Women are involved in running the three tracks, but other women aren't allowed in the pit area at any of them.
“It's just a rule we have,” said Fern Barragree, who, along with husband Vernie, runs Salt Hawk and Great Bend Speedways. “The drivers voted on it and said they didn't want women in the pit area.”
“Besides, we don't have proper restroom facilities at either track. And at Salt Hawk, the pit area is so small it doesn't take much to get it crowded. At
the pit area is a little larger.” Great Bend
McCarty Speedway is run by Mrs. Esther Merrick, widow of Jack Merrick, long-time racing promoter. “We've always had a rule about no women or children in the pit area,” Mrs. Merrick said. “The pit area is a restricted area, and does not come under the discrimination laws. They are only applicable to public facilities, and during racing action, the pit area is not public.”
drivers agreed with the ban on women in the pit area. “At Salt Hawk, they don't
have restroom facilities for women,” Ron Borecky said. “A lot of times the men
just go out behind something, and we've had comments from people in the
grandstands about that.” Hutchinson
“I'm kind of liberal, and maybe if they were smart enough to stay out of the way...”
Borecky also spoke of the ‘blue’ language frequently heard in the pit areas.
“It doesn't bother me if a woman hears me, but you never know where they're going to be,” he said. “I've heard a few comments, like someone will be griping about his car and a woman will come along and they have to shut up. Like you're standing there cussing up a storm and turn around and a woman is looking right at you.”
Stan Hazell agreed with Borecky about the foul language.
“There is foul language, and I say no (to letting women in the pit area), but other than that I see no difference,” Hazell said. “
is the only track
I know of that does let women in. At Salt Hawk, there are a lot of spectators
around in the pit area, too, but most of the people are drivers or mechanics.” Salina
Rod Adkinson likes having his wife in the pit area at
. “Sometimes my
wife and kids go along, but if it's just my wife and I, she goes in with me and
I don't see anything wrong with that,” he said. “Most generally the people in
the pit area either know someone connected with a race car, or they're just standing
around in the pits.” Salina
“Everyone, the different drivers and mechanics, kind of work together as a team. The pit area isn’t somewhere to go down and sit around. If people want to come down, pitch in and help and not just sit and watch, I think its fine.”
Retired race car driver Jack Petty is in his first season running Salina Speedway, and said the policy allowing women in the pit area is not new.
“I don't know when it started, but it doesn't make a bit of difference to me,” he said. “The insurance company says whoever runs the track has the right to allow or disallow whoever they want. I never have asked anyone and I really don't care.”
The pit restroom facilities for men are “not complete” and are non-existent for women at
Pit passes allow people to go into the grandstand area where there are adequate
facilities for both sexes. Salina
“There was a track at
where the women wanted to go in the pits and put up a fuss and they let them
in,” Petty said. ‘The first year, they were swamped with women, but the
following year there weren't as many, and the third year, there were fewer yet.
They discovered they couldn't see the races as well from the pit area, and
drifted back to the stands.” Enid, Okla.
Petty said the discriminating attitude also existed toward women drivers. “A lot of men race car drivers don't like for women to drive race cars,” he said. “I haven't had any women ask to drive here, but last year I was out run by a woman at a track. She took first in the A Feature and I was second. The guys razzed me about being beat by a woman, but I told them it was nothing new for me.”
“When I started out in ‘53 there was a woman driver where I was, and she was pretty good. I don’t care whether I'm driving against a man or woman - what matters is whether they can drive a race car the right way or if they're just down there.”
Petty didn't feel “foul” language was a problem at
. “I don't think
there's been any change on it one way or another, at least not that I've heard,”
he said. “If a woman goes out to the pits expecting more attention from the
racers or mechanics, she'll find out it just isn't so. I can speak as a driver
and it's a full-time job when you're driving or trying to make your car go. The
No. 1 objective is the races, and your race car and the races are what you
concentrate on when you're down there.’ Salina
Petty’s girlfriend, Mary Lou Covert, joked, “You don't get attention like that until the races are over.”
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