Photo by Derrick Mahone
Madeline Crane finished runner-up last season in the Outlaws division at Thursday Thunder. The 14-year-old Meansville native has 59 top-five finishes in 82 starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
They call her Mad Maddy from Meansville.
When: June 7-July 26
Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Admission: $6 for adults, $2 for children 6-11, free for 5-and-under.
Except when you talk to her, she doesn’t look very mad.
Doesn’t seem too mean, either.
But Madeline Crane, the 14-year old Legends car driver, is very serious about what she does on the race track.
And she’s not just out there for fun, either.
“Eventually, I want to make it to NASCAR,” Crane said. “But that’s what everybody wants to do. There are so many drivers, and I know it’s a long shot, but that’s my goal.”
But first things first. Crane said she wants to do something about besting her 2011 second-place overall finish in the Outlaws division of Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Thursday Thunder racing series. Last year, Crane came up just short of Roswell racer Parker Barnes. This year, as Thursday Thunder returns for its 15th season starting on June 7, she feels like there’s some unfinished business.
“I chased Parker all year last year,” Crane said. “I don’t think he’s racing this year. But for me to get better it’s all about drawing a good number, which you can’t really control, but more than that just finishing really good and keeping your mind focused. If you do that, you can do as well as you want to with it.”
Crane started racing at age 10. Her grandfather, Virgil Brown, said she would have begun earlier if not for her mother.
“I tried to start her racing Legends at age 8, but her mama wasn’t having it,” said the 68-year old Brown, who himself started racing in 1963 and worked on a pit crew at the 1964 Daytona 500. “She was concerned about the dangers of it. And racing is dangerous, but so is football, baseball and most any other sport. You’ve got to have some danger to live life like you want to.”
Legend cars are typically built like miniature versions of American automobiles that were popular in the 1930s and 40s. At a recent press conference, Crane stood by a black car with green highlights and the number 78 — the same number Brown used to race with — on top as she talked about the similar speed dynamics of the Legend car.
“We usually race at about 90 mph,” Crane said. “But these can go to about 110 mph or maybe even faster. I do understand why my mom would be worried.”
Brown likes the fact, though, that the staff members who work with the racers make things as hazardless as possible.
“Whenever we can see a potential danger, we try to come together and come up with a solution,” Brown said. “We want to make sure things are safe as can be.”
What Crane wants more than anything is to be successful at what she loves to do. She also wouldn’t mind seeing her grandfather back on the track again. However, Brown said he wasn’t sure if that would happen — at least not while his granddaughter is being successful.
“I’ve still got a car,” Brown said. “But I just like watching her race. Racing is for young folks.”
Crane says her favorite racer is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. She said she’s used to her family gathering around the television yelling for him.
But Brown says it’s not a stretch to imagine those cheers being for Crane one day.
“She’s suited for this,” Brown said. “She loves it and I couldn’t ask for more from her. I’m very satisfied at what she’s accomplished and I hope she keeps doing it. This is our football.”