Women In Motorsports, part 2

Season 1. Blog 9.

Welcome back Friend,

This is the second part in the series of “Women in Motorsports”. I wanted to introduce another set of established ladies that have been key members in the Motorsports industry behind the scenes, as Public Relations, Car Owners, Sponsors, Wives, Chief Starters, etc.. I have hand selected 5 more women in Motorsports to interview, and find out a little bit more about them and how they are involved in racing. The Women In Motorsports part 1, was a huge success and I think this one will be no different and a great addition to this series! I had asked the same set of questions as before, such as the “How to get involved in racing, as a female, if you don’t have an opportunity to be in the driver’s seat”.  Read through these interviews and I can assure you, there’s more to the industry, than just racing a racecar. If you missed part 1, “Women In Motorsports”, please catch up and read about 5 other amazing women in this industry and how they too, have helped contribute to this sport or made an impact on the Motorsport Community!

These women have been selected because they are behind the scenes of racing, and not always in the public eye, but have their own goals set to promote the sport we love in a positive way.  This is the exact reason, I felt it would be cool to get to know a few of them, as there are hundreds more in each small town or big town racing community!

Let’s meet some of the many women involved in the different compounds of the Motorsports community!

Women of Motorsports - Let’s get to meet them in no particular order…In part 2, of the “Women In Motorsports” blog series, we will get to know more about: Kahla Miller, Ashley Johnson, Bobbi Johnson, Ashley Keller, & Nicole Flood.

Kahla Miller

 Follow Kahla on Social Media.   Facebook  .   Instagram  . and   Twitter.   or   Beer Hill Gang  .

Follow Kahla on Social Media. Facebook. Instagram. and Twitter. or Beer Hill Gang.

Age: 30

Hometown: Red Lion, PA

1.       How are you involved with the Motorsports Industry?

The Beerhill Gang.

2.       Are you associated with a team, division, track, sponsor, etc.?

Yes. The Beerhill Gang currently sponsors Brain Monteith, The famous 69K driven by Lance Dewease, Trey Starks, & Rodney Westhafer. We also do multiple hard charger awards which include, Weikert Memorial at Port Royal, Justin Snyder Salute to the Troops Race at BAPS Motor Speedway, the Kimmel Memorial at Williams Grove, and the Dirt Classic at Lincoln Speedway. The National Open Rookie Award is also a favorite of mine. I enjoy seeing what up and coming drivers come out and try for it.

3.       How did you get involved in the Motorsports Industry?

I’ve always had a fascination with fast cars. Growing up my stepdad rebuilt For Mustangs, so naturally anything with a motor interested me. I attended a few sprint car races at Williams Grove when I was a teenager but didn’t start going religiously until 2012 when Matt & I started dating.

4.       How have you made an impact on the Motorsports Industry?

We used to do fundraisers at Quaker Steak & Lube for teams that needed a little extra cash during race season. Those were always greatly appreciated by drivers & teams. I do a lot of stuff behind the scenes without trying to get caught in the lime light of everything. I like to leave my husband to deal with the cameras. LOL. I try my hardest to keep Beerhill a positive place that welcomes everyone with open arms, to give fans a place that offers a sense of camaraderie. It’s always fun having first time race fans come out to hang with everyone. I also enjoy having drivers at the house. It helps them save some cash on hotels and meals. We all know neither one of those are cheap. Sunday morning breakfast at the Miller’s house is where it’s at!

5.       What is your favorite racing related event to go to and what keeps you coming back?

My favorite event, there are so many how can you choose just one? Each track has put so much work into making their larger races “fan friendly” from entertainment, to facility upgrades. How about a top 5? In no specific order , so far out of state - Jackson Nationals in Jackson MN, and on a local level, Justin Snyder Salute to the Troops, Dirt Classic, Tuscarora 50, and The National Open. What keeps me coming back? Honestly, the relationships you develop with other race fans, sponsors, teams, & drivers is like none other. I have never seen a community have such big rivalries, but come together for the good of the community at the same time. It’s really amazing what we can do when we all work together.

