American Scott Bloomquist is a late model stock car racing champion. He makes a lot of money driving over dirt ovals half a mile or less. You may have seen photographs of him drifting in four-wheel drive on the fast lanes, his car literally out of control at least half the time.
Caley Weese of Carrying Place, Ont., Is also a stock car racing champion on track. She doesn’t make that much money – far from it, in fact – but she has similar skills. As far as we know, her claim to fame is to be the first and only woman to win a late model dirt feature film in the Northeast: a geographic area that includes runways in Ontario, Quebec and in the US states east of, and including, New York.
This milestone arrived this year on Labor Day weekend at Brighton Speedway in Eastern Ontario. It took her a while to get that particular checkered flag – she’s been racing for 18 years – and she’s hoping it won’t be the last. What’s interesting, however, aside from being a woman in a male-dominated sport, is that she doesn’t come from a running family. Her father (he owned an insurance company and was a farmer at heart) took her to the races one evening for something to do and by the time the dust on the track settled that night she said to himself, “This is for me. “
“I went to the races one night,” the 35-year-old told me, “and I never left.”
Her parents weren’t exactly thrilled when their 13-year-old daughter told them she wanted to be a race car driver. âMy parents supported me in everything I wanted to do in my life,â she said. âWhen I told them I wanted to race, they gave me less support. But they never tried to stop me. I was in high school then and started taking automobile lessons. The guys, of course, were more mechanically inclined than I was, but I was definitely ready to learn and we just fumbled our way to get started.
Weese, a graduate of St. Lawrence College in Kingston (advertising, marketing and communications), started out in snowmobile drag races and then tried his hand at endurance racing. In 2003, she started racing four-cylinder cars – hers was a Honda Civic – on what became her native track, Brighton Speedway, as well as tracks in Brockville and Cornwall. She won her first championship in this category in 2004.
âIn 2005 we bought a Pro Stock car (a 1987 Monte Carlo) and we went racing in that division, winning a championship in a touring series that crossed Ontario and Quebec. We went on five different trails and it was a busy time. We raced in Brighton every Saturday and then in the traveling series it would be Fridays and Sundays on different circuits.
In 2009 Brighton was considering going for a sportsman or late models as the flagship category and Weese was pushing for a sportsman, “because you can drive these cars almost anywhere in the North East.” But they went to late models, so that’s where we are today. We went to Kentucky to buy our first late model, a Rocket, and we have been doing so since 2010. â
Throughout our conversation, Weese told me about ‘us’ and ‘us’, so I asked him about his team and what each of them did.
âMy dad and my husband take care of the tire preparation, and I do all the preventative maintenance, my bolt checks and so on,â she said. âI make sure everything is mechanically sound and I change anything that needs to be changed. I stay out of bodily work; it is my father’s job. We run in a crate class (you’re not supposed to open the engine) but when it comes to the carburetor and any fine tuning I let my husband do it. I like our car; we’ve had it for a few years now, but it’s holding up.
Weese said that the night she won her famous feature, everything went well.
âIt happened on September 4th in Brighton and it was a flawless race. All the stars were perfectly aligned. Our class is so close to speed; we fight for tenths of a second. The competition is quite fierce. If you can finish in the top 10 in points in Brighton, you can finish in the top 10 pretty much anywhere in the North East. I finished second in my race, then took pole in the toss and led all 30 laps. We thought it was all pretty cool.
Now there aren’t many women running anything anywhere so I asked why.
âIt’s a sport that if you’re not into mechanics, it’s not something you can just get into. It’s a lifestyle and it’s a commitment. We haven’t traveled that much in recent years – COVID-19 kept us from going to the United States, for example – but before that I used to miss parties, weddings, funerals, everything. , since I was up school. You have a commitment and you’re in a points race every year, so if you skip one night you’re going to ruin everything yourself. You work so hard that you just can’t fail to show up.
I asked her about their decision to stay home more. Besides the pandemic, there had to be other reasons.
âAt this point. I’m happy to be a part of the sport and the hobby that I love,â she said. âI love the fans, I love the community, I love everything. You know, racing is just a small part of what happens on the track. We love it for the community aspect, as well as for the race. We ran an anti-bullying awareness t-shirt campaign for a few years. I would say we’re pretty happy doing what we’re doing and I don’t see that changing.
I started this column by mentioning Scott Bloomquist and asked Weese about Danica Patrick. Did she need someone to motivate her? Like the competitor she is, her response is not surprising: âI’ve never had a favorite rider, period,â she said. âI never had anyone to look for inspiration or motivation to. I have enough in me to make me want to do this.
You can repeat it.
Norris McDonald, former editor of Wheels, covers the Canadian and global auto racing scene for the Star. He is a member of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ NorrisMcDonald2.