Archive for the ‘Driver Interviews’ Category

“The Leading Ladies of Cherokee Speedway” — A Three Part Series — Chan Conrad McGinnis

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

This is the final part of a three part series on “The Leading Ladies of Cherokee Speedway.” The first interview was with Kelli Norris who is the Track Photographer, the second interview was with Sandy Ellis Cooke FlagPerson at Cherokee, and this third and final additionof the series is with Office and PR Manager Chan McGinnis. Three females in leading roles usually filled by men at “The Place Your Momma Warned You About!” .

 

Chandra Conrad McGinnis  “…..can’t race in gladiator sandals!”

 

Chandra McGinnis, better known as Chan to most folks, is 43 years old, was born in Gastonia, NC, and raised and currently resides in Ellenboro, NC. Chan is engaged to Randy Henson.  Chan has no children of her own but raised her niece Lauren, who is 21 years old and is attending Western Carolina University studying Criminal Justice with a minor in Forensic Anthropology.

 Chan is not a nickname but a short call on her full name of Chandra.  However she smiled as she tells this, “my Nana always called me ““Chandie”” which is funny now because Sandy Cooke and I are best buds and a lot of the kids around Cherokee Speedway have started referring to us as Sandy and Chandie. Also, lots of people think we are sisters and most of the time we just let them keep thinking that. LOL! People always get us mixed up too, calling me Sandy & her Chan. We just roll with it, answer them & keep going.”

 While discussing Chan’s education and work history I found her to have a wide and interesting range of experiences.  Chan is a licensed cosmetologist and has been doing hair for 21 years now. “I originally went to Limestone College in Gaffney for Elementary Art Education with a minor in Journalism, but (just between you & me) I spent too much time ““studying”” Partyology and the male species so I ended up back home at the Community College. LOL! I also work for Jeremy Clements Racing in Spartanburg SC. I’ve been with JCR since his Super Late Model days, through his ARCA era, and now into his Nationwide career. I am the team accountant, processing and paying all the race shop bills and tracking and paying all the race expenses for every race. I think I’ve been with him for about 8 years now. I am also an educator for a skin care and wax company, traveling and teaching classes and working beauty shows. In February of this year, I was also hired on by the US Postal Service, and I am a substitute rural carrier in Shelby NC. I deliver the mail on Saturdays & anytime the regular carrier is off.” She is one busy young lady, wonder if I can get a loan. LOL!

 Chan I usually ask folks about their spare time activities but I’m not sure you have any after hearing all that. “I have very little free time for sure, but when I do have it, I enjoy reading, beach trips, visiting other race tracks and working in my little ““craft”” building in the back yard making stained glass creations.”

