Sunday Conversation with Madeline Crane

Madeline Crane of Meansville, who started racing at 10 years old, participates in a program to draw more women and minorities to NASCAR. GETTY
Madeline Crane of Meansville, who started racing at 10 years old, participates in a program to draw more women and minorities to NASCAR. GETTY

Teen living her NASCAR dream through diversity program

One Christmas, Santa Claus brought Madeline Crane a four wheeler. “I would always go as fast as I could go on that thing,” she says. Crane still drives that way. The 19-year-old from Meansville, a small town an hour south of Atlanta, has been selected for the second year for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. The program seeks to increase the number of women and minorities in the sport. Crane already has a ton of experience — she started racing at 10 years old at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In 2016, she finished in the top five twice and in the top 10 a dozen times in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Crane checked in by telephone driving back from Meansville to the NASCAR offices in Charlotte, North Carolina. She promised to go the speed limit.

Q: How did you get into racing?

A: My grandpa actually got me started. I would race a little Bandolero on the quarter-mile track at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Racing just fit my personality. I am outgoing. I love the adrenaline. I love the speed. Never did I think that would lead to what I'm doing right now.

Q: Did your grandpa race?

A: He raced a lot growing up. His last race was my first. I remember him telling me that he enjoyed watching me more than he enjoyed racing.

Q: So no one told you that girls didn’t race?

A: I guess I never got the memo. There are definitely a lot more females today than when I started.

Q: Are you treated differently because you are female?

A: That hasn't been a big problem for me recently but I have experienced that in the past. Honestly, you have to go out there and earn respect. I feel I have done that and have shown others that they have to race me the way they race everyone else.

Q: Were you the coolest chick at school?

A: Everyone knew that I raced and my friends supported me and all. But I don't think they really understood exactly what I did. Honestly, growing up, I kind of felt that I lived in two different worlds — one at the racetrack and one in small little Pike County.

Q: Does your racing freak your parents out?

A: They were a little nervous at first and I think that is normal for any parent. It definitely doesn't get to them as much as it did when I first started out. They are very supportive.

Q: When you aren’t racing, do you follow the speed limit?

A: I do pretty good. I haven't gotten any speeding tickets.

Q: What do you tell people who just don’t get racing?

A: Like any sport, you are not going to get it unless you try to get it. If you don't want to understand it, you are not going to understand it.

Q: Do you have a favorite racer?

A: Tony Stewart.

Q: What’s the Drive for Diversity program like?

A: Six drivers were selected after a competitive combine that includes track testing, fitness testing and media training. We start every day at 8 a.m. We work out an hour and a half to two hours in the gym. We go to the shop and help with the cars. We race about every other weekend.

Q: How do you like Charlotte?

A: It is definitely a lot different from growing up in a small town where everyone knows everybody. But it is great. Our shop is located behind the Charlotte Motor Speedway so I drive by there every morning. When I was young, I used to go there to race Bandolero and Legend cars. Never did I think I would be living here and doing what I'm doing. That's pretty cool.

Q: Do you hope to race professionally some day?

A: For sure I want to go as far as I can. Anybody in this program wants to make it to the top level. You never know how it is going to turn out. I just do my best and take the opportunities when they are given to me. I take it race by race, day by day.

For more information on the NASCAR program: