Breaking Through With Glass Hammer Racing
As a parent, there are moments you will remember forever in your child’s life. For me it was at our first Nashville Predators game. My son, Eric, turned to me and said, “I want to learn how to play hockey.” At that moment, I had no idea where that would take the next 4 years of my life. Countless lessons, early mornings, late nights, and depleted college funds later—a hockey player was born. And I learned that my son, if he found the one thing that he loved more than anything, he would work his butt off to become a success. I know without a doubt that he has that drive within him. It is a very rewarding knowledge, it means you did something right and all of that time and money was worth it.
I had the pleasure of seeing this in action in Indianapolis this past weekend at Glass Hammer Racing. If you are not familiar with Glass Hammer Racing, it is an organization that encourages the interest and participation of young women in motorsports. GHR evolved from the experience of one man, Greg Gaich – an amateur racer himself. One day in May 2010, he had an epiphany at Putnam Park; a racetrack in Greencastle, Indiana. He finally conquered a particularly tricky part of the track. The feeling for him was incredible. As a driver, it gave him confidence and a feeling like no other. As a father, he wondered if he could pass along that feeling on to his daughters. He searched high and low throughout the Indianapolis area and could find no place where they could get instruction and get that great first experience in a kart. A tweet from Shannon McIntosh, began the kernel of an ides that this experience could be possible. Within a month, Glass Hammer Racing was born.
Greg’s daughters, Cokie and Emma, were a bit apprehensive at first, but they soon got the hang of it on their first experience with Dad and Shannon Mac instructing all the way. I think there was a bit of competitive driving there, but who can resist putting the pedal to the metal in a controlled karting venue. Fast forward to the present, and just last month, Emma and Cokie were signed to drive JHM Bire karts for the 2013 season. I’d say the girls found their need for speed and then some.
And now to my time spent with Glass Hammer Racing on Sunday. I entered the venue not knowing what to expect. The closest I had been to a kart was some kids wreaking havoc on the neighborhood at 7:30 am (sorry about that dog bite). Helmets on, the girls were just about to hit the track. I entered the track area, and was immediately hit by the gas fumes—you get used to it after a while. I tried taking several photos, but those karts were going way too fast for my camera. I have plenty of shots where there is a blank track where a kart used to be. But I wanted to talk to the moms (and the dads).
I was introduced to 2 of the moms, Nikkia and Trish, parents to Makala Marks and Miranda Gallagher ("The Chicken"), respectively. I asked the question, what was the moment when your daughter(s) realized that they wanted to race? Miranda’s moment was at a fair in Franklin, Indiana–she smelled the gasoline fumes, rubber burning and the rumble of the engines and turned to her dad and said, “I gotta to do that” and her team, Rocket Chicken, was born. At 8, Makala “Mak” wanted to race dirt bikes but her parents thought it would be better to start on something with 4 wheels so they took her to Whiteland Raceway to try out racing Go Karts. She was able to get into a kart for a practice run, and she was hooked.
I asked the unaskable question—how much does all this cost and like most parents whose children play expensive sports—“You don’t wanna know.” I can relate, I saw my son’s college fund go up in smoke the first time he hit the ice. Sure there are the basic fees, equipment, and the like, but add in travel and unplanned expenses, and it can run around $10,000, Since karting is a family sport, if you are lucky, you get hand me downs. A boy’s badly washed race suit, that turned pink—I’ll take that. The most important piece of equipment—the helmet. The drivers are not strapped in the karts, they are designed to fly out of them if a roll occurs, you want their head protected, no matter what the cost. The suits are designed to protect against skidding across the track should they get thrown from their kart. You pretty much want every inch of their body covered. I think the funniest (maybe girliest story) I heard from Trish, when Miranda had an accident and the emergency crew was about to cut her gloves off, she said “Do you KNOW how hard it is to find PINK leather?” With most sports, sponsorship is important, but they also work around the track doing paid jobs to help offset the cost.
I then watched Pippa Mann and Jessica Bean in action. They were true role models as they shared their knowledge with the class. Defending lines, racing lines, how to enter the apex without losing speed and being able to pass. Pay attention. Hold your line. A lot to know, learn, and remember. What are we teaching—future engineers? Well as a matter if fact—yes. Glass Hammer Racing’s true mission, besides having fun and learning to safely drive, is to promote motorsports careers for girls. Fortunately there are many positions that can be filled by women in motorsports. Public Relations, engineering, training, racing, and broadcasting are just a few.
The main thing I left this experience with is–they are a family. They celebrate each other’s successes and victories. They share their knowledge. They have short memories for wrongs done on the track. Sometimes the boys don’t share that short memory. So if you ever get the opportunity to see a Glass Hammer Racer in action, just know that beneath that young woman’s helmet lie nerves of steel and a true love of racing.