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Riding Shotgun with Haley Pitts

When you’re chasing down a dream and trying your hardest to be more than just a presence in your field, the struggles can feel insurmountable and climbing that mountain to success can be quite daunting.  However, the best often find a way to persevere and most of all, they are resilient and strong when it really matters.

For 23-year-old Haley Pitts of Lineville, AL, she’s been a valiant and courageous young racer who’s been working at realizing her racing future while making the most of her life.  Driven by her love to her family and friends, there’s many extra steps for Pitts when she’s at the track or when she’s dropping the hammer in her racecar.  Needless to say, she’s got a lot of that Alabama spirit of being a smart hard charging racer with a mission to succeed at each event.

It hasn’t been easy pickings this year for Pitts as she’s not had a lot of time on the track.  Still, she’s optimistic and she’s kept busy with making her name out there to race fans and with her peers in this sport.  There’s no giving up for this extraordinary young woman who has worked hard on earning the respect of her competitors while working towards a full-time effort for 2016.

Call it tenacity, persistence, or passion.  This is a racer who is absolutely ready to be on the track to battle for wins. She’s ready to work her way up the racing ladder and most of all, she’s more than happy to share her racing story and journey to the race fans here on The Podium Finish!

Fans, let’s start “Riding Shotgun with Haley Pitts” as we talk about her racing career, her prospects, and most of all, the important aspects of her life that make her journey in life quite extraordinary.

Rob Tiongson :  It’s been quite some time since we last talked!  Tell us what you’ve been up to and what your prospects are for the near future with your racing career.

Haley Pitts :  It has been a while, over a year!  This season was short for us as a family owned team, we ran one race at Fort Payne Motor Speedway in June and finished a strong sixth place.  I also was asked by my home track, Talladega Short Track, to represent female racers to sign autographs with Donnie Allison and other drivers at Sonny King Ford in Anniston, AL in October.  My plans for the future are to strive to reach great partnership so I’m able to run a full season and fulfill my dreams.

RT :  When you’re on the sidelines trying to work on putting together a racing schedule, how do you keep busy and also keep your name out there for relevance?

HP :  I have my social media sites like my Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram (Haley Pitts Racing).  Also, I try to make appearances at different tracks, schools, and events.

RT :  Take us through your racing journey for a bit.  How would you describe it to race fans in terms of the successes and struggles you’ve experienced as a racer trying to make a name for herself?

Haley Pitts pursues her racing dreams with one mission: to succeed!

Haley Pitts pursues her racing dreams with one mission: to succeed!

HP :  My racing journey started nine years ago in October 2006.  During these nine years, I have ran three full seasons earning 30 race wins.  Racing is a struggle in itself when you’re a family owned and operated team with really no sponsorship.

My biggest struggle would have been just moving from street stock to crate late models with only one year of experience in racing period.  It was like going back to school and having to relearn and learn new things we had never even heard of.

My biggest successes would be my third race I was featured on ESPN’s Ultimate NASCAR: The Explosion and winning my first Crate Late Model consolation race in October 2014.

RT :  What’s perhaps your favorite racing story that you often like to share with family, friends, and fans?

HP :  My favorite racing story would be when I won my first main event at 14 years old.  It was at Talladega Short Track on May 5th, 2007.  I ran second in my heat race so I started in the second row on the inside.  By the second lap, I was in the second spot. When I crossed over the weigh station and my dad ran over to the car and hit the hood saying ,“ YOU WON , YOU WON,” that’s when it finally hit me; I’m a racer I can drive I did it!

RT :  Where do you see your racing career going in the near future?  Are you looking towards a path in the world of NASCAR or other forms of dirt track racing?

HP :  I would love to make it as far as the good lord will let me go, whether it be in the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series or NASCAR.

RT :  Let’s say that you’re in a 30 lap dash at your local track, say Talladega Short Track.  You’re starting in the back but you’ve got a fast car for the race.  How do you pick your way to the front?

This is what quintessential racing is all about for a driver like Haley Pitts.

This is what quintessential racing is all about for a driver like Haley Pitts.

HP :  First and foremost, I would walk up to the stands after my car is prepped and watch a few laps and see where the fastest groove is.  Then when I’m on the track, I just try to focus on my driving and the cars ahead of me.  If I see them running groove number one (on the bottom of the track), I would try to pass them on the top of the track.

I try to drive smart, notice how the other drivers drive, where they mess up, and where I see an opening.  I also have to watch my dad under caution because he can see things that I can’t see and we have signals that we use to communicate with.

RT :  If there was a song in any musical genre that best described you, which one would it be?

HP :  The song that best describes me would have to be “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus.  There will always be struggles in everyday life but I strive to stay focused on my dreams.  The part in this song where she says, “Ain’t about how fast I get there.  Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side.  It’s the climb.”

That makes me think of how far I have come in my racing career and how I’m not losing sight of climbing to the top of the racing world whether it be dirt racing or asphalt racing.

RT :  What’s perhaps one interesting fact about you that even some of your longtime fans may not know about?

HP :  One thing I do keep to myself and only family and a select few people know is that I did not talk till I was four years old because I’m hearing impaired.  I’m deaf in my left ear and 40% hearing loss in my right ear.  However, that has no effect on my day to day activities or my racing.

RT :  Who are some of your inspirations in this sport and what’s been some of the best advice anyone’s given to you when it comes to chasing your dreams in that driver’s seat?

This is where Haley Pitts hopes to be more times than not in 2016!

This is where Haley Pitts hopes to be more times than not in 2016!

HP :  My inspirations in racing would be my late grandfather, Gary Pitts who passed away at the age of 59 from ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.  In his younger years, he was a top competitor at local dirt tracks here in Alabama. I have been told from my Father and Grandmother that when they watch me race, it takes them back to a time when he was on the track.

For the 2016 season, I plan to race in memory of him and I’m a proud ALS Association Advocate!  Best advice I have ever received was from the late Perry Hallman who was the announcer at Talladega Short Track.  He said to me “Haley you have a gift that so many dream of having, you’re a true race car driver, never let anyone come between you and your racing, it will be tough being a young girl winning against men but never lose sight of your dreams, never get discouraged.”

RT :  At a time when it seems like racing has become mainstream, would you say that you bring that old school attitude and flair back for fans who may be looking for a driver that balances aggression and brilliance on the track?

HP :  I believe I do because I’m an aggressive but smart driver.  I like to race clean but sometimes rubbin’ is racing.

Author’s Notes :  I’d like to personally thank Haley for taking the time to sit down for the interview here on TPF! She’s a very determined, smart, and most of all, brilliant racer who can make it happen out there on the track.  If you’d like to learn more about her, “Like” Facebook page, “Follow” her on Twitter, and check out her Instagram (Haley Pitts Racing)!  We’ll also follow Haley’s progress in racing here.  All of the photos are courtesy of Haley and her family.  Thanks very much!

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson 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 is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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