Reagan May Driven By Determination and Legacy

Reagan May might be a young racer but she's got the determination of late NASCAR champion Alan Kulwicki.

Whether in racing or any other walk of life, having an inspiration or role model in a field or industry of interest makes for a solid blueprint of success to follow.  For 21-year-old Reagan May, inspiration isn’t too hard to find as she looks up to a very venerable and honorable motorsports legend in the form of the late Alan Kulwicki of Greenfield, WI.

Much like the 1992 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, May is very ambitious and multifaceted.  Similar to Kulwicki, she’s a hands on driver who works on her cars and works arduously with her team with getting those steel chariots to perfection.  In addition to being a full-time racer, she’s also a full-time college student at Michigan Technical University as a third year Mechanical Engineering student.

Racing in the super late model ranks, May is one of the selected drivers who’s part of the Kulwicki Development Driver program.  Not only does she aspire to be similar to the independent, do-it-yourself driver who trailed his own path to success, she also speaks proudly of him to fans and her peers at the races.  For this young gun, she’s doing a very solid job on and off the track in pursuing her racing dreams.

May’s focus on the track is very precise and strategic.  It’s all about being in position to go after the win when it counts on the asphalt arena.  Perhaps the time she spends working on the cars at the shop gives her that sense of appreciation of taking her equipment but also knowing when it’s go time on the track.  Maybe it’s the fact that like Kulwicki, it’s not about the start but rather about the finish in these races against some of the country’s finest short track talents.

Similar to aspiring athletes going to prominent colleges for their sport, May is perhaps in one of the best regions in the United States when it comes to racing: the Midwest.  Drivers like Kulwicki, Matt and Ross Kenseth, Dick Trickle, Carl Edwards, and Jamie McMurray are some of the finest Midwestern talents who’ve made a name for themselves in stock car and NASCAR’s racing divisions.  In time, the name Reagan May has a strong possibility of being on that list of great drivers who hailed from this particular region.

Earlier this week, I got to talk with May about her racing career, season, and some of her thoughts on a plethora of on and off track topics.  In TPF’s five years, interviews are typically about getting to know about the racer and most times, they’re in that mode of being a driver on the track.  Naturally, that’s always great but it can often just reveal information that most fans or peers in the racing industry already know about that individual.

However, May wasn’t afraid to be herself and in this case, it’s about getting to know her when she’s got the helmet and firesuit on and when she’s away from the racetrack.  To say the least, if there’s a racer who perhaps reminded me of myself in many ways, May definitely is that interviewee.  Race fans, let’s sit down and get to know all about this Super Late Model racer Reagan May right here, right now on TPF!  In the words of 38 Special’s 1981 song, just “Hold On Loosely!”

Rob Tiongson :  First off, thanks for letting us interview you here on TPF. For the racing fans who may be getting to know about you, tell us a bit about your background in racing.

All in a hard day's work on that racecar for Reagan May. (Photo Courtesy of Reagan May Racing)

All in a hard day’s work on that racecar for Reagan May. (Photo Courtesy of Reagan May Racing)

Reagan May :  Well I started racing go karts when I was 10 years old in Wisconsin. When I turned 13, I moved into my first stock car, a Mustang Mini Stock. The following year, I raced an IMCA Sport Mod where I was the youngest IMCA winner at Luxemburg Speedway (Luxemburg, WI).

I jumped into Super Late Models at age 15 and since then have raced local events and in the SuperPro Series (now named CRA JEGS Crate Series) and TUNDRA Super Late Models where I was the 2014 Rookie of the Year. In the 2015 season alone I have picked up 6 feature wins from across West Virginia to the U.P. of Michigan.

RT :  You’ve definitely got a lot of experience in different divisions of racing with great success along the way. How has that helped you in terms of car knowledge and confidence as you’ve climbed up the racing ladder in your career?

RM :  We are a family run team, so from the very beginning I have worked on all of my own equipment. With that comes a lot of ups and downs. But with that being said, I think my success is a huge confidence boost because I know how much hard work has gone into it to get where I am. I also believe being hands on has helped my understand of the car and what changes need to be made on race day.

