‘Women in racing — behind the scenes’
Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part feature on the women who work at Champion Speedway.
A lot of events take place at one time at Champion Speedway and it takes a lot of people to get the job done. From managing track operations to selling admission tickets at the main gate to monitoring the racecars on the track, it’s through a woman’s touch the sport of racing goes on in Carson City.
In charge of the on-ramp flagging duties is Meladie Lawrence, 44. She is also the second flagger on the track in instances of cautions.
“No one gets on the track unless I wave them on,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence, the mother of three, began attending the local races with her husband of 20 years, Jim, who drove a tow truck for Valley Towing at the track.
“I would ride along with him. I had been coming out for a while and began watching Mike Moon (former flagger). He would show me things.”
At the end of the 2000 season, Lawrence, a cosmetologist and manager of Supercuts on Highway 50 East, was asked to work the ramp flagging position. She welcomed the challenge.
“The drivers call me the ‘Wave Lady.’ And pretty much they do show me respect. You always have one in the group who will test you, but it makes me feel good to have their respect. Plus I concentrate on Rick (Frock, flagger at the start/finish line). He’s my main focus. I have to have my eyes on the track at all times, for safety reasons.
“I also have to keep pit crews away from the track area. They must be kept behind the fencing for their own safety. Some just don’t get it.”
With a bird’s eye view of all the activities is head scorekeeper Elnette Metcalf. Metcalf’s job is to account for all the cars during all races of each division. That’s every car, on every lap, accounting for cautions, cars leaving the track and heading into the pits, coming back on the track from the pits, and all those crossing the start/finish line at the end of the race. She also sets the lineups (as determined by director of competition) for each race in every division, and records the finishes for Internet posting.
“I love the sport and enjoy scorekeeping,” said Metcalf, 44. “I don’t know the drivers by sight, only by numbers, car colors and names. It’s better that way, there’s no personal connection.”
Metcalf, the mother of two, has been scoring at the track since 1990 and has a support crew of two.
“My husband, Brett, used to race in Hawaii. That’s where we met.
“After moving here in 1989, Brett was driving through the neighborhood and saw the racetrack. He talked with Larry Burton, the owner, and Larry said he needed a scorer. Brett volunteered me. I had never before scored racing, but thought I’d give it a try.
“Overall, the working relationship with everyone here is great, especially having a female general manager. And Mel is one of the best officials we’ve had on the ramp.”
“These are our drivers out here,” said Lawrence, who is the first-ever woman flagger on the ramp.
“The feeling of watching them go around the track — the excitement inside of you is just bursting.”
Handling duties for driver check-in, personnel time cards, notary, and seeing that all cashiers are set up and ready to go on any given Saturday is Deidra Ritter.
“I am the head cashier,” said Ritter, 39, who figured since her husband David was crew chief for one of the drivers at the track, why not be there, too?
“Tawnya Dawson, who did this last year, wanted to spend more time with her family and recommended I do it. I don’t have any kids so I said OK.”
At the pit gate, Ritter signs in crews, drivers, officials and guests. Makes sure employees get paychecks and fill out time cards, and all paperwork is turned in at the end of the night. After the pit gate shuts down, she heads to the main gate for admission of the general public.
“I also clean the pit shack of dirt. It gets pretty dusty in here. I’ve even plunged toilets. I put in about 11 hours of work and rarely get to see a race from start to finish. And I love racing. I’d rather be racing myself.”
Melody Price, known as the “other Mel,” said she loves working there.
“The fans make the whole race track,” said Price.
“It’s wonderful. They ask how you’re doing, they’re very friendly and if they don’t show up, you worry about them.
“Mel (Lawrence) and I went to cosmetology school together and she asked if I’d be interested in working at the track. She knew I’d be dependable and reliable. I work the main gate and the pit gate with Deidra. I just love it.
“Now, we’re all like family. It’s like a Saturday night racing bash. And my husband, Mike, he had no prior interest in racing. I mentioned to him about coming out and he said it wasn’t his bag of tea. Now I can’t get him out of here.”