Race Weekend Central

Potts’s Shots: For the Love of Their Wheelman – the Wives Who Make Racing Thrive

No questions this week, but it’s just as well. This is another one of those that is awfully hard to write, but it needs to be written.

We lost a dear friend this week, whose battle with cancer came to an end on Tuesday morning, April 12.

It was someone you folks outside the southeastern Kentucky area probably never heard of, but I have a special reason for doing this at Frontstretch.

Her name was Leah Bargo and she was the wife of Mike Bargo, a very talented racer in this area. She was one of the first drivers’ wives to welcome me when I moved back to Kentucky in 2002, and we became close friends, mostly through email, phone contacts and time spent at the racetrack.

My special reason?

One of my favorite racing writers, Joyce Standridge (herself a driver’s wife) put it into words several years ago in Stock Car Racing magazine.

I’ve used it several times at banquets in recognizing the wives and girlfriends present and emphasized their role in the efforts of their men. Forgive me if I don’t get the words exactly right, but Joyce said something to the effect that behind nearly every racer, or at his side, stands a woman who supports everything he does. She may never show her face at the track, but rest assured he has her support. If he doesn’t, he either gets it, gets out of racing or gets single.

Leah was like that. Sometimes her own catering business, or activities with their children, would keep her from the track. But there was never any doubt that she was supporting her man.

In August of last year, Leah called after Mike had won a feature race at Corbin Speedway. She knew that when sending stories about the events to the local papers, I usually included a photo of the winner. She also knew that our photographer, Derrick Strader, gave me a selection of photos and she asked if I would mind using the one he took with her and Mike together.

Mind? I was honored to do so. It showed the two of them together in a proud moment. As it turned out, it was the last feature race she would see him win.

Leah, to me, was the typical driver’s wife. She supported her husband wholeheartedly and was a big part of his racing involvement.

We all know that local racers all over this country are those who become involved because of their love for the sport. Their chances of making a living out of their racing range from slim to none.

Leah is far from an isolated case, even here in our area. I could give name women like Leanell Foley, Marcy Lambert, Tammy Brown, Loretta Smith, Brenda Jones and many more whose names folks away from here wouldn’t recognize, but I’ll stop there before I try to do too many and forget someone.

These women go through all the heartbreaks their men endure, enjoy the glory of an occasional success and watch their men put heart and soul – and a large portion of their bank account – into their racing.

My own wife, Joyce, has stood by me for more than 42 years now and she knew when we were dating that I was crazy over racing. Nowadays she doesn’t go to the track, but I know her support is there. She took tickets at Indianapolis Raceway Park to be part of it and she uprooted herself from Indianapolis and moved down here to show her support.

My point is that racing could not survive without the support of these women, any more than it could survive without fuel or tires.

We need to remember that, and appreciate them every moment there are with us. Love them for all you’re worth, guys.

Leah, you were a joy to know and we know you’re in a better place now. We also know that all of us are better for having known you.


About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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