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Racing Brings Moms and Kids Together At Darlington

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 10 2009
The moms of race-car drivers have gathered at Darlington Raceway in recent years. There, they are honored and thanked.

The moms of race-car drivers have gathered at Darlington Raceway in recent years. There, they are honored and thanked.

Rick Minter | Senior Writer

NASCAR drivers usually honor their moms at Darlington Raceway because the Southern 500 is run on the night before Mother’s Day.

For the past five years, mothers of Sprint Cup drivers have served as Grand Marshals for the Saturday night race.

Like Carl Edwards’ mom, Nancy Sterling.

“I think Mother’s Day is special to all of us, but being in Darlington with our mothers is great,” Edwards. “It’s real cool to race in front of your mother. It’s great for her to meet the other driver’s moms. It’s a fun event.”

Mrs. Sterling played a big part in Edwards’ early career, helping him finance the short-track cars that eventually propelled him to the top levels of NASCAR.

Many other racing moms have played key roles in the careers of their sons and daughters.

From the time Reed Sorenson drove his first Quarter Midget, his mother Becky was sending out news releases to media members and later to NASCAR teams, in hopes that her son might one day land a professional ride.

She coached him on public relations and had her list of duties, just as dad Brad prepared the cars young Reed drove.

Becky Sorenson said she pitched in on the racing effort because it was clear from the beginning that he was going to pursue a driving career. She said there weren’t any other options back then. “I don’t remember being asked,” she said, adding that once she saw how dedicated and committed her son was there was no turning back.

Becky Sorenson said she never tried to steer her son toward any other sport or a safer occupation.

“Guilty as charged,” she said. “I just can’t imagine what else he’d be doing.”

Cindy Elliott, Bill Elliott’s wife and Chase Elliott’s mother, said she tried, unsuccessfully, to get her son interested in something besides racing.

“I took him to the golf course and got him lessons from the pro,” she said. “I did everything I could to get him interested in baseball or football, but he kept coming back to racing.”

Cindy Elliott has seen the injuries suffered by her husband in races, and is well aware of the possible dangers, but she’s as supportive as can be of her son’s budding career. Although he’s just 13, he’s moved from Legends to Late Models this year and hopes to one day race at NASCAR’s top levels.

She says she’s just doing what comes naturally to any mother.

“When I look in his eyes and see the love and desire to race, or whatever it is he wants to do, I’ll help him no matter what it is he’s chosen to do,” she said. “That’s what drives any mother.”

Whatever good and bad that comes with being a race driver’s mother, Jane Green gets a triple dose. She has three sons, David, Mark and Jeff, who race in the Nationwide Series, and many times all three are racing against each other.

 One of her biggest challenges is trying to not show a hint of favoritism to any of the three. “That’s something I really fight,” she said. “I try to visit all three of them before the race, and then I just walk a lot, back and forth between their pits, during the race.”

Naturally, she worries about their safety, as she’s done since they were racing go-karts prepared in her carport.

“Of course they don’t like to hear it, but I tell them that I don’t care how they finish as long as they don’t get hurt,” she said.

Like any loving mother, she feels their disappointments as much or more than they do. And that’s happened all too often recently, as rides are lost for no apparent reason.

“That’s the part I hate,” she said. “They’re never had the money support some of the other drivers have had. From the beginning, they had to work for what they had. I’m proud of them for doing that, but sometimes I’m sorry their mom didn’t have the money to buy them the best of everything.”

What she really hates is to read or hear criticism of her sons.

“They’ve worked hard, and I’m very proud of them,” she said. “Sometimes when I hear something bad said about them, I just want to shout, ‘Please don’t be mean to them.’”

More often than not, though, what she hears from people is how polite her sons are, which no doubt is a direct reflection on their raising.

“That makes me feel good,” she said.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 10 2009
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