|Date: 7/22/2015 7:09:10 PM|
Barb Clark To Be Honored At Hall of Fame Ceremonies
By Jo Ann Davies
Visit the Utica-Rome Speedway (Vernon, NY) any Sunday night during race season and at some point during the night you are sure to see Director of Operations Barb Clark who will be recognized as the recipient of the annual Outstanding Woman in Racing Award during the 2015 Northeast Modified Hall of Fame ceremonies. The Wednesday, August 5 event will be held at the Hall of Fame and Stock Car Museum located on the Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY) campus. Barb, along with several others, will be recognized before family and friends for the many contributions they have made to the sport of dirt racing.
"I didn't think something like this would happen to someone like me," stated Barb. "I had a small part in making Utica-Rome Speedway what it has become over the past few years," she humbly said, "and it's so exciting to be honored like this."
Barb had never been to a race until the late 1970s when her husband, John, purchased a race car and announced, "We're going racing." At that time Utica-Rome was an asphalt track and women were not allowed in the pits. So, with two small children in tow (Stan and Gail), Barb sat in the grandstands and cheered her husband's efforts.
"I loved it," said Barb, "and over the next few years, when women were allowed in the pits, I actually drove in over 20 Powder Puff races." If you check the records at Can Am Speedway for the early 1990s you will find Barb Clark listed as winner for one of their Powder Puff events. "I was so excited I couldn't get the helmet off in victory lane!" Those early days as a racing family led to a continuous involvement in racing that culminated in Barb's position today as Director of Operations at the Utica-Rome Speedway.
The Utica-Rome journey began in 2000 when Barb worked as the assistant manager at the NAPA store located next to the speedway's pit road. "The track was owned by Eric and Giselle Kingsley at the time and on race nights I would run back and forth whenever someone needed a race part. I remarked to Eric the reason I wouldn't be at the track one night was because the pit entry fee had been raised and I couldn't afford it. He came back to the store a little while later telling me if I would work the VIP window, in exchange I could go in the pits when done and watch the racing. That was the beginning."
The next owners of the speedway, Gene and Gloria Cole, moved the personable and energetic Barb to the trackside office to learn track operations, broadening her role considerably. For five years (2002-2006) Barb worked behind the scenes in the office on race night. Watching and learning from one of the all-time great track managers, Dick Sweet, Barb was promoted to Director of Operations when Sweet moved out of state. "November 7, 2006 was my first day on the job," stated Barb.
When asked why he promoted Barb Clark to a track management position in a male-dominated sport, Gene Cole quickly responded, "It's very simple -- I am surrounded by strong women at home and in the office and I've been successful. I saw her potential and sent her to the Dale Carnegie School in Syracuse. She's done a hell of a job since!"
Fast forward to the 2015 season and Barb now continues in that same role but under new track owners, Bill and Kim Shea. "They kept most all the officials, most of whom have worked together for many years," said Barb, "and that has made for a very smooth transition. It's different but their goals are the same -- to be the best dirt race track around, and I'm delighted to be able to work with them."
The petite cyclone can be found anywhere and everywhere on a race night.
Those days begin at about 8:30 a.m. and typically end somewhere around 11 p.m. when she powers down the generator and turns all the lights off.
If she were not working at Utica-Rome Speedway what would she be doing?
"Probably traveling with my husband to antique car shows and antique tractor shows. Wešve been married for 45 years this July and John has accumulated 42 antique cars and 24 Allison-Chalmers tractors during that period. I enjoy my time traveling with him to the shows I am able to get to," she stated. "Our first 37 years were spent with me working days and John working nights."
After a short pause she continued, "We are best friends and I have a wonderful family that supports me 24/7."
Earlier this year at the annual RPM Promoter's Workshops in Daytona Beach, FL, during 2015 Speedweeks, Barb joined Melinda Kennett of Speedway 51 (NH) and Donna Howe of Kalamazoo Speedway (MI) at the "Leading Ladies of Racing"
workshop, offering a female perspective on the current challenges that face short track racing. "It was an honor to sit alongside them and to discuss with the audience the challenges racing faces from our perspectives.
Definitely not something I ever thought I would be doing."
"I've been blessed to be surrounded by the Utica-Rome family," stated Barb, "...They love the sport and care for it as deeply as I do. To receive this recognition by the Northeast Hall of Fame, for something I love doing, is beyond belief."
From a fan in the grandstands, to the VIP window, to office staff, to Director of Operations at one of the historically most significant tracks in the Northeast, Barb Clark has lived racing, all day, every day, for many years. She has given her time and expertise unselfishly to the sport she truly loves. "I've made some very good friends over the years and Išve enjoyed every minute of it."