Leaving the curlers out of the cockpit: Cornville teen not a ‘girly-girl’ on the race track

Shelby Kimball, 19, of Cornville is in her fourth year racing at Speedway 95 in Hermon. This year, Kimball is the only female racing in the men's Strictly Street division. When not racing on Saturdays at the speedway, Kimball spends the rest of her week attending Empire Beauty School in Waterville.
Photo by Jeff Pouland
Shelby Kimball, 19, of Cornville is in her fourth year racing at Speedway 95 in Hermon. This year, Kimball is the only female racing in the men's Strictly Street division. When not racing on Saturdays at the speedway, Kimball spends the rest of her week attending Empire Beauty School in Waterville.
By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff
Posted June 16, 2011, at 8:05 p.m.

Shelby Kimball is not your typical race car driver.

And not just because she is a woman in a sport heavily dominated by males.

The 19-year-old from Cornville and 2010 Skowhegan High School graduate balances her time racing cars with her other passion, cosmetology.

She is a full-time student at Empire Beauty School in Waterville during the week.

But on Saturday nights, she races with the men at Hermon’s Speedway 95.

“It’s definitely different. [Cosmetology and auto racing] are complete opposites. I’m a real girly-girl, although I’m not really a girly-girl on the race track,” Kimball joked.

She has gone from racing front-wheel drive cars during a highly successful career in the women’s divisions at Unity Raceway and Speedway 95 to adapting to the more powerful rear-wheel drive cars in the Strictly Street class at 95.

It is the third-highest division at the track behind the Late Model and Sportsman classes, and they have been averaging 10-11 cars per night, according to track co-owner Del Merritt.

She has more than held her own so far.

Kimball is tied for third in points. She has had a pair of seconds, a third and a fifth in the four races to date.

“She is doing a great job,” said Harrington’s Andrew McLaughlin, who is the points leader.

“It all started at the end of last year. You could tell right away she had the ability to [be successful].”

“I can’t say enough about how well she and her team have done this year. She’s going to win some races. There’s no doubt about it,” added McLaughlin. “I expect her to continue to have a good year.”

McLaughlin said he used to help a friend who was racing at Unity “and I’d see her race against girls. She always won.”

“She must have it in her blood or something,” said McLaughlin. “A [future] beautician who doubles as a race-car driver.”

Kimball takes her racing seriously and enjoys every minute of it.

“I like the competition, and racing cars keeps you on your toes,” explained Kimball. “I didn’t expect to do so well moving up from the ladies to a men’s division. It has been fun.”

When they can’t race, it irritates her.

“They had the Monster Trucks at Speedway 95 [a few weekends ago], so we couldn’t race. I sat at home bored out of my mind,” she said.

Her uncle, Tony Kimball, used to race at Speedway 95 and that was her introduction to the sport.

“I had always gone and watched the races,” she said. “I first started watching them at Wiscasset [Raceway] when I was 13 or 14.”

She saw an advertisement for a race car in Uncle Henry’s and joked with her father, Jeff, that she wanted a car.

“He took me seriously and told me if I saved up enough money, I could buy one,” she said. “So I saved up and bought my first race car, a Ford Escort.”

She began racing in the teen class before moving up to the women’s division and, now, to the Strictly Street class.

She won the Ladies Division points title at Unity in 2009 along with a three-race series.

She was chosen as the state’s Female Driver of the Year in ’09 by an online poll involving all six Maine tracks.

Last season, she won the three-race series at Speedway 95 and finished third in points.

“We had a late start. We missed the first couple of races last year,” explained Kimball.

She graduated from the Escort to a Ford Probe and then to a Honda CRX before climbing into a Chevy Camaro this season.

“Driving a car with rear-wheel drive is a whole new thing,” said Kimball. “I’m still getting used to it.”

“She has done a real good job adjusting,” said McLaughlin.

She said her Camaro has been “real good,” thanks to her dad.

“He has done a lot of work to it,” said Kimball. “He also works on my brother’s car.”

Her younger brother Matt, who is 13, races in the teen class at Speedway 95 on Wacky Wednesdays and he has won his first three races.

“My dad is always busy. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be racing,” said Shelby.

“I thought it was going to just be a phase for Shelby. But the phase is still here,” quipped Jeff.

Auto racing is very much a family activity for the Kimballs.

“The whole family goes when Matt and I are racing,” said Shelby. “My father, my mother [Kim], uncles, aunts, grandparents. It’s a family thing.”

And she enjoys Speedway 95.

“I love the track and I love the people there. They have all welcomed us,” said Kimball.

Her goals for the rest of the season include “getting used to the car, finishing in the top five in points and getting rookie of the year.”

She’s not sure if she would like to pursue auto racing as a career.

“Right now, I’m doing it for fun. We’ll see where it takes me,” she said.

 

 

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/06/16/sports/leaving-the-curlers-out-of-the-cock-pit-cornville-teen-not-a-%e2%80%98girly-girl%e2%80%99-on-the-race-track/ printed on April 16, 2014