SEATTLE — (Sept. 7, 2012) Teenager Molly Helmuth reached another milestone in an already impressive racing career with her first podium finish in a late-model stock car on Sept. 1, 2012 at her home track of Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash.
The Roosevelt High School senior became the first female late-model racer to reach Evergreen’s podium since Natalie Sather’s victory in 2009, and at 17 she is the youngest female driver ever to record a top-three finish in the division at “The Superspeedway of the West.”
“I couldn’t ask for a better night. So many emotions were going through my head when I took the checkered flag, I wasn’t even sure if I got on the podium until I looked at the scoreboard,” said Molly. “I am just so thankful to be able to participate in such a competitive and expensive sport. I have the best support system, my mom and dad, sister, crew, fans, teachers and sponsors. I wouldn’t have the strength to be doing this sport without their support.”
Molly’s third-place finish kept her in the lead in the Super Late Model division Rookie of the Year standings for Washington state in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (NWAAS) and the track with just two races left. In 2010, Molly became the youngest driver ever to win Rookie of the Year honors in the NWAAS Mini-Stock Division and getting to make the trip to Charlotte, N.C., for the annual NASCAR Awards Banquet as a late-model racer was one of her goals for the season.
“Having watched her progression from karts to Pro4 trucks, Mini Stocks, Midgets and now Super Late Models has been really fun for us. In just the last two seasons to see her grow and mature is truly amazing,” said Doug Hobbs, president of Evergreen Speedway. ” All of the training and seat time have paid big dividends this season. As great as Molly’s accomplishments in the race car may be, she is a great young lady with a heart of gold and spirit to match. I can’t say how proud we are to have Molly call Evergreen Speedway her home track.”
The Molly Helmuth Racing team has designated Saturday, Sept. 15, the night of the season’s final two Super Late Model races at Evergreen Speedway, as “Molly Day” to give fans and sponsors the chance to cheer the young racer on. The MHR team will host an open house from 5-9 p.m. on Friday at their shop in Seattle and there will be a special fan section in the grandstands for the race.
“The last couple of races I have been having such horrible luck, but now I feel as though the luck is coming back around to the MHR team,” said Molly. “I have to thank Security Imaging, Jana Helmuth CPA, Epic Firearms, Lynnwood Napa Auto Parts, Squires Machine, Chermak Construction, Doxon Motors and Fitn Trim Racing for their dedication to the MHR team.”
Having an edge in the rookie standings is all the more significant as Molly has not raced in every event at Evergreen this season. She has also recorded two podium finishes in the USAC NorCal Ignite Midget Series at Stockton 99 Speedway in California while competing for the prestigious Ron Sutton’s Winner’s Circle driver development program. Earlier this year, Molly was one of just nine selected from 965 applicants for the RSWC program.
“Molly has amazed me from the beginning of the season, with her ability to calculate the other drivers, avoid the craziness and even when spun, stay focused like no other driver,” said Greg Bennett, Molly’s crew chief and spotter. “Especially when you have to remember that she is only 5-foot-1 and 100 pounds, and is wheeling a 2,700-pound stock car against guys twice her size. Her abilities are what brought me to this team, her attitude and drive are what keep me working hard to give her the best car we can.”
Channeling that drive and ambition, and building on the experience she has accumulated racing in the Sutton program and other divisions at Evergreen, Molly accomplished her career-best late-model finish in impressive fashion. After dropping out of the first race of the evening due to a mechanical problem, she started the 35-lap nightcap near the rear of the field and made her way to the front while avoiding multiple incidents and making a brilliant save.
“Molly did an outstanding job of avoiding a big wreck coming out of turn four. She got hit, spun, almost hit the wall, but kept the car straight and heading forward, with a torn driver’s door,” said Bennett. “After avoiding wrecks and spins all around her, Molly drove hard and made her way to fourth, then dodging more mayhem she brought the No. 92 home with a third-place finish, and her first podium!”
Although the race was “wild” because of the incidents, Molly said she went into it knowing her car was good enough to run through the field after starting 14th out of 17 drivers. “After the panhard bar mount broke in the first main event, I was ready to get my revenge and fight up to the front,” she added. “The communication between myself and Greg Bennett was fantastic, and I was extremely calm the whole race.”
Tom Hughs, the veteran late-model racer who won the race, was impressed with his much younger competitor: “It was fun racing with Molly during the second main event. She was right on my tail for about 20 laps straight. I couldn’t shake her. Even during a couple re-starts, she was right there the whole time. Even though the race was full of incidents, she raced me clean the whole night.”
Photo: Molly Helmuth and her crew celebrate the 17-year-old high school senior’s third-place finish in the Super Late Model division of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series on Saturday, Sept. 1 at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. From left: Doug Bennett, Greg Bennett, Molly Helmuth, Toby Jenkins and Rich Palmer. Photo courtesy of Jeff Harris.