Chan let’s talk about racing now and just how it all began for you. “My racing fixation started when I was 5 years old and my Daddy took me to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Back then you could basically get in free with promo tickets or if you couldn’t find any, the admission price was nearly nothing. I remember being the little “”tom-girl”” going with him and his buddies, watching the likes of the Allison’s, Baker, Yarborough, Petty and Pearson and my Daddy pulled for both of those two. For some reason I latched onto Darrell Waltrip, LOL go figure, I picked the loud mouth. When Awesome Bill Elliott came on the scene I made the switch and was a die-hard fan until his retirement from full time racing. I was totally hooked on NASCAR until one Saturday night round 1991. Me & my husband at the time went out to eat and then went to Harris Speedway to see our neighbor Barry Huntley race in the Baby Bomber’s. After that night I could really care less about asphalt at all! I loved the smell, the sounds, and the excitement! Ronnie Buff really knew how to pump that little bullring up, and you left seeing some good racing and some good fighting as well. LOL! We decided that this would be our new Saturday night thing! They had a women’s division that ran weekly and every week and I would tell Curtis, “”I could do that.”” It looked like it was so much fun and I just kept saying how much I wanted a car.  Of course he’d grunt and mumble and nothing happened. Well, one Saturday night Barry came up to the stands complaining about one of the cars in his division and said “”I’d have a good shot at the win if he didn’t make it to the main.”” Ever observant me pointed out that particular car also ran in the women’s division and if he’d get Skip the car owner to let me race, I could assure him he’d have nothing to worry about come main event time. Skip, reluctantly agreed. Now if you knew me back then, I was the true picture of a hairdresser, full make-up, not a hair outta place, big earrings, and dressed just so! I jerked them earrings out, borrowed Dennis Trulucks driving jacket, and Barry’s wife’s sneakers (can’t race in gladiator sandals!) I started in the rear, took a few laps getting used to the car and off I went. I finished like 5th or so, and the car Barry was worried about didn’t make it to the main event, just as I had promised. Unfortunately, neither did he because I didn’t know how to “”wreck”” somebody without damaging the car I was in. Skip? Wellllllll,l he wasn’t too happy about the whole outcome. LOL Needless to say, within a few weeks I had a car of my own, a little yellow Pinto number 4. When we bought it, it had Harris Septic Tank Service “”We take S### off anybody”” on the right rear quarter and Cliffside Barber Shop on the left. My brother thought it funny to take the business names off but failed to remove the little slogan! Didn’t take me long to figure out that Easy-off was good for more than just cleaning the oven LOL! I won my third race out with Lennie Buff flagging. And I guess you know the story from here. Oh yeah, my little moniker on the back of the car, you know, the one everybody got a kick out of and also followed me thru my whole racing career, well, that was Daddy’s idea, kind of fitting since he had introduced his little “”tom-girl”” to the sport many years earlier!” 

 Chan, how many years did you compete and how many wins did you have? “I had around 68 career feature wins over 13 years of competition. Was the original “Lady Driver” out of Ellenboro, so named by Walter Faulkner. Now, Brayden Pruitt carries the title. Her Daddy told me that when she moved out of go karts and into cars, she wanted to adopt the saying off the back of my car. But he thought she was a little young at the time for that. Up until Brayden, I was the winingest female in 4 cylinders around the area. Now, she’s breaking all my records, which I actually get a kick out of. She is a really smart, well rounded girl with a good head on her shoulders and has a plan for her future not based totally on racing. You should speak with her sometime.” I will, I have been wanting to interview Brayden all season but have yet to catch up with her. Why don’t you help make that happen? “OK, I’ll do that!”

Chan, with all of that and 13 years of competition, surely you have some exciting memories to tell us about.  “I have quite a few, too many to name. Some good, some bad, but aren’t all memories? I won the first time I ever went to Metrolina Speedway, I loved that track. I’ve seen lots of kids grow up and they are now young adults, some with kids of their own. I raced at Harris, Thunder Valley, Cherokee, Green Hill, Riverside, Metrolina, Carolina, and the Talladega Short Track. Guess the funniest thing was going to a new track and watching the guys adjust to racing a girl.”

 Ok, so how about the Office Manger\PR position at Cherokee, how did that come about? “Sandy Cooke and I together were the half and half girls at Cherokee for 2 seasons. She was the half and half girl around different tracks in the area for years. We also free lanced and worked Series and Memorial races at other tracks in the area, and had a ball doing that. I also filled in on scoring for a while when Danny Estep had health problems. At the end of the 08 season, we approached Ronnie, Lennie and Gail Buff about letting us fix up and open the concession stand in turn 4. Our plan was to have it as a concession/souvenir stand. We got the OK and worked on it in the off season. Right before the start of the 08 season, the Office/PR Job came open. Lennie asked me to take the job and after much thought I decided to run with it. Sandy kept the concession stand and I transferred to the office. My duties are: Driver sign in and registration and I work up the heat race line-ups and running orders. I am the legs for the track staff when they have a problem or need, I’m available to the race director to double check the rule book on calls, I over see Kids Meeting and any other special activities for the track. I also oversee half and half girls, hospitality and fan relations, driver relations, keep track of weekly finishes and point totals. In addition, I get payout ready and distribute it to the drivers. During the week I post finishes and information on forums and Facebook, and I am the contact person with Fastrak on CLM, sending them the official finishes for their point totals with that Series. I’m also the secretary for the Hall of Fame committee. I guess I am Lennie’s right hand, and he regularly bounces ideas off of me and calls on me for things he needs done.” OMG, how can you possibly keep up with all of that and the many different jobs you have? “I keep a little notebook that the staff refers to as “the bible” and I keep notes on important issues that are discussed or decided on. LOL I was looking through it the other day and I still have notes from 09 season in it. One of the biggest compliments I’ve gotten was from Mike Duvall. He attended a special meeting with one of the divisions, and he said he watched me writing in my notebook and at the end of the meeting; I read back what had been discussed and decided on the rule in question and was amazed it was word for word. He asked why I did that, I told him ““so at a later date there would be no question on what was discussed and decided.”” He was very impressed, said he even went home and told his wife Pam about it.”

 WOW, that is a ton of things to do and keep up with each week. I don’t even know how you show up at the right place at the right time myself. I have been around this sport myself for over 50 years and had no idea how much work went into putting on a weekly show and running a race track until I started this Blog this year. Tell me about the transition and maybe the first night in this new position. “I had one weekly race to get my office and organization in order. The very next week we hosted the 2009 March Madness with the SAS East Series. Talk about nervous, it’s the biggest race of the season and my practice run at the same time! Lennie held my hand as much as he could and East Director at the time, Kelley Carlton was very understanding and helpful as well.  The first race I scored the season before was a SAS East race also and Kelley helped me a lot on that too. Everything went well, and all problems were handled quickly and smoothly, and at the end of the night the event was declared successful and I slept like a rock that night!!!!

 Chan, you listed one of your duties as driver relations. Can you give some insight as to how you handle situations or problems that the drivers approach you with? “Well I’ve been on that side of the fence before and I know racers and their mindset. I mean really, you’ve got to have a few screws loose to begin with!!! LOL!! But being a former racer helps me deal with them a lot better than someone who has never driven. And they also feel like I can relate and see their side of the story. I get a lot of “Chan, you remember, you know how it is!!” Yep I’ve been there, done that!! I listen and let them vent, then I try to give them an explanation, straddling the fence on the competition side and the track management side. I’ll pull out the rule book and give them specific rule number’s to refer to on certain things. I’ll validate their point but also present a valid point from the tracks perspective. I try to be helpful and compassionate at the same time, but bottom line is I have to back up the call my staff has made. We are a team also, and we have a pact that we all stand behind each other and the calls that are made….until the end of the night, and then we’ll have a pow-wow and discuss the issue. Right is right…wrong, well we’ll talk about it and learn from it. To maintain our integrity as a team, we have to have consistency on every level. Back to the drivers, I’m really pretty mellow when dealing with the drivers, car owners or crew… I’ll let ’em yell & cuss and snort as long as they want, until they actually cuss or offend ME (i.e. – the “B” word)! Then the halo disappears & the horns come out! Loud & pissed doesn’t look good on me, and it’s actually only came to that point a couple times. Usually by that time Lennie has been alerted and shows up on the scene, and then it’s really not a good day!!!! They think they’re going to get a different response from him, but are really surprised when his response is the same as mine…plus some!”

 Chan you mentioned that the drivers come to you as a former driver expecting the compassion and understanding of their side. Just how has being on the management side changed you or, maybe a better question is what do you see differently now than what you did as just a driver?  “Now that I’m on the track management side of the fence, I see a lot of things differently. I now am fully aware of the costs involved in operating the track. I know this is a sport that we all dearly love and enjoy, but it is also a business for the owners. To keep a business running, it has to have an income after expenses. There are a lot of costs that I, as a racer, had never stopped to think about. Before the gates are ever opened on race night, you have a major expense in track prep. Fuel, fluids, oils, tires & equipment maintenance really add up the cost factor to a track. If it’s a rain out before the gates are opened or early in the event, that cost has to be eaten, because the prep work won’t last until the next week. The cost for insurance alone every time the gates are opened is $800.00. Electricity bill, water bill, staff pay, “mortgage” payment or whatever it is called for a business. Just office supplies alone add up: paper, ink cartridges for printers, batteries, pens, paperclips, everything a functioning office needs supply wise. Payout is a huge expense, roughly a little over $12,000.00 for all 8 divisions we run. That’s only counting 20 finishing positions in each division. Some nights you have less than 20 cars running a division, some nights you have more than 20. Business wise, you have to have the total figure in your mind. Then you throw a SLM Series race into the mix, and payout soars thru the roof!!!! Plus, figure in the sanctioning fee to the Series! I know peeps complain about the higher admission costs on big race nights, Heck, I used too also. But that payout has to come from somewhere, and if you want to see the “”Big Boys,”” they come with a price! Have you ever stopped to think about the expense for toilet paper to service the butts of let’s say, 800-1000 people a night?” LOL! No Chan, I can honestly say that I haven’t gone three. LOL “Little things like that never really come to mind but they add up to be a big expense throughout a season of the sport we love & enjoy! I also see the “politics” of racing now. I won’t get into that much, but let’s just say people will cry, whine, beg and try to ““buy”” their way or their view, to have success on the track. Does that make sense? I can’t think of any other way to put it! Terry Harris has told me over and over, “”the racer is their own worst enemy and will out price their racing and their division, wanting the next best thing to go faster and come out on top, when really they haven’t put the time and effort into the basics of handling, correct car prep and maintenance. And if you let them go wild, and don’t keep them and the rules under control, they will ruin themselves and their division, and payout can never be enough to make up the difference.”” This is evident to me in a couple divisions that are suffering today!” Amen Sister, I could not agree more!

 From time to time when Cherokee isn’t running I have seen you at various other tracks. How and why? You have so many different jobs and so much going on; one would think that you would just love a Saturday night away from all this. “Keith, I just love racing! Yeah, if we have a night off and free, you’ll probably see me and Sandy wandering around at other local tracks spectating. We don’t get into the club scene, fishing, hunting or really anything else for that matter. She does loves to shop…I don’t’! We don’t actually get to watch races while we’re working. She’s in the flag stand and ““sees”” the races but is overseeing all cars on the track at once. I am in the office or running errands around the facility, and don’t actually get to watch the races. When I get up to the office after drivers meeting, and I get everything in order for the tower and tie up loose ends, I sometimes get to watch a little of the heat races, but very little. When we go to other tracks, we actually get to watch and enjoy racing, and spend time visiting with competitors and staff at these tracks. I see things that go on at other tracks, and I do compare, to myself, our way of doing things with theirs, that’s just human nature, not judgment. Sometimes I borrow ideas from other management teams, sometimes, if asked, I give suggestions as to what could improve their way of doing things more efficiently. When spectating, Sandy now tends to ““oversee”” the on track activities and pays attention to the calls that are made (or sometimes not made), guess that’s the flagperson coming out in her. I do that too, but when spectating, the former racer comes out in me, and I’ll tend to watch lines or notice moves that racers are making to set up a pass. I also watch how cars are handling or listen to how they are running engine wise. Guess that’s my thing! These nights are when we actually get to watch racing and enjoy the competition and comrodery of it!”

 Chan is there anything else you would like to add?  “People have asked me about my favorite drivers? I have favorites in every division, and I quietly pull for them. In my position I have to maintain an un-biased opinion when it comes to all the drivers. I’d love for each and every one of them to win and have success at some point in time.”

 Chan, is there anyone you’d like to thank? “I’d like to thank my Mama and Daddy who gave me so many opportunities growing up which has shaped me into the person I am today, and also for instilling in me, by their example, a solid work ethic. I also would like to thank the Buff family for giving me the opportunity to stay involved in the sport I love. To ““My Little Shadow”” Lauren, for being such a great girl and never giving me a moments trouble. Thanks to Randy for putting up with me, my racing addiction (he doesn’t care for ““round and round””, he helps Lennie on that ““go straight”” stuff) and for loving me & my busy life. And thanks to you Keith, for being interested in ““The Leading Ladies of Cherokee Speedway”” and all the work you do on DirtRaceFans.com and promoting the sport that we all love, Dirt Track Racing.

