Canton teenager takes quickly to track at Atlanta
by Emily Horos
ehoros@cherokeetribune.com
June 04, 2014 04:00 AM | 1654 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On some of the same stretches of asphalt that such racing greats as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson have achieved success, so, too, has a 13-year-old girl from Canton. Two weeks ago, as part of the Thursday Thunder series at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Lexi Gay won her feature race — a thrill she described as ‘unbelievable.’
<br>Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter
On some of the same stretches of asphalt that such racing greats as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson have achieved success, so, too, has a 13-year-old girl from Canton. Two weeks ago, as part of the Thursday Thunder series at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Lexi Gay won her feature race — a thrill she described as ‘unbelievable.’
Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter
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Lexi Gay, a 13-year-old from Canton, will be headed to Atlanta Motor Speedway for its Thursday Thunder series, but she won’t be watching the short-track races.

Gay made her racing debut two weeks ago and posted the best qualifying time of the night. She went on to win her heat and the feature race later that night, in what she called “the best day ever.”

“The thrill was unbelievable,” Gay said. “I was just hoping to keep my car in one piece and race clean, and it was just awesome winning everything in that day.”

After the race, she had a celebratory dinner with her family and pit crew.

Gay participates in Bandolero racing on the quarter-mile “Thunder Ring” on the front stretch of the Atlanta Motor Speedway. While she hasn’t competed since her season-opening victory, Gay will race every Thursday from now until the end of July, circling the track at speeds nearing 70 mph.

“I’m not sure where I’m going to go with it, but I hope to keep on winning,” Gay said.

Since her winning effort, Gay’s enthusiasm for racing has only grown. She and her mother, Amy, took a trip to Charlotte, N.C., where she toured race shops and met recently voted NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott.

“I really want to see how far I can get,” Gay said. “I’m in love with it now, and I hope to be in a few years, too. There is a lot to learn, and I just love it.”

Perhaps more impressive than winning her debut race is the sponsorship Gay picked up prior to the season.

The Paw Pad, a pet boarding company in McDonough, signed on to fully sponsor Gay this season. The partnership was born partially from Gay’s love of animals. Before getting involved with racing, she toured with her bichon frise, Marley, competing in agility events.

“The owner saw an article about Lexi doing agility and her love for animals,” Amy Gay said. “She has the Paw Pad, that helps support her animal rescue, and she wanted to give support to a young female entrepreneur. I think it was just by chance that it all kind of fit. Lexi is an animal fanatic.”

In addition to dog agility, Lexi Gay has also been involved with other sports such as swimming, volleyball and softball.

With racing, however, it was love at first ride.

Gay had been exposed to racing for years, as her older brother, Dawson, competed, but she never had an interest in driving herself until companion rides were offered at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“I knew, when she got in that car, things were going to change,” Amy Gay said. “Right now, racing has taken the front seat.”

Lexi Gay doesn’t see her interest shifting any time soon.

“I have always been really competitive, and I love the thrill of going fast and competing against other racers,” she said. “This is my favorite (activity) so far. I’m really glued to it.”

In addition to driving, Gay also works on her car, watches driver interviews to see what she can improve and markets herself. As a home-schooled student, Gay has taken several marketing classes and wants to create a brand for herself.

She is currently developing a website and already markets herself on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“Through social media, you can reach out to everyone who follows you,” Gay said. “Even if someone wasn’t at your race, they can still see where you are.”

Gay has seen her the interest in social media grow in just the past month.

“It’s been huge,” she said.
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