road season’ and when I’m home off of the road (there is no such thing as the ‘off-season’ in racing). The past dozen years have been a wonderful experience in my life, thanks to my Racing Wife.”

“She’s a heckuva dancer (ask Chubby Checker), a bunch of fun to be around, teaches Sunday School, excels in her career field, and reminds me not to cuss. A cold pop and some good music to unwind for a moment go along way with her, especially before delving into the evening’s ritual of homework-dinner-bathes-reading-prayers. I’m very proud to be her husband, she’s a class act.”

“Her sense of humor? She agreed to get married on a Friday the 13th, if that gives you a clue.”

“She’s a Racing Mamma in the truest sense as evidenced by her ability to be the best mom in the world to two of the best kids in the world. If it weren’t for my wife, there’s no way that I could have enjoyed the works that have been made possible in the racing industry. She’s taken the initiative to reach out and meet the people whom I have had the opportunity to work with in motorsports. She’s a polished professional by nature and it’s always nice to be accompanied by such a graceful lady. Whenever she does have the opportunity to travel with me or met me at an airport somewhere across the country, it’s definitely the highlight of my day.”

“She gets involved with the people that I am working with and has made a lot of really good friends in the racing industry herself.”

“The timing of your article is impeccable as those of us within the motorsports world prepare for the season. It’s a special time of the year for racing families. It comes right after you’ve had a break from the road and you are able to spend some wonderful holiday and winter time with the family. Then it’s, pack your bags and you’re off to the races. That’s when it really hits you that ONE person is doing the things that TWO people have been doing while you are on the road. That takes a lot of love and dedication, to family and business needs. Racing Wives are the best kind, they support the demands of the careers of husbands and dads throughout the industry while keeping the homefront and family in proper running condition.”

“I’m glad I’m married to a Racing Wife.”


©2003-2008 Doc Lehman/Dirt America