RT :  That’s something very reminiscent of the late Alan Kulwicki, a driver who hailed from the Midwest and accomplished a great deal in racing on his own. It sounds like you’re as ambitious as him! How inspiring is it to look to the legacy that Alan Kulwicki has left here for other racers to take agree with their own careers, especially with yours?

RM :  Alan Kulwicki is someone I look up to, not only in racing but in my schooling as well. I believe Alan and I have very similar paths, as we are driers/owners and I’m pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I aspire to be like him as his hard work and dedication is what put him on top. Being one of the seven nationally chosen drivers for the Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) this year has been an honor. The KDDP aims to help “grassroots” racers and keep Alan’s memory and legacy alive. To be able to represent someone I look up to is remarkable.

RT :  That’s very awesome knowing that even after all of these years, we’re carrying on his legacy and you certainly are a racer who exemplifies that courage and poise that he displayed throughout his racing career. You brought up how you both pursued the same degree and have that focus to succeed. What’s some of the ways that you keep his legacy alive on and off the track?

Like the late Alan Kulwicki, Reagan May has a winning smile. (Photo Courtesy of Reagan May Racing)

Like the late Alan Kulwicki, Reagan May has a winning smile. (Photo Courtesy of Reagan May Racing)

RM :  On the track, I race like Alan did, hard but clean. With every win, I take the Polish Victory lap in remembrance of him. Off the track, I love to talk with fans about his legacy. I light up every time a hear a new story about him or his racing career. Being apart of the KDDP has allowed me to travel more and share Alan’s memory and legacy with new tracks along with car shows and community events.

RT :  I think that’s awesome that a racer like yourself not only preserves all of the traditions he was a part of, but to also be yourself on and off the track. Speaking of on track, you’re having a solid year as you sit inside the top-10 in points in the TUNDRA Super Late Model Series and those wins at West Virginia and Michigan. How would you evaluate your season and what are your goals heading down the homestretch for this year?

RM :  At TUNDRA Round 5 at Statepark Speedway, I started 13th and was up to fourth position when there was an oil fire under the hood which ended our night early. That hurt us in the points standings. But looking ahead, August 14th is Championship Night at Golden Sands Speedway in Plover, WI where I picked up the win at their opener
and I am currently nine points out of the lead. To be able to pick up the championship there would be amazing, as it would be my first Super Late Model championship.

After that, I will continue to race weekly throughout Wisconsin, trying to pick up as many wins and top five finishes as I can while keeping Alan’s memory alive.

RT :  Like Alan, he faced insurmountable odds but he was able to defy them and stand tall so it might be something to consider! Having raced up in the Midwest, a great region where many stock car greats have made a name for themselves, would you say that racing in the TUNDRA Super Late Models and other tracks up in places like
Wisconsin is like working towards a Bachelor’s degree for a potential career in NASCAR one day?

RM :  I would love to make it to NASCAR, as a driver or as a car engineer. It’s hard nowadays to make it, as you have to know the right people. But I love racing and I love what I am doing. So if I end up racing Super Late Models and working somewhere as an engineer, I won’t complain about that.

RT :  That’s not a bad life to have at all as you can be having the best of both worlds! What would you say was your “Welcome to Racing” moment that made you realize, yes indeed, this is what I want to do?

RM :  I first saw a go kart at the local bowling alley as they were there on a sponsor event. The next year, my younger brother and I started racing. The adrenaline and competition is what I love about racing as well as all the friends I have made along the way. The racing community is one of a kind.

RT :  It’s pretty interesting and cool how racing becomes a part of our life! Seems to find us in the most chance or unique fashion. Could you ever imagine your life without racing in it?

RM :  I really can’t. I put my life and soul into racing. If I’m not behind the wheel I’m working in the shop or at the races helping out another team or just spectating. Racing is what made me choose to go into mechanical engineering.

