Meet the Moms of the World of Outlaws
It’s rough. It’s tough. It’s dirty. The stars of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series do battle night after night against the fiercest competitors in motorsports. But even those hardened warriors have a soft spot.
As Mother’s Day approaches this weekend, that soft spot, the Outlaw mothers, take center stage.
Donny Schatz is the seven-time and reigning World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion, but a face almost as familiar to the fans as his own is that of his mother Diane.
The matriarch of the Schatz family can be seen on any given race night in Donny Schatz’s merchandise trailer in the fan midway. She’s part saleswoman, part spokeswoman and all proud mother and grandmother.
“I really enjoy the racing – I enjoy watching Don race,” Schatz said. “He just gets a little better every year. And every year he’s honed his skills even more.”
If you ask her why, after 20 years, she is out at every event, the answer is simple: family and friends.
“It’s a job away from a job… dealing with the public is really gratifying,” Schatz said. “There’s just such a diversified family out here. It’s fun to travel all over and travel to the different states and see how many people have their heart in racing and how many of them feel deeply about dirt track racing.
“We’ve known people from all over the country and Australia, England, Africa. You get to know them after a while because you see them at two or three different events and you see them at a new event they haven’t been to before. It’s just fun.”
“I don’t think there’s anything more important than family. You meet a lot of people. We have a lot of friends. We’ve met a lot of fans, a lot of supporters of dirt track racing. When it comes down to it, your family is the most important part of what you do.”
For the Schatzes, racing is not the only family business. Together they own and operate truck stops and travel centers in North Dakota.
It’s not always easy working with family, Diane says, but it is always worth it.
“It’s very gratifying to see your kids like to be involved in what we got started. If you’re going to make your family ties strong, working with them everyday will do that.”
Another familiar face in the fan midway is Bobbi Johnson, wife of reigning series Rookie of the Year, Jason Johnson. The couple maintain dual residences with three-year-old son Jaxx throughout the season – Rocky Mount, Missouri on Lake of the Ozarks, and a motorhome on tour.
Johnson, a veteran in the merchandise business, juggles motherhood with ensuring inventory flow, helping to manage the business relationships of their family owned team, and interfacing with the thousands of fans who show up every night.
“I enjoy the fans. I’ve got more friends out here than I do anywhere,” said Johnson, who began working for series founder Ted Johnson in 1999. “I guess family to me is more racing family. I have closer friends out here than I do at home in Lake of the Ozarks. Family means a lot. Without family and friends, there isn’t much to live for. With the racing deal, you always come together no matter what.”
Johnson said the experiences afforded to her and to her family have been eye-opening. New people, new places, new ideas all along the journey have enhanced the experience and made an unconventional lifestyle always interesting.
The added bonus is the community that exists behind the scenes – competitors helping competitors, wives babysitting, teams lending equipment or a helping hand, and even a spare pickup available when you need it.
“In a time of need, everyone comes together,” Johnson said.
Though when it comes to what happens on track, it’s ok to pick favorites.
“If you have the passion for the sport — boyfriend, husband, family, whomever you root for — you want them to beat the next guy. It doesn’t really matter.”
For CJB Motorsports, which fields a full-time team for young star David Gravel and part-time team for series veteran Sammy Swindell, Natalie Jackson, wife of crew chief Barry Jackson, takes on role of mother not just for her own children, but surrogate mother and support for the crew members who who work for the team night after night.
Jackson, a mother of three and grandmother to one, splits her time between the family’s home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and the World of Outlaws tour where she provides public relations and other support for the team.
“I do it because I absolutely love our race team,” Jackson said. “I have a tremendous love for [team owners Chad and Jen Clemens]. They treat us like family. They take care of everything we could possibly need. This takes care of my family, three kids, my grandson. I do this not only for the love but for the living.”
The life, Jackson said, does come with some sacrifice. Juggling important events at home can be a challenge for Barry – but the good outweighs the bad. Their children have been able to travel and experience new cultures and communities. The Jacksons have been able to build a good life doing what they love.
The ties that bind the World of Outlaws community are spread among a group that exists just below the surface. At the heart of it all are the mothers, the wives, the girlfriends who maintain an order of normalcy in otherwise unusual circumstances.
It’s a group worthy of a salute on Mother’s Day.
You can enter for a chance to win a trip to the Firecracker 100 at Lernerville Speedway. Complete the form below to be entered. And be sure to check out the World of Outlaws Event Page for more information on future sweeps and race information.#dirt racing #Family #mothers #outlaws #racing #sprint cars #world of outlaws