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Some women say racing is their LOVE; others say racing is their LIFE.

For Track Chic’s Woman behind the Wheels, Mary Ann Naumann, racing is both her LOVE and her LIFE!

The daughter of Jake and Frankie Wallace, who both raced and promoted stock car racing at the Longhorn Speedway in Texas (formerly Austin’s Speed-O-Rama), Mary Ann grew up trackside first competing on her bicycle with other kids and eventually behind the wheel of a race car. Those early days and nights at the racetrack helped shape the foundation of Mary Ann’s family and friendships. While most kids were going to high school football games, Mary Ann was waiting for Friday night to go to the races!

After years of watching races as part of the family, Mary Ann had the opportunity to join the marketing and promotions business of motorsports. Crowned “Miss Texas Race of Champions”, Mary Ann worked closely with legendary Texas Race Promoter, Neil Upchurch, who had a profound impact on her life and career choices.

Today she is the proud owner of Thunderhill Raceway, an ASA sanctioned track in Kyle, Texas, (near Austin), and the Texas Super Racing Series (TSRS). The Series tours throughout the state of Texas in both Late Model and Allison Legacys. Affectionately referred to as “My Baby”, the TSRS is a return to the family-style racing Mary Ann enjoyed back in the ‘80s.

In addition to a promoter, organizer and racetrack owner, Mary Ann is also a wife and mother. Her husband, H.E. Naumann, son, Heath Stewart, and Brad (Bubba) Naumann, her husband’s son, are all seasoned race car drivers who always finish high in their respective class.

Mary Ann’s time spent behind the wheel had a tremendous influence and fueled her desire as a promoter. Having the benefit of actual driving experience has helped Mary Ann to understand and respect what the drivers are feeling before, during and after a race. That personal connection, and her incredible staff and officials, attribute to the success of Thunderhill Raceway and the TSRS series. It’s those female touches, like perfectly manicured grounds, antibacterial soaps in spotless bathrooms, plentiful supply of cool towels and cold water bottles on standby for the drivers and their crews that immediately indicate that a woman is in charge.

In addition to sprucing up the grounds, Thunderhill Raceway now also has a drive-through tech shed, driver's lounge, a separate media center and VIP suite area. Renowned for its “one-groove” challenge, the track hosts NASCAR Camping World Series West, ASA A-Line Super Stocks, Thunder Stocks, Grand Stocks, Texas Pro Modifieds, Texas Pro Trucks, Texas Super Racing Series, Texas Pro Sedans, Texas Dwarfs, Lone Star Legends and Bandoleros, Allison Legacys, and NASKARTS.

Mary Ann confesses that she had never actually intended to own a race track, but has been involved with Thunderhill on and off since its early years in 1999. She eventually became a partner and then acquired her partner’s interest in 2007 to become sole owner of the facility and ensure that “Her Baby”, the Texas Super Racing Series, would always have a home. Both the track and the series carry Mary Ann’s signature of family, fun and competitive spirit.

Track Chic talks with Mary Ann to learn how this one woman can “Do It All” … and DO IT ALL so well!

You have a rich heritage in motorsports. As the daughter of racing parents who were also race promoters, you done have everything from serving as Trophy Queen to competing behind the wheel of a race car yourself. Your motorsports career includes Marketing, PR, Race Promotions, Track Management and now owning an ASA-member racetrack, Thunderhill Raceway, and also the Texas Super Racing Series! Of all your accomplishments, what brings you the most satisfaction?

I would have told you a couple of years ago, the TSRS Late Model Series; I call it "My Baby". Although with the economy and the cost of trying to keep a racetrack alive, my series has suffered. I just love the camaraderie that goes with having a series and it has bled over into the ownership of the race track.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a Track Owner?

I really didn't start off wanting to own a race track; I loved traveling with the touring series, TSRS. Thunderhill Raceway was going to close its doors and I kind of stepped in because, without race tracks, we can't have a series! So, it is financially difficult to keep the doors open, operating expenses are so high. Marketing has always been my missing link and it still is!

What advances have you seen during your career for other women in motorsports?

When I first got into racing, there were not many women racing with the men; but it is much more common these days. The same is true for owning a series and a race track. It is still not as common, but it is no longer a show stopper. Women really are a missing link in motorsports; but it's being filled more and more as time goes on.

In your opinion, who is the most talented driver competing today?