RT :  I can relate to that as can many who love this sport. We’ve in a way built our life around it. Having that mechanical engineering background has to be a huge asset I imagine. Would you say that it helps a lot when trying to figure out how to improve your car during a race or during a practice session on the track?

Reagan not only races these cars but she works on them, getting familiar with the parts that could lead to success on the track. (Photo Courtesy of Reagan May Racing)

Reagan not only races these cars but she works on them, getting familiar with the parts that could lead to success on the track. (Photo Courtesy of Reagan May Racing)

RM :  I believe it has. It has helped me have a better understanding of the car and how it works. That knowledge helps make suspension and set up changes at the track and at the shop.

RT :  That’s perhaps a quality that not many young racers possess so that is very awesome for you to have that background to help out with your racing efforts. Let’s talk a bit off track – what’s some of your favorite songs to listen to after a long day at work or just in general?

RM :  I listen to pretty much everything. Country would have to be my favorite. I love everything from country to rock to alternative/acoustic to oldies.

RT :  Nice! Do you sing along to your favorite tunes behind the wheel?

RM :  Down the highway usually. But if I don’t make it in racing, I will not be able to make a career out of singing. (laughs)

RT :  (laughter) I was fixing to say you’d be like the next Marty Robbins as the singing race car driver. Country though, eh? Oldies country like Johnny Cash or more of today’s artists like Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton?

RM :  I love both. Johnny Cash and Hank Jr. to Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton. I would have to say my all time favorites are Shania Twain and Garth Brooks.

RT :  Those are great artists and definitely good to unwind to at any time. Definitely a country girl at heart! What are some of your favorite things to do when you’re not behind the wheel or working at the shop?

RM :  I love riding horses and playing volleyball. I go to school at Michigan Tech in the beautiful city of Houghton, MI, I enjoy spending time outside and exploring the area.

RT :  I can just imagine how picturesque it is there! Seems like you’ve got a balance with your life. Before we wrap up, let’s have a little fun and do some Free Association. Tell me the first thing that comes to mind with the following words I’ll bring up here! Competition.

RM :  Race day.

RT :  Rivalries.

RM :  Michigan Tech vs. Northern Michigan hockey.

RT :  Hockey…perhaps the next best sport to racing. Pet peeves.

RM :  Definitely! And hmm pet peeves – I’m not sure I have one, I’m pretty easy going.

RT :  That’s a first for this on TPF! Taylor Swift.

RM :  Matt Panure singing karaoke after the races and at the 2014 TUNDRA banquet. (He will love it when he sees this!)

RT :  (laughs) I bet. I could just imagine him singing “Shake It Off” or that “Bad Blood ” song right now. Deflategate.

RM :  Aaron Rodgers > Tom Brady

RT :  Somehow, I think the Packers fans with TPF will love this (and I’m a Brady fan, so this is ok with me). One racetrack that you’d love to compete at that you’ve
yet to.

RM :  Bristol.

RT :  Thunder Valley – a great place! Balance.

RM :  Racing, full time job, full time student.

RT :  I have major respect for that as you have to really have the energy and wherewithal to give all of those your best, eh?

RM :  It’s all worth it.

RT :  Lastly, before we wrap up, what’s perhaps the best piece of advice anyone has given to you that you’ve applied with your education and racing?

Reagan May enjoying one of her victories after a day in the oval office. (Photo Courtesy of Reagan May Racing)

Reagan May enjoying one of her victories after a day in the oval office. (Photo Courtesy of Reagan May Racing)

RM :  “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eye off the goal” – Vince Lombardi. This is a quote I’ve lived by in racing and schooling. There are a lot of ups and downs but if you apply yourself and keep working hard, you will reach your goals.

Author’s Notes :  I’d like to thank Reagan for taking the time to talk about her racing career and letting us talk about her journey in the super late model ranks as well!  We look forward to writing more about her in future pieces here on TPF.  All of the photos in this article are courtesy of Reagan May Racing and if you’d like to learn more about her, “Follow” her on Twitter and “Like” her Facebook page right now!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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