CHICO – The race on July 4 in 2019 was a special moment for Chelsea Blevins.
Two years ago, in front of a crowded stand at Silver Dollar Speedway, Blevins finished second behind veteran Kyle Hirst.
It was a highlight of his career, said Blevins.
But that same night, Blevins said a little girl walked up to her and told her she was afraid of running outlaw karts because there wasn’t a lot of conductors.
“Once you see someone doing it, you want to follow them. If you have a dream about running and you’re scared to do it, but see other women hitting goals and winning, you’re like, “Hey, I can do it,” Blevins said.
It was a moment that foreshadowed the importance of Sunday’s race.
Not only does Sunday mark the return of the busy July 4 Fast Car and Freedom Race, it also marks a record number of female drivers scheduled to compete in the winged 360 sprint car division on the quarter-mile circuit. .
Five women – Blevins, Ashlyn Rodriguez, Angelique Bell, Mallorie McGahan and Anissa Curtice – will all compete in the winged 360 sprint car category.
“I’m super excited that there are so many women. I like the fact that women are getting more and more involved in sport and that it is not just men. It’s just very empowering, ”Blevins said. “It shows little girls that they can go out and do the same.”
Blevins, 20 from Janesville, is a former Silver Dollar Rookie of the Year winner. Two weeks after finishing second in the July 4 race in 2019, Blevins claimed his first sprint car victory.
“This (victory) gave me a lot of confidence knowing that I can compete. I can compete with these men,” said Blevins.
After the speedway was unable to accommodate the July 4 race in 2020, Blevins said she was eager to try for second place in 2019.
“It makes my heart beat faster since I couldn’t run last year due to COVID,” Blevins said. “I hope all the women can go out there and kick some ass,” Blevins said. “I really hope we can all show our worth and show how good we are and beat the boys.”
19-year-old Anissa Curtice is from Eureka but often travels to Marysville and Chico to run. She will start her fifth 360 sprint car on Sunday.
Curtice has been racing outlaw karts since he was five years old. His dad was a runner and got him started early, Curtice said.
“I’m excited (for Sunday). I can not wait to see him. There are usually only two or three (female drivers), ”Curtice said. “I think it’s cool. It’s a sign that the sport is gaining momentum.
A family tradition
The July 4th Silver Dollar Race is a long-standing tradition for Ashlyn Rodriguez and her family.
His father, Jimmy Rodriguez, drove all 410 sprint cars and was the 1999 Silver Dollar Speedway champion. His uncle, Troy Hennig, is the track announcer and communications manager at Silver Dollar.
After growing up watching the event, Rodriguez will compete in his first race on July 4 on Sunday.
“It’s surreal in a way. It is something that I have been looking forward to my whole life to grow up, ”said Rodriguez. “Now that I’m finally able to do it, it’s crazy to me.”
Rodriguez started racing at the age of 9 in the midgets division. She said she was on her first run when she was two weeks old.
“I always grew up on the road,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve always wanted to run. I watched from the stands and knew that was all I wanted to do.
Now 17, Rodriguez is in her second year of sprint car racing. Rodriguez is in his final year at Elk Grove High School.
“It’s pretty cool. When I was younger it was a male dominated sport. There was maybe only one girl in the race. I admired the male riders because they were the ones who raced, ”said Rodriguez. “Now it’s pretty cool that there are more girls involved. You never know who is looking in the stands. There could be a little girl like me.
Like Rodriguez, Mallorie McGahan grew up going to the July 4th race every year. His family would throw a blanket on the grass and watch the post-race fireworks display.
McGahan, a native of Chico and alumnus of Pleasant Valley High, has been racing since the age of seven.
Now 25, McGahan has had a career in outlaw kart racing primarily at Red Bluff.
Sunday will be his sixth start in a sprint car in the past four years and his first July 4th race at Silver Dollar.
“My whole family is going to come out and watch,” McGahan said. “It will be quite fun.”
Growing up, McGahan said there weren’t many female drivers competing.
“I look at the lower ranks, the box stock kids at Cycleland and Red Bluff, there are a lot of little girls in those classes,” McGahan said. “I support them all. I am totally a fan of girls. I love it.”
The track champion returns
Angelique Bell, 27, made her mark on Silver Dollar Speedway by becoming the first female wingless sprint champion on the track in 2016.
“It’s always cool to be a part of this race with the fireworks and the excitement,” said Bell. “Chico is one of my favorite songs. I’m really looking forward to it. ”
Although Bell dominated in the wingless division, a class in which she competed for almost 10 years, she is in her first year as a 360-wing sprint car driver.
“My dad and I always wanted to drive winged cars, but we never had the money. We managed to make the jump this year, ”said Bell. “It’s really exciting for us. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do.
Bell started racing at the age of 12 after seeing his cousin ride motocross. She wanted to do the same, but her dad wasn’t very excited about the idea, Bell said.
“My dad said, ‘No, you’re going to hurt yourself. You need a roll bar. How about a car instead? Bell remembers.
Bell then began participating in the Quarterfinals series, she said she fell in love with the sport and the adrenaline rush that comes with it.
Bell and his father Bengie are a classic father-daughter duo. She drives the car while he does all the maintenance, Bell said.
“Sometimes it’s just me and him trying to make things happen and make it work,” Bell said.
Bell said that after Danica Patrick made a name for herself in IndyCar and NASCAR, she saw more girls take to racing.
Bell said she isn’t the type to cry often, but when she saw IndyCar’s first all-women team qualify for the Indy 500 earlier this year, she cried.
“When they qualified for this, I burst into tears. “Oh my god, this is a big deal,” Bell said. “Seeing more women in sport, I hope it just opens people up to things that aren’t really the norm.
“Seeing more women there is a lot of young talent coming in. It makes me so happy,” Bell said.
Bell said meeting Shauna Hogg, a veteran pilot who has raced for over 20 years, was a highlight for her.
“Seeing how far we’ve come, it’s really cool,” Bell said. “I’m so excited to be part of this fourth race in July for this reason. It’s such a cool time to be able to share this.
July 4th Fast Cars and Freedom Race
Where: Silver Dollar Speedway
When: Grandstands open at 5:00 p.m. Race starts at 6.30 p.m. at the latest. The fireworks will start once the race is over.
Tickets: Adults $ 18, seniors and juniors $ 15, children 11 and under are free. Tickets can be purchased at the front door or online at www.silverdollarspeedway.com.