Knoxville Race Moms!

Knoxville Race Moms!
Friday, May 11, 2018
by Joanne Cram

We all know that Mom is the glue that holds any family together. But what about a race mom? What kind of glue does it take to keep a race family going strong and sticking together? I interviewed a race mom from each sprint car class at Knoxville Raceway. Read on to learn how they do the mom thing and balance their lives with racing!

Deb Bridger: Mom of Eric Bridger

Who are you as a mom? What does a day in the life of Deb look like?
Now that the kids are older, things are a lot different. When they were little, I would get them up for school, drive them to school at times, work, come home, get them off the bus, cook dinner, get them ready for the next day to do it all again. My boys are now 26 (Alex), and 22 (Eric). Alex currently living at our home in Winterset, and Eric has moved to Waukee to be closer to work. He comes home every weekend to get ready for racing. The sprint car is at our house, so that keeps everyone at home. I help Sundays for clean up and maintenance on the car. I work two part time jobs- mornings at the newspaper in Winterset as their bookkeeper, then afternoons at Bell Transmission, also doing bookkeeping and answering phones.

Describe when you first remember Eric telling you he wanted to race.
When Eric was ten, he, Alex, and their dad approached me with the idea of racing go karts. My only question for them was, how fast do they go?!?!
-knowing I wouldn’t like the answer. I knew Eric wanted to race so badly, so I agreed. His first smile after practice in the kart and seeing him get out of the kart with his big old smile, I couldn’t say no. Alex also got into karts at same time at the age of fourteen. They raced karts for about four years until Eric got into micro sprints. I tried to help as much as I could, mainly by scraping mud and cleaning tires.

Describe a typical race day.
On Saturdays, I go out in the afternoon around 1:00-2:00 to help load the trailer with Alex, Eric and Dwight. We have a traditional cooler and snack bag tradition- strawberry licorice, Gatorade, and water. After the cooler is loaded, I make sure Eric’s suit, helmet, shoes, and other safety gear is all in the gear bag- then Eric double checks it again. When we get to the track, I help unload the trailer before I go to get food for Eric and the crew. When Eric is at the driver’s meeting, I get all of the safety equipment out and ready for Eric to suit up. During the race, I clean the helmet, put tear offs on, update social media, and scrape mud if Alex isn’t there due his work schedule.

What does your support for Eric’s racing career look like?
I update and keep up with social media, try to talk to possible sponsors, and never miss a race. I’m there to support him and make sure he has everything he needs. I wouldn’t change anything. This gets us together as a family and we all have a blast doing it. During winter, we are bored on Saturdays with nothing to do except talk about next race season!

Kelly Haase: Mom of McKenna Haase

Who are you as a mom? What does a day in the life of Kelly look like?
I am constantly evolving as the girls grow up and their lives change; and it’s just as crazy now as when the girls were toddlers. I work at the Iowa Department of Public Health, serving children and adolescents. After work every night, I call and check in on McKenna to see if she has any online sales or needs help with anything race related. She is always busy with something! Then I call and check in with Makaila, my older daughter who is 24 and living in Nashville. She works for CMT, and has lived there for two years. I miss her desperately, so we call nightly to stay in touch. Makaila is an associate producer of the CMT Hot 20 Countdown that airs every Saturday and Sunday. She gets to travel all over the world with country music bands. She writes, films, and produces the show.

Our family has a German Shepherd named Belle, that I spend a lot of time with now with the girls off doing their own thing. My husband, Kevin is a pilot and gone a lot for work. I try to drive to the race shop to spend time together with the family when everyone is working on the cars. Other than that, I spend a lot of time trying to hold down the fort!

Describe when you first remember McKenna telling you she wanted to race.
McKenna was about nine years old and had met Kasey Kahne, and watched him race the next year. That was when she said she wanted to race. I ignored her, and continued to ignore her… now that she’s twenty-one and in college and this isn’t just a “phase”, and she is all in with her racing. It think it hit me in October when we were at the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Development Team in Daytona, Florida, that this wasn’t just a phase- and probably never was!

Describe a typical race day.
Saturday mornings, I get up and go to Farmer’s Market, then come home and make a big lunch, since we probably won’t be eating rest of the day. Then I come home and organize t-shirts and get them ready to sell. I’ve done the same routine now for ten years: I pack McKenna’s Kasey Kahne lunch bag with snacks in it- always the same- a banana (with love notes I write on the banana that we call fruit art), blueberries, pretzels, chocolate milk, some times a mango. We like to hold onto tradition.

What does your support for your McKenna’s racing career look like?
I travel with McKenna to most of the races she goes to. I’m behind scenes, and my role is evolving. I used to work on the cars by cleaning and scraping mud, cleaning the trailer. I am learning a lot about merchandising, promotions, and sales. It’s a challenge to learn what fans want to see and buy in the way of merchandise. I sell merchandise before and after races; those sales are a big part of what keeps McKenna on the track each week. We like our younger fans so I also keep the treat bucket full- I just did 50 May Day baskets for the fans last week. I also try to keep McKenna organized- it’s not so much physical, but more mental organization and support. It’s a family sport for sure; me, Kevin, McKenna and our new crew chief, John C Anderson who has returned to Iowa from California to work for us. He’s a good fit, he listens to McKenna and really respects her opinions.

Barbara Johnson: Mom of RJ Johnson

Who are you as a mom? What does a day in the life of Barbara look like?
Now that I’m retired as an early childhood educator, I pretty much stay home during the week because the weekends are so hectic. I really like to decorate the house and work around the home. When RJ was little and Roland was racing a lot, we took RJ with us everywhere. RJ went to the races at 2 weeks old. During RJ’s childhood, I worked at a preschool would take RJ with me to work. RJ has two older siblings as well: Marcus is 47 and Melissa is 37. When RJ was about 3 I remember Roland and I bought him the little toy winged sprint cars. RJ would announce the races on his bedroom floor. He went to every race Roland raced- around USCS Georgia, Alabama, and northern Florida. He grew up at the race track.

Describe when you first remember RJ telling you he wanted to race. We were at East Bay when Roland was racing, they had a little extra time and 12 year old RJ asked, “When do I get to race?” They had a small seat they put in the car for him. He took the car out for a couple laps. When he pulled in he rolled through all the mud and Roland asked him why in the world he did that! RJ just smiled. He couldn’t race yet because of his age, so had to wait until he was about 16 to race with the USCS.

Describe a typical race day.
A typical race day for us starts by taking the toter home and trailer out to the track on Friday night, and then we stay the night at the track. Saturday, we hang around the trailer and do the last minute car prep, have some lunch, and hopefully find a little down time. It’s fun and exciting, but very stressful for me as a mom. It’s a totally different feeling having your husband in car than your son. “It’s Different on the heart.”

What does your support for RJ’s racing career look like?
I’ve always been a supportive mom by traveling to other tracks when RJ gets hired for a ride, his dad and I own the car and support him that way, I try to help get sponsors, and give RJ as much moral support as I can. Things are a little different now that he’s married. Some of that moral support has shifted and it’s Ashley’s turn to support him, and it’s fun to see that. My main goal for RJ is to see him succeed and be the best that he can be on the track. That’s what makes me happy. Now that RJ and Ashley own Kustom Race Parts, it makes racing full time more of a challenge. RJ is my baby and I’m very passionate about racing and enjoy supporting him in any way I can.