BRIDGTON — In a sport dominated by males almost since its inception, female athletes who choose to take on the challenges of short-track stock car racing usually face a long and difficult road.

It has nothing to do with talent level — or even human anatomy — it has more to do with paying dues, getting seat time and gaining trust and respect from other drivers. Just like the guys, the girls have to prove their ability behind the wheel.

For 17-year-old Addie McDaniel, that learning curve is coming along very nicely. The Bridgton native competes weekly in Oxford’s highly-competitive Bandit division. In 15 starts this season, she’s earned a pair of top-10 finishes and currently sits ninth in the point standings. 

“The finishes haven’t been quite where we’d hoped, but I really can’t complain,” McDaniel said. “It’s been a hectic season, and there have been a lot of cautions lately.

“I’ve been trying to race hard but keep the car out of harm’s way, and except for a few minor accidents, have been pretty lucky,” she said. “I’m just hoping to get a little closer to the leaders without getting caught up in any trouble.” 

Most young, aspiring drivers have one or two veterans they admire and try to learn from as they learn the ropes at any given track.

“Ever since I started racing, Jamie Heath has been very kind to me,” McDaniel explained. “He’s had me follow him in practice to learn better lines and is helping us this year with setup ideas as we learn this car. I’m lucky to have a skilled veteran like him offer to help like that. I really appreciate his guidance.”

Heath is considered by many to be the leader in front-wheel-drive racing savvy. The former champion from Waterford enjoys acting as a mentor to young racers.

“Addie has come a long way in a few years,” Heath said. “I’ve raced door to door with her this season, and it was a blast. I consider her a teammate. I try to help her as much as possible, whether the question is about chassis setup or driving. 

“One night, we were at Applebee’s after the races, and she tagged me with a No. 56 decal on the back of my car. Funny thing is, I’ve been telling her I’d get her into Victory Lane. So in a roundabout way, I did get the 56 there — at least the decal.”

In a division which draws 25 to 30 cars on a weekly basis, McDaniel has had to learn how to handle heavy traffic. Working through that chaos is what has allowed her to finish races with the car intact.

“I think my driving skills have progressed this year,” she added. “I’ve tried to be smooth, hit my marks every lap, and just be consistent. I think it’s working out, it just takes time to put it all together.”

Last week, McDaniel spent the better part of a day filling backpacks for Saturday’s annual Backpack Giveaway program at the track. With parents across western Maine struggling to buy all the things their kids need for school, it’s important.

“I bought and filled 60 of them myself,” she said. “Some of the money came from my sponsors, some came from my own paycheck. I’ve seen the reaction from kids and parents; it’s very rewarding. I think it’s something a lot of families needed.”  

Along with her big heart, driving talent and determination to succeed, McDaniel also has several key people who keep her program moving forward every week. The car doesn’t get itself to the track — and there’s a lot more. 

“I need to thank my father, Chris, for everything he does for me,” McDaniel explained. “I wouldn’t be racing without him. I also have excellent help from Mike Rand, Paul Harmon, Jay Tucker, Chris Foster, Eric Parlin, and our friend, Scott, who we all call Beagle. I appreciate all those guys do for my race team.”

Like the rest of her Bandit class rivals and other weekly short track drivers at Oxford, McