Each person that comes out to Friday Night Drags at Atlanta Motor Speedway to race or watch does so for their own personal reasons. Some enjoy the speed, others the smell of the burning fuel and rubber. And many find it a way to hang out with family and fellow gearheads. It is not uncommon throughout the racing world to find families where several members dabble in racing, each one having been bit by the racing bug. Frequently many fathers and sons share the passion of fast cars. But Friday Night Drags boasts one family with a father, wife and daughter all competing on the track.
The Bethune family from Covington has three members who race in various divisions at Friday Night Drags: Dwayne in the Diesel Truck division, wife Ramae in the Truck division and Dwayne’s daughter Haley in the ATV division.
Dwayne, the 2008 Diesel Truck division champion, has drag racing roots, which like many of the racers on Friday night, go back to his younger days.
“Honestly, just being in high school and drag racing a lot, not the legal type,” said Dwayne on how he got started in drag racing. “Bill Patrick (another Friday Night Drags racer) and I ran in the same group and didn’t know each other. Then you get married, you have kids and you get away from it for a while. When this (Friday Night Drags) started back up in 2006, I really started getting the fever for it again and started coming out. I like to go fast. I enjoy the competition and the adrenaline rush, and just getting around everyone that enjoys the same type of entertainment.”
With some significant others content to watch from the pits, Dwayne’s wife Ramae wanted to see first-hand what all the excitement was about. Ramae ran her first-ever race on the April 27 opening night, and had a blast. While there were the first-time shakes and butterflies, Ramae is now hooked and will become more of a regular competitor.
“My husband doing it,” Ramae said when asked what made her want to give racing a try herself. “I’ve been watching him since we got together. I got a truck this year so I wanted to try. It was fun.
“It’s more exciting to me now that I’m doing it and not just watching. It’s more exciting for me and my girls are excited to come watch me race.”
Ramae has lofty goals and hopes to win a championship at some point during her racing here at AMS, but as a rookie understands that small victories are the building blocks to later success.
“I just want to get my first pass and win and go on to the next round,” said Ramae. “I want to make it down and get around once. I would love to win a title, but probably not this year. I’m working toward that too.”
Ramae isn’t the only racing female in the Bethune household, as Dwayne’s daughter Haley is a veteran on the pit lane drag strip. Her racing bug bit her early on.
“My oldest cousin got me into it when I was little,” said Haley. “Ever since I was little, we’ve always had four-wheelers and I’ve always rode. I now race the four-wheeler (at Friday Night Drags). Every now and then I’ll race my dad’s truck. Our whole family will get together and have fun.”
Haley rides a 2007 Honda EX 400 in the ATV division and during week two, she raced her uncle’s Ford Mustang in the Domestic division for the first time. Racing in a faster vehicle was exciting for Haley, who found the experience different but fun.
Haley isn’t just a wheel girl, either. Aside from arguing with her dad over which one of them will pilot his 2006 Dodge 2500 in the Diesel Truck division each week, she is curious about the mechanics of the vehicles and is hungry to learn more about the working parts of the machine, spending time helping him work on both trucks and her four-wheeler.
Growing up in a male-dominated family, Haley’s interests as a child was quickly turned toward mechanics and going fast. Hanging out with the boys has almost made her one of the guys, but beating the boys on the track is still a large point of pride.
“It’s amazing to beat the boys,” said Haley. “We used to go ride four wheelers and we’d be on the track and show up half of the guys. They’d ask my dad if that was his son, and he’d tell them that it was his daughter. They would often just head out after that. It’s different and fun to know they get intimidated with a girl on the track.
“Whenever I race my dad’s truck, I’ve had a bunch of folks thinking it’ll be easy to win since I’m a girl. Well they’ve found out otherwise and they’ve ended up leaving before it was over.”
For both Ramae and Haley, getting behind the wheel serves two purposes: the enjoyment of racing and the pride that goes into it.
“I guess it’s just showing women can do it to,” said Ramae. “It’s not all about the men doing it.”
The 2012 Friday Night Drags season runs most Friday nights through Aug. 17, with the Fall Stampede taking place Sept. 14 and Sept. 21. Practice runs begin at 6:15 p.m. and grandstand gates open at 6:30 p.m. Show-N-Shine car show judging begins at 6:15 p.m. with a track cruise at 8:15 p.m. Drag racing eliminations begin at 9:09 p.m.
All racers ages 16 and 17 must have a fully-executed minor’s release form on file at the speedway prior to competition and forms are available at the speedway or at www.atlantamotorspeedway.com. Competitors must wear a DOT-approved helmet and have operational seat belts in their vehicle and pass a pre-race safety inspection.
Entry to drag race or for the Show-N-Shine is $20 or competitors can enter both for $30. Spectator admission is only $8 with children five and under free. Exterior parking is free, while infield parking is $20.
For more information on Friday Night Drags or Atlanta Motor Speedway, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway Ticket Office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com/drags.