Fast Five with Georgia “Mama” Seipel,
Honoree of the California Hot Rod Reunion, Oct. 10-12
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – (Sept. 18, 2008) – “They’re all my kids and I want the best and safest tracks for them,” said Georgia Seipel, Infineon Raceway track manager. Aptly nicknamed “Mama” by drag racers, Seipel added, “People become extended families in drag racing. When someone gets injured, it’s like having someone in your family injured.”
“Mama” Seipel will fit in perfectly the family-friendly atmosphere of the 17th annual California Hot Rod Reunion, Oct. 10-12, Bakersfield, Calif. Seipel has been named a Reunion Honoree, alongside with Steve Davis, John Edmunds, Walt Rhoades and Butch Maas. Junior Thompson is the Reunion Grand Marshal, and all are being celebrated for their contributions and impact on drag racing and hot rodding.
It’s rare for women to manage race tracks, especially in the early days of the sport. Seipel has made a lasting impression, becoming an icon in Northern California and nationally for her nearly 50 years of service to the sport. She has been part of Infineon Raceway for 20 years and was instrumental in the creation of the popular Wednesday Night Drags and Top the Cops programs.
For more than a decade, Seipel was also a drag racer, sitting behind the wheel of her hot pink 1956 Austin-Healey small-block Chevy, competing at the division and bracket-drag levels. Her husband Ted and son Kyle are also drag racers at the NHRA level. She left racing to pursue a career in track management.
Seipel has been honored before, being named Grand Marshal of the 2004 NHRA FRAM Autolite Nationals. “I still don’t understand why they picked me,” she said. “There are more people that deserve it.” Hot Rod Reunion officials clearly disagree. In this Fast Five interview, Seipel talks about the Reunion and the excitement of drag racing.
1. How does it feel to be named an Honoree for the 17th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion? What does the Reunion mean to you?
Georgia Seipel: It’s an honor. I’m just a working-type of person and I enjoy what I’m doing.
2. Did you ever think you’d be honored years later for all that you brought to the sport, especially as drag strip manager at Infineon Raceway? What was it like being a woman in a male-dominated sport?
GS: Good heavens no! I thought it was a joke first, me being honored at CHHR. Being a woman in this sport is in some ways easy and difficult. I think its easier today than when I first started because men usually didn’t take orders from women. It wasn’t acceptable at that time. Also, I’m not very feminine and can hold my own with the guys. Today, it’s a whole different world. We have so many women doing things. Shirley Muldowney opened the door for women as a Top Fuel driver. No female came before her.
3. What are some of your fondest memories about drag racing in the early days? What do you miss most? Do you keep in touch with a lot of your drag racing friends?
GS: I get to meet people I would not have meet if I weren’t a manager. When I first started my job managing the drag strip, I met Joe Pisano. I had no idea who he was and that he was the owner of Venolia Pistons. After talking to him for just five minutes, he said, ‘You’re new at this, aren’t you?’ Joe took me under his wing and became my mentor. He said, ‘I’m going to help you, tell you who the good guys and the bad guys are.’ He was pretty accurate with who was good and bad. Joe was a gracious and a good friend until he passed away. I owe him a lot. I still keep in touch with friends who are still racing. My husband still races, so we see a lot of the guys we’ve known from the earlier days. Just watching my racers and then seeing their children race is amazing. I can’t believe the amount of time that goes by.
4. Are you surprised at the popularity of nostalgia in drag racing? Why do you think people enjoy it so much?
GS: When you stay involved, it’s very addictive. It’s amazing how far the sport has come in such a short time. I think drag racing is friendly. You can meet racers and visit in the pits with them. You don’t get the accessibility in NASCAR racing as you do with drag racing.
5. What do you think of drag racing today compared to the early days?
GS: Today we’re a national event, a money-making machine that is more business-oriented. Back then we did it for fun and for little money. There is more pressure to win today, which can lose some of the fun.
The 17th annual California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, Oct. 10-12 at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., is a 3-day festival of speed, hot rods and American automotive enthusiasm. It’s also the season finale of the inaugural NHRA’s Hot Rod Heritage nostalgia drag racing series.
Produced by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, and located in Pomona, Calif., the Reunion is part of the museum’s “living history” philosophy, which works to bring to life the sights, sounds and people who made history in the early days of drag racing, land speed racing and the golden age of American car culture.
Unique among motorsports events, the Reunion honors some of the top names in hot rodding from the past and features a fabulous array of cool drag cars, street rods and customs of the historic and present-day hot rod eras.
Those purchasing their credentials at least three weeks before the event receive significant added value including a “goodie” bag, Reunion program, commemorative dash plaque and a colorful and collectible plastic souvenir credential. Three-day credentials ($55 each) are available by calling 800/884-NHRA (6472) or by completing a form found in the Reunion section of the Museum’s Website (http://museum.nhra.com). Auto Club members receive a $5 discount off Adult credential prices.
Daily general admission tickets/pit passes will be available at Auto Club Famoso Raceway gate, (www.famosoraceway.com). Cost per person: Friday, $20; Saturday, $20; Sunday, $15. Children 15 and under are free when accompanied by an adult. Auto Club discount is also available at the gate: $2 off Friday and Saturday and, $1 off Sunday.
The Reunion features a wide variety of activities and events, including:
Proceeds of the California Hot Rod Reunion benefit the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. Celebrating its 10th anniversary and named for the founder of the National Hot Rod Association, the Parks Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California houses the very roots of hot rodding. Scores of famous vehicles spanning American motorsports history are on display, including winning cars representing 50 years of drag racing, dry lakes and salt-flat racers, oval track challengers and exhibits describing their colorful backgrounds.
The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., PST. Current NHRA members are admitted free and Auto Club members enjoy a $2 discount. Admission for non-members is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors 60 and older, $5 for juniors six through 15, and free for children under the age of five. The Museum is also available for special group tours. The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is located at Fairplex Gate 1, 1101 W. McKinley Ave. in Pomona. For further information on special exhibits, museum events or directions, call 909/622-2133 or visit http://museum.nhra.com.