A tribute to racing's moms -- and mine


It's Mother's Day weekend, and that's all that counts.

We will waste no words delving into whether Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Kyle Busch caused Saturday's Sprint Cup crash at Richmond, Va.

There will be no discussion about thug members of "Junior Nation," who threw debris on the track to protest the incident. The IQ of those creeps can't possibly top 88, the number on the side of their savior's car.

We're looking beyond those dime-store novel plots.

The racing world has changed greatly for women in the past few years. Doors for women are open wider to media centers, garages and race cars. Victory Lane has taken on a shade of pink with a dash of eye shadow.

This Mother's Day marks the first recipients of "Racing's Pearls," named for my late mom, Pearl, who was a breast cancer survivor before losing a long battle in 1995 to complications from diabetes.

She was a loving mom and grandmother. Criteria for becoming a Racing Pearl is commitment to helping children fulfill their dreams while being respectful of others along the way, which is how she lived her life.

Three women strong in faith and stronger in support of their kids are being honored. Mom would have admired them.

The first is Pattie Petty, wife of veteran NASCAR racer Kyle Petty.

Monday will mark the eighth anniversary of the death of their son Adam Petty. He was 19 when he was killed in a NASCAR testing crash in Loudon, N.H. She and her husband turned their loss into smiles for others by joining with actor Paul Newman to create the Victory Junction Gang Camp (VictoryJunction.org).

The camp, which opened four years ago in Randleman, N.C., is located on Adam's Way. It enriches the lives of children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses by providing camping experiences in a safe and medically sound environment.

The next Racing Pearl honoree is Laurie Force, matriarch of the John Force drag racing family. While husband John raced nearly every weekend beginning in the early 1980s, Laurie was raising their three daughters.

Before Ashley, the oldest at 25, could begin racing, she had to complete her college education. This year, she has become the first woman to win an NHRA Funny Car title and lead the points standings; her dad has made her a racer, her mom has made her a role model.

Four years ago, her mom -- a college graduate -- attended a drag racing school, not to become another racer but to further understand her family's passion for racing.

Before becoming a mother, Laurie helped write her husband's earliest contracts, mixed nitromethane for his race car and prepared its parachutes. And she had to put up with her hyperactive husband.

The next special mom is Arizona's Tracy McDowell, who died of pancreatic cancer two years before she saw her son, Michael McDowell, become one of this year's top rookies in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. She was 45.

She was typical of racing moms who adjusted life around a child's racing dream.

The following are excerpts from what Michael McDowell, 22, read at her funeral. He describes how an advertisement for a "working racing mom" would read:

"Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.

Applicant cannot be afraid of trips to the hospital.

Applicant also must assume final accountability for all results."

The history of Mother's Day dates to the late 1800s. Fittingly started by women, it was intended as a day to celebrate family and peace.

While this weekend is among the busiest for Hallmark and florists, it's time to quit buying frivolous cards and flowers that don't smell as good as they used to anyway.

Take that money and support breast cancer awareness through the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation (komen.org), or donate to other women's health organizations.

And give your mom a hug. Be thankful you can.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com.

 

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