Oh my, that is a tough one! Even though my TSRS Late Model car counts are down, like most Late Model Series, I have some of the finest drivers and most awesome folks around. I love drivers who race for the fun of it';they are very passionate about the competition. I love seeing the young ones come into the series and do well. I feel they do as well as they do because we have great Officials, great leadership from them. They also benefit from the quality drivers that they compete with and help show them the way. Again the camaraderie comes into play.

The series has had several 14 year olds run for a couple of years and have since moved on to the Pro or Super Late Models, and they now compete around the state. It makes me proud that they started with TSRS! Right now there are two young guns that we have that are doing well. Austin Self has major carting experience from a very young age. JT Sheilds, oh my, quite a kid! His dad ran the series for several years and has a couple of championships and all of a sudden his job had him traveling overseas. His dad put his son, JT, in a Late Model and he is doing great!

Like I said, this is a very hard question; there are some veterans that are setting great examples for these young guns. Too many to mention but two stand out: Robert Barker and Bobby Teer, Jr. Those two are battling for this year’s championship and it is going to be close!

You bring a unique perspective to the sport. You are the daughter of racing parents, a race car driver yourself and now the mother of successful race car drivers. Which scenario is hardest to handle emotionally?

I think I would have to say being the daughter of racers. When my dad raced, it was so scary for a long time. Then one night he got injured and was taken to the hospital. I was young and hysterical and everyone was trying to get me in there to see that he was OK.

I remember leaving that night or morning, and walking with him when he said "don't ever be worried about me in a race car: if I were to die in a race car you would know I was at my happiest". From then on, I was OK with it.

Now, I would have to say the hardest emotionally for me is not only feeling that nervous feeling when my husband and son are racing, but also as a track owner, ensuring that everyone from the fans to the racers have a wonderful family experience and get home safely to their loved ones.

Can you share more details about the Kids Club you started with your Dad, “NGR - Next Generation Racers Club”?

We wanted to have a kids club that would help kids stay involved with racing during the off season and not get involved with drugs. Our motto was "Racing against Drugs". We wanted the kids to meet the drivers up close, one on one; to go to their race car shops and see what it takes to get those race cars on the race track! We also got them involved with the operation of the race track, selling programs, greeting the fans, and helping in the flagstand. We felt these were our next generation of racers and many have proven to be exactly that! Many are now racing for me and have their own children at the track and racing in our bike races, just like they did when they were younger!

When not trackside handling the many demands of track owner, race promoter and series owner, what do you do to relax?

I love my family, but when I have finished an event, I just want to go relax, have a massage, and maybe a pedicure! I love people and I like to see them happy, so I tend to extend myself a little too much, sometimes. I like a little time by myself and then I am good to go!

What is my idea of a perfect day? Spending it with my incredible, loving husband, even if that is just doing nothing, he is my missing link! We love to take our RV and hit the race tracks and visit families and we love to go to casino's, we love the atmosphere, relaxing at the hotels and just being together.

My husband is a successful retired businessman. For 26 years he was in the trucking business, he owned one of the largest trucking companies in Austin. He sold the business about 6 years ago and loves being retired. We have a ranch, Ranch Oasis. It is 89 acres that he has built since his retirement and he takes wonderful care of it and he also helps me with the 38 acres that Thunderhill Raceway sets on, so really he is not retired!

Now, I can't leave out what an incredible staff I have and I would be nothing without them! I have one, if not the best, techman around…Jack Sandefur, fair, fair man! So ethical, I am so very proud to have Jack. Deb Williams, oh my, she is my right hand ... attention to detail does not touch it! Kathy Tiemann, Director of Scoring, oh my goodness, she is the best of the best. I have two incredible announcers, so good, so funny, and so entertaining. And a flagman that I adore!

My husband is the Director of Spotters with the TSRS Late Models and Allison Legacys that we manage. He actually handles all spotters for the classes that travel to THR. He just makes it all happen in that area.

I have terrific on-track officials, two are women. Kim McKim has been with TSRS from the beginning, as have many of my staff. And also Loree Mathieson; these ladies work hard and have the best interest of everyone involved … and they have fun!

Too many great folks to list them all! I only have the best; they love their racers and fans! Everyone works so hard, in the garage and pit area, Brad Bush and Stacy O'Brien, yep another lady! Then, we have Mama Dean, she is Jack's better half, she has been with the series from the beginning! Everyone loves her! She will hand those drivers cold towels and bottle water every chance she gets! Wish I could mention them all, from my ticket windows to my security!

You have enjoyed the success and tremendous satisfaction of following your dreams. What advice can you give other women eager to pursue their passion?

It is not original but it is true, do what you would do for free, if you could! Go after it, make it fun; when it's not fun any longer, move on to something else that is!




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