Racing: 'It was a goose-bump deal'



Racing: 'It was a goose-bump deal'


Related Issue: Women Racers Directory, Women in Racing, Women Racers, More Women in Racing, Race Schedules, Notable Women
E-Mail | web site

 Direct link to this page -


Birthplace: Sturgeon Bay, WI
Who started you: Parents
Biggest influence: Father Billy Hayes
Women you admire: Julie McDermid
Fathers Thoughts: He owns the car
Your encouragement: Face the challenge, fight to win.





First Feature Win in IMCA Sport Mod.



Racing: 'It was a goose-bump deal'

Hayes only second female driver to win feature at Thunderhill Raceway.

Kelsy “Hollywood” Hayes wasn’t real keen on her starting position for last Saturday night’s IMCA sport mod feature at Thunderhill Raceway in Sturgeon Bay.

“I think I started third or fourth row, and it seems whenever I start near the front of the pack I don’t do very well. Something bad usually happens,” she said. “I push too hard and spin myself out, or I don’t go out hard enough and I get passed. It seems when I start further back, I finish higher.”

This particular race, however, couldn’t have worked out any better for the up-and-coming 19-year-old racer from Sturgeon Bay.

Hayes got off to a strong start, took the lead on lap three of the 20-lap race and then withstood two cautions en route to winning her first feature at Thunderhill and becoming only the second female feature winner in track history. The first to accomplish the feat was former IMCA modified driver Julie McDermid of Oconto Falls, who won several features at Thunderhill years ago, according to longtime track promoter Bryan “Woody” Wodack.

In a sport dominated by men, Wodack said Hayes’ victory is a special accomplishment.

“It was exciting to see her win that race,” said Wodack. “To have her get her first win at her hometown track was really cool. The crowd went crazy. It was a goose-bump deal.”

Hayes passed James Iverson for the lead early in the feature and remained there until the end, despite having to deal with two mid-race cautions that bunched the field and forced her back to square one. Hayes said she was “a little worried” about having to restart the race twice, but she steadily pulled away after the last caution with eight laps remaining and crossed the finish line well ahead of runner-up Randy LeMieux.

Hayes, who has a big following of supporters, drew a loud round of applause from the crowd, said Wodack.

“I couldn’t hear them screaming, but I was yelling in my own helmet. I kept saying, ‘Yes, I did it! Yes, I did it!’” recalled Hayes. “I was so excited.

“Then I heard the track announcer say, ‘Down in victory lane is Kelsy ‘Hollywood’ Hayes.’ All I could do was wave and smile. It was nice hearing all that support. It’s just a hobby, but that’s half the fun to have people cheering for you.”

Hayes said the win was “like an early present” for her father, Billy, who celebrated his birthday Thursday.

“As soon as I won, he literally ran into the circle and gave me a huge hug,” said Hayes, who credits her father and mechanic Randy Theys for her success. “Then my dad picked my mom (Jayne) out of the stands and she gave me a big hug too. And after taking millions of pictures we went to the pits and everybody was shaking my hand and telling me, ‘Good job.’ I’ve been waiting for this for a while, so it was really exciting.”

Hayes, a self-described “adrenaline junkie” who loves speed and competition, became interested in racing at a young age. She started racing go-karts on asphalt tracks at age 10 and then jumped into her first stock car at age 15.

“I’m a third-generation driver. My grandfather raced and my father raced,” she said. “I grew up at the races and I used to watch them and say, ‘Someday, I’m going to be like them.’

“When I turned 15, my dad asked me if I wanted to start racing cars. I told him that seemed pretty fast, so I started racing a four-cylinder. Halfway through my first season, I blew the car up, and my dad said, ‘I’m not sticking any more money into that car. You’re either moving up to a hobby stock or we’re not going to race anymore.’ So I finished the year in a hobby stock and stayed with that for another year before moving up to a sport mod three years ago.”

Hayes is one of four women who race on a regular basis at Thunderhill. She said being a female in a male-dominated sport has “its ups and downs.”

“It’s hard because some guys don’t like being beat by a girl and they can be sore losers about it,” she said. “And then there are other guys who encourage it.

“I used to have issues with some of the guys and it seemed like whenever I was in front of them, I got taken out. It’s hard because racing’s not a girl thing, it’s a guy thing, and you have to prove that you belong. My dad always tells me, ‘It doesn’t matter who you’re racing, a guy or a girl, it’s just another person you have to pass.’”

Wodack said Hayes is a “classy girl who conducts herself well” and is admired by a lot of fans, especially the children, who attend the races at Thunderhill.

“There aren’t a lot of female drivers out there, so I think people take a liking to that and clam on to her,” said Wodack. “She brings people to the track and she can hold her own with the boys, which is pretty cool.”

Hayes, who’s going to be a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Stout this fall and is majoring in graphic communications management, said she gets mixed reaction from other college students when they learn of her racing hobby.

“A lot of them think it’s really weird and a lot of them think it’s pretty cool,” she said. “I’ve shown some of my college friends my racing videos on YouTube and they think it’s pretty cool.”

Hayes is known in racing circles as “Hollywood,” a nickname that people attached to her father when he was racing.

“I’m not really sure how that came about, but when my dad raced he wore big aviator glasses and they started calling him that,” said Hayes. “And then one night when I was racing, (track announcer) Eddy Anschutz called me Hollywood and it just stuck. I’m constantly on the phone, either talking or texting, so the other racers say, ‘You really are Hollywood.’ It’s unique. It’s fun. It’s grown every year and this year it’s way bigger.”

Hayes said she loves racing because of the competition and adrenaline rush she gets from the high-speed sport.

“I’ve always been very competitive. I have to make everything I do a competition,” she said. “There’s something about sitting in that car before the race and feeling the butterflies going through your stomach.

“I was so nervous the first time I raced a hobby stock, but I really liked it. Now, the only thing I want to do is go faster and I can’t wait to move up again. I want to get way up there and race a sprint car someday. I think that would be the coolest thing.”

Hayes has caught on quickly in her five years of racing. She won a hobby stock feature at Chilton Speedway in 2009 at age 16 and was Rookie of the Year in the sport mods at both Thunderhill and 141 Speedway in Francis Creek in 2010.

She’s currently fourth in the sport mod standings at Thunderhill, just nine points out of the lead, and fourth out of 51 drivers at Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway, where she races on Friday nights.

Hayes said her goals for the remainder of the season are to “try and collect some more trophies and stay up at the top for points.”

“She’s on the right path,” said Wodack. “I think there are even more (wins) for her to come.”




*    *    *
©1996-2019 by of Gordon Clay