 

This has truly been a fun and very interesting series of interviews for me. I hope you all have enjoyed them as much as I have enjoyed doing this. So with that said, I write the final closing to this series

 The checkered flag has fallen on the last main event of the night and the flags safely tucked away till the next week. The victory lane photo is a captured memory in time. The last race car is pulling out the gate from the pay window and the fans are all gone. The track lights are off, in fact the only light left is the dim lights from the tower office and a few street lights out front.  Suddenly I hear a female voice shout, Harris had a red flag condition and have three more mains to run, and Lennie’s Angels scream in Unison, LETs GO!

 

Comments are welcomed on the Blog itself. Just click on the read comment below to do so. If you have enjoyed this interview and would like for you friends and family to see it as well, just click on the Facebook like button below the article.   If you prefer, you can email your comments to SCRacefan@DirtRaceFans.com and I will gladly forward them on.

Taylor Puckett Interview

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Jordan Taylor Puckett, originally of Campobello, S.C., is 19 years old and already raising plenty of dust around the dirt tracks at Carolina, Lancaster and Cherokee Speedways. 

Taylor and his fiancé, Brianna Yelton, and their son Briggs Taylor Puckett, live with his Dad, Wayne & his step-mother Karen, in Greenville SC. Briggs just celebrated his first birthday on July 12th, and is his Daddy’s little buddy . Taylor graduated from Chase High School in the spring of this year and is now attending Greenville Technical College pursuing a welding certification.

Taylor tells me that his nickname is Hollywood and he likes it. He continues to tell me, “I got it when I was racing go-karts at Riverside Kartway in Cliffside, N.C.  It was Father’s Day and I was racing while wearing my Dad’s Oakley’s.  Phil Combs, the announcer said, “”That kid looks like he came from Hollywood”” and it just stuck.”

These days you’ll see Taylor wheeling an ’82 Monte Carlo around the local ovals, in the Crate Sportsman division. He sports the #28 and he got this number from his birthday, which is May 28th.

I asked Taylor how he got involved in racing. “I got into racing because of my Dad. He used to race go- karts and when I was little I went with him and always loved it. When I was about 6 years old I would sit with my dad every Sunday and watch NASCAR.  I was always asking him when I could race. When I turned 8 my dad got me my first Millennium go-kart with a Hi-Trek purple plate motor on it.  I ran purple, blue and gold plate, and then as I progressed I moved on to stock light, medium, and heavy. In 2008 I got my first dirt track car. It was a Toyota that I bought from Chris Cantrell.  I ran Young Guns my first year and won a lot and yeah I wrecked a lot too. I also won the World Crown Four Cylinder Nationals in Young Guns at Cherokee Speedway. Then the next two years I raced Super Stock 4. I had a few wins and ran top three a lot, mostly at Cherokee and Harris speedway.”

Taylor has been racing now for 11 years- 7 in go karts and 4 in dirt cars.  He has no plans to move up anytime soon, but he admits that he would love to be in a Super Late Model someday.  He also tells me that his most memorable race was the first win with his son, Briggs, at the track.

Taylor also tells me that he would most like to be compared to “Jimmy Owens because he really loves racing and his family, he is a good clean driver, and is the nicest guy in the pits.” When he isn’t racing he loves to spend time with his family having cookouts at his dad’s house and just having a good time.

His favorite drivers are Jonathan Davenport, Chris Madden and Chris Ferguson.

Taylor it’s time to thank the folks who have supported and sponsored you in your racing. Who would that be? “I would like to thank my dad Wayne, my mom Sherrie, Grandma Mary Ann, Grandpa Mel, Brianna and Briggs, my step mom Karen and my step dad Bobby Leach. Also my sponsors, Brent Jones and Phil Durum at STI, R&R Trucking , National House Movers , Chris Cantrell and Wayne Bell at Top The Hill Racing Chassis.

So the next time you’re checking out a race at your favorite track and you see the #28 Crate Sportsman fly by, give a wave & a cheer to the young man they call “Hollywood”.

 I offer much thanks to Chan McGinnis for her help and assistance with this interview.  Note the picture of Taylor standing at the fence was provided by Taylor. The on track and Victory Lane photos were supplied by Kelli Norris. You can see more of Kelli’s fantasy photos of the action at Cherokee Speedway at http://tracksideimagery.smugmug.com/ 

If you would like to comment on this interview you can do so below. If you prefer you can also email SCRacefan@DirtRaceFans.com . I will forward any and all on to Taylor for you.  You can also share this article with you fellow race fans and family on Facebook by clicking the like button below. 

Kenny Ramsey Interview

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Kenneth Steve Ramsey III is 22 years old and lives in Rock Hill, South Carolina and works as an Air Compressor Mechanic at Patton’s, Inc.  Now that is the official and legal name and I am sure that is the name he heard coming from parents and grandparents when he had messed up as a child.

 But around Carolina and Lancaster Speedways he is just Kenny Ramsey or sometimes called by his nickname the “hole show!” Kenny explains “basically has two meaning from what I understand. The first meaning is putting the car in a hole or making a good move. The second meaning of the hole is like the whole or entire show. The announcer at I-77 speedway gave me this nickname and told the audience that all they needed to watch was me race because I was everything you needed to see during a race all wrapped up in one Whole.”

 Kenny drives the number 22 Crate Sportsman car and is currently putting the finish on an  NDRA Open Wheel Modified car. He told me that the he had always been number 22, even while growing up and playing sports. Kenny runs at Lancaster, Carolina, and Cherokee speedways. He did run at I-77 earlier in the season before they shut down.

 Kenny, tell me how you got into racing, what you did and drove first and so on. “Two friends of mine, Ben Watkins and Joey Black had race cars. I started out helping them and learning the ins and outs of the racecars. My first car was actually an old Ed Watkins Nova. He let me run his car and another friend Eddie Black had an old 602 crate engine he let me borrow. So I was set to go racing. The first race I ever ran was at Lancaster speedway in the crate sportsman in the fall of 2007.  I crashed in the first lap of the main event and busted the radiator. But my breakout race was the following weekend at the I-77 speedway shrine race. So my second race ever I took the lead in the heat race and spun out. Started the main and came from deep in the pack to finish 3rd. I didn’t luck into this spot I was actually passing cars looking good. From then on I was HOOKED”

 This is Kenny’s fourth season driving and his plans are to definitely move on up! “I just got an open wheel modified. The way crate late model racing is now, it’s no fun to watch and Supers costing too much to run. I thought the Open Wheel Modified would be a great class that I could afford to race. You can pretty much travel the country and race these things which I think is pretty cool. Ultimately, I would definitely love to be able to afford a super late model or catch a ride in a super late model traveling the country racing with the likes of Bloomquest, Owens, O’Neal and all the big name guys.”

 Kenny, tell me a little about our favorite racing memories so far? “Actually it happened this year but over a couple races at Lancaster I was said to be cheating on all kinds of things. They even bought my engine. I came back and still won.”

 What are some of your favorite thing to do other than race Kenny? “I know it sounds geeky but I love to play video games. I got an addiction to them but mostly to racing games. I actually feel like I can hone my skills through that window. Plus it’s fun! But other than that I love to hang out with my family. Always get tons of laughs being around them and you don’t have to watch what you say or worry about any of them stabbing you in the back EVER!”

 Who are your favorite drivers or driver to watch when you are not racing? “I’d have to say watching Chris Steele race is fun also Michael Brown is fun to watch. They are the most talented drivers I’ve ever seen.”

 Kenny its Sponsor and thanks time. Who’s on your for that? “Like to say thanks to Deal 1 Auto Sales, My family, Southern Racing Supply, Johnson Paint and Body, Allen Wrecker Service, RED Racing Engines, Barry Mathis, Chris Steele, Mill Hill Memories Org., Quality Concrete, Tony Schauch Race Cars.”

 In closing have you ever read my blog before Kenny” “Yes and I am definitely going to now that I am in it.”  LOL



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