Ashley Johnson

 Follow Ashley on Social Media.   Facebook   .    Instagram   .  and     Twitter   .

Follow Ashley on Social Media. Facebook. Instagram. and Twitter.

Age: 28

Hometown: Hometown of Rock Rapids, Iowa Currently: Knoxville, Iowa

1.       How are you involved with the Motorsports Industry?

My husband, RJ Johnson, races a 410 sprintcar weekly at Knoxville Raceway, as well as many other World of Outlaw & IRA races. RJ and I also own Kustom Race Parts. Kustom Race Parts carries a full inventory of new and used sprint car parts. We also offer consignment sales services and rear end/steering gear repair. I am also a Brand Representative for Highline Clothing Co, which offers adorable AND affordable clothing for females and kids in the racing world!

2.       Are you associated with a team, division, track, sponsor, etc.?

My husband races for Vanderecken Motorsports, out of Melcher, IA. We race weekly at Knoxville Raceway, many Outlaw sanctioned races, and select IRA series races. Our race team is sponsored by: Vortex Racing Wings, Highline Clothing Co, Round Window Liquor, Manny’s Diner, Dayton Andrew’s Dodge, BG Products, Kistler Engines, AllStar Performance.

3.       How did you get involved in the Motorsports Industry?

Growing up in Northwest Iowa, the area was predominately street stock, late model, and modified racing. My best friend, Nick, raced a street stock at I-90 Speedway and Husets Speedway and I was able to tag along for most of my teen years. My family is also very close with the owner of K2W Precision, Inc. A good majority of my childhood weekends were spent at a dirt track. My hometown also has a racetrack and I had the honor of being the Trophy Girl at Rapid Speedway for a couple of years as well!

4.       How have you made an impact on the Motorsports Industry?

RJ and I took over Kustom Race Parts in January of 2018, and we have grown our business tremendously in only 10 months. We are fortunate enough to work closely with quite a few World of Outlaw teams, ASCS teams, and Knoxville teams as consignment customers. We’ve traveled across the country building our working relationships, which has enabled us to be able to attend some of the biggest races across the US (National Open, World Finals, Knoxville Nationals).

5.       What is your favorite racing related event to go to and what keeps you coming back?

Living in Knoxville, obviously the Knoxville Nationals are HUGE here! It’s honestly quite amazing to see how big of an event the Nationals continues to be year after year. The way the town and community come together to embrace the thousands of visitors is heartwarming. I’d have to say one of my best memories was seeing Jason Johnson win the 2016 Nationals - We miss JJ every single day!  This past year, RJ and I were also able to attend the National Open at Williams Grove and watch Lance Dewease pick up the win. It never ceases to amaze me at how loving and supportive the racing family is when it comes to tragedy. Seeing everyone at The National Open honor Greg Hodnett definitely brought tears to my eyes. Williams Grove will forever be one of my favorite tracks to go to (their burgers and Bricker’s french fries are the BEST)!

Bobbi Johnson

  Desi Bruntz photo.  Follow Bobbi & the JJR Team on social media, as she continues to keep Jason’s Legacy alive.  Facebook .  Twitter . and  JasonJohnsonRacing.com

Desi Bruntz photo. Follow Bobbi & the JJR Team on social media, as she continues to keep Jason’s Legacy alive. Facebook. Twitter. and JasonJohnsonRacing.com

1.       How are you involved with the Motorsports Industry?

Founder and Team Owner of JJR #41

2.       Are you associated with a team, division, track, sponsor, etc.?

Jason Johnson Racing

3.       How did you get involved in the Motorsports Industry?

I have been involved in racing since I was ## years old working concessions at Lincoln Speedway. I have had a love the sport and dated Kevin Gobrecht. I am married to Jason Johnson for 18 years and founded JJR in 2010 along with handling the merchandise part of our business operation.

4.       How have you made an impact on the Motorsports Industry?

I have created meaningful and sustained relationships with sponsorship partners, race officials, drivers and teams, as well as our loyal fans while playing multiple roles that go with team ownership. Won 5 ASCS National Tour Owner Championships. Won the 2016 Knoxville as owner of JJR and celebrated with my husband and son.

5.       What is your favorite racing related event to go to and what keeps you coming back?

My most memorable event after 19 years, would be the pinnacle race of our sport, THE KNOXVILLE NATIONALS !! This event has hype, an atmosphere, along with old and new friendships and 4 nights of the best sprint car competitors on 1 track vying to be crowned The Knoxville National Champion!! Not to mention Mr C’s where I get Chicken Strips and French Fries at least 1 day or more while camping out back of turn 4! Turn 4 is the gathering place after this event has been run!! It’s where the PARTY’S at!! I recommend you put this event on your bucket list...

Ashley Keller

 Daylon Barr,  Barr Visuals  photo. Follow Ashley on Social Media.   Facebook  .   Instagram  .   Twitter  . and her   Website  .

Daylon Barr, Barr Visuals photo. Follow Ashley on Social Media. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. and her Website.

Age: 32

Hometown: Farmland, Indiana

1.       How are you involved with the Motorsports Industry?

I am a public relations and marketing professional within the industry, working in a variety of racing disciplines in my time in the sport so far. I’ve worked PR, social media, marketing and sponsorship in dirt, rallycross, open wheel and stock car, from both a team and sanctioning body standpoint, helping define brands and their marketing/communication goals.

2.       Are you associated with a team, division, track, sponsor, etc.?

I currently work for ThorSport Racing, a four-truck NASCAR team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series based in Sandusky, Ohio.

At ThorSport, my title is Public Relations, however I’m not limited to just social media management, driver schedule management, press release writing, and duties that involve PR. The position does write pre- and post-race reports, manages the website, manages social media channels with content creation, collection and posting, along with working with media, chasing reporters on pit lane during a race, and working hard to gain exposure for our team partners and drivers in a positive light, but it’s not just that. 

At ThorSport, we’re a small (but mighty!) front office team for a championship-winning organization of our caliber. With PR here, there is also partnership fulfillment involved, a client relations element to the position. I help ensure autograph card inventories are prepped and ready for autograph sessions and driver appearances at or away from the track, sort and fill our victory lane hat dance bags (which we’ve been lucky to use three times this season so far), and in the event of a win, guide our clients and their guests through celebration in victory lane. Even if we don’t win, we still do our best to make sure our partners and their guests have a great experience at the track, no matter what the outcome may be.

Currently, I also assist part time (when I can) in the ARCA Racing Series, from a sanctioning body standpoint. There, I’ve helped with hospitality and suite management, in addition to victory lane assisting with the hat dance, and whatever else I can jump in and help with. There, it could be hanging banners, ensuring victory lane hats are sorted and ready to go, or anything else I can help with.

Previously, I’ve also worked with Andretti Autosport, a Communications Manager for their Indy Lights and then-Global Rallycross teams. In that role, I also assisted on Indy Lights weekends with IndyCar, as the reps there needed, being an extra set of hands ready to jump in when needed. At Andretti, I pitched positive storylines, managed driver schedules of interviews and appearances, helped with meet and greets, social media, race report writing and distribution, and media relations for six drivers in the two series.

Before getting the opportunity to work at Andretti, I spent quite a bit of time interning within different facets of Motorsports while I finished my bachelor’s degree at Indiana University East. I spent three summers interning in the now-Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, interned with A.J. Foyt Racing for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (a dream come true!), interned with RaceTrack Engineering, and helped build and brand Jake Waters, a 305 Winged Sprint Car driver and his team, out of the central-Pennsylvania dirt tracks.

3.       How did you get involved in the Motorsports Industry?

I started in the Motorsports industry, quite honestly, with my first job at 16, and I can easily say that’s where the “bug” bit. During race weekends, I worked grandstand-side concessions and the gift shop at Winchester Speedway, a half-mile high-banked asphalt short track that is near where I grew up. Eventually moving to the pit-side concessions, I had a ring-side seat to some of the best racing short tracks had to offer.

When I wasn’t at Winchester working or at school, often I could be found hanging out near the burnout box with my twin brother, who worked at Muncie Dragway for his first job at 16. Wednesday’s were test and tune nights, and occasional Friday’s were a “Run What You Brung” kind of night, so as soon as homework was done (or sometimes before…) or class was out, I’d go and hang out. Eventually that morphed into making a few passes and learning to race, but it was a very, very short/abbreviated drag racing career.

Either way, the bug bit. Hard.

From there, I knew I wanted to do something in motorsports. Always a writer, never good at math, I shifted focus to finding a niche in the industry that I could utilize my creativity. Finishing my business and marketing degree was also a front and center goal, a must to me to have a fall back plan “just in case” a career in racing didn’t work out.

While attending IU East, I centered much of my coursework where I could around motorsport. For macroeconomics, I wrote a paper on the state of the industry, and the “rightsizing” many tracks at the time were undergoing. For my Entrepreneurship course, I prepared a business plan for a public relations company. In doing so, and along with the internships I worked and the relationships and mentorships I developed, I was able to graduate in December 2015, ready to go.

But I didn’t get to where I have without networking. Networking is vital in this industry, and opportunities I’ve been fortunate enough to work, it’s been through meeting people and being introduced to someone along the way (in addition to hard work). If it weren’t for the Keens at Keen Parts, I wouldn’t have been introduced to Go Fas Racing, my internship in Cup. If it weren’t for Mike Kitchel, one of the first professionals I met in motorsports, I wouldn’t have met Anne Fornoro, who I worked under in my internship at A.J. Foyt Racing, and Pat Caporali, with IndyCar, who introduced me to my former supervisor Andretti Autosport. Without Archie and Mason St. Hilaire, who I interned for at Go Fas, along with a beloved co-worker at Andretti, I wouldn’t have met David Pepper, ThorSport Racing’s longtime team manager and my supervisor.

There’s a line a Luke Combs song that holds true when thinking of those who’ve helped along the way, “There’s a couple people that I owe a beer or two, and three or four I owe more than a few.” I wouldn’t be where I am today without those who’ve been mentors, supervisors, references, or at times, an ear to bend in the industry.

4.       How have you made an impact on the Motorsports Industry?

Compared to others, and for what I’ve done so far, I consider myself having quite a young career still in Motorsports. There’s a lot left to see and do and accomplish, but I feel the biggest stands out. In two seasons, I’ve been a part of the winning Indianapolis 500 communications team (a dream come true), won a championship with a fantastic group of Rallycross guys, and this year was a part of a team that won at a track I never thought would be possible in my career – Eldora, in addition to getting my first NASCAR win as a rep. I’ve been a part of teams that have won in five series in four or five years and completed the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

Sure, wins are great – who doesn’t want to win? But to me it extends much deeper than that. You can win all you want, but it’s the impact that is left upon others that matters most – a positive one. Many in the sport have been gracious enough to mentor and give feedback where they really didn’t have to, but that leaves the biggest impact.

This season, I felt like a torch was passed. I’ve been the intern plenty of times, but I had the pleasure of mentoring a young lady from the area, introducing her to the public relations fun of racing. We certainly made the most of it, had a lot of laughs, and I only hope that she learned a lot. To be a positive role model and leave a lasting, honest and genuine impression, I feel, is the greatest accomplishment.

5.       What is your favorite racing related event to go to and what keeps you coming back?

It’s tough to nail down just one racing-related event to go to, as I have a strong passion for the sport as a whole. For me, it’s not limited to dirt, asphalt, a circle, left turns, right turns, or a straight line - I love it all.

To me, growing up in Indiana, and with my Opa’s strong dedication and love for the month of May, it’s hard to top the Indianapolis 500. Working four of them now, two with teams, one with a win (a dream come true), it’s one of, if not the, greatest races in all of Motorsports. Every Motorsport event is special in its own right, however the Indy 500 is a sight to behold, to take in, and to be a part of.

Another race that I’ve been fortunate enough to work, and one of my favorite memorable weekends so far in my career was this year’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Through, again networking, I met and worked with Matt Cleary and the folks at Sunday Group, a communications company in Indianapolis. They needed PR help with H.A.R.T. Racing, or Honda of America Race Team, at this year’s event. The team was made up of a great group of engineers at Honda of Marysille, Ohio, who, by day, worked their “normal” positions for the company, and by night built the No. 69 Acura they competed with. The team was all-volunteer and had a great group of four wheelmen with them. To date, it is the toughest race I’ve worked yet, but the experience was flat out incredible. The race itself is 24 hours, however by the time green flag drops, as PR/Communications, you’ve already put in a day’s worth of work arranging interviews, activating with sponsors, autograph sessions, etc. After the checkers fall? Podium celebrations (if you’re lucky) and post-race reporting should your team survive the entire 24. It’s absolutely exhausting and tests your mental and physical limits, but it is oh, so worth it.

I think the biggest piece that keeps me coming back for more isn’t limited to one thing – it’s a multifaceted reason. Racing as a whole has an incredible, dedicated fan base – that doesn’t matter if you’re in dirt, drag racing, stock car, open wheel, road racing, whatever. The passion drives me, and I feel the passion others have for this sport, bleeds over to carry through on days that aren’t sunshine and rainbows. This isn’t an easy industry – some days are amazing; some days are flat out cruel. But the love that our fans have, and especially our younger ones, really can turn a rough day around for the better.

There are so many reasons why someone would keep coming back. I think a lot of it not only starts with our fans’ passions, but also stems from the relationships that are formed amongst the fans and our peers. This is something my current team general manager says often, and I feel it’s quite true. From your teammates that have your back, to the friends you make, media members I’ve worked and built relationships around stories with, to the drivers I work / have worked with, it helps get through the trying times, and the victories you have along the way. I’m fortunate to keep in contact with some of the drivers I’ve worked with in past, former supervisors and teammates, media members and friends, and having that support system behind you really helps push you through the tough days.

Nicole Flood

 Photo Credit:  Zach Barber . Find Nicole on social media:  Facebook . &  Instagram .

Photo Credit: Zach Barber. Find Nicole on social media: Facebook. & Instagram.

Age: 28

Hometown: Limerick, PA

1.       How are you involved with the Motorsports Industry?

I am well known for being a Chief Starter in the racing community. I used to race, myself, in Quarter Midgets and Slingshots

2.       Are you associated with a team, division, track, sponsor, etc.?

Quarter Midgets, USAC, Short Track Super Series, Area Auto Indoor Series. I have a lot of friends and family involved with the Motorsports community.

3.       How did you get involved in the Motorsports Industry?

I grew up going to Grandview and Bridgeport Speedway. As I got older we discovered quarter midgets and I started racing myself when I was 12. After aging out of quarter midgets, I helped out around the racetrack, which is where I started flagging. I was told that I was pretty good at it and here we are today. I know the job from a drivers perspective, as well as an official.

4.       How have you made an impact on the Motorsports Industry?

I have made a lot of amazing friendships in the world of Motorsports. That is an accomplishment for myself. Another accomplishment I would say is the respect held as a Cheif starter along with the request from the Kids at the local tracks. One of the best feelings is having a child run up and ask "Are you flagging today?"

5.       What is your favorite racing related event to go to and what keeps you coming back?

I love the racing family! The friendships I have gained has been amazing. Some of my memorable races include Super Dirt Week, Indiana Sprint Week, Eldora, Flagging at Eldora, Motorama Indoor Race for the Quarter Midgets. I just love being at the track.

These are pretty amazing Women In Motorsports, and I’m grateful to stand beside these women, who are driven to make a positive impact in the sport we all love and enjoy!

Be sure to check back next Wednesday for another “Women In Motorsports, part 3” of the series, featuring 5 more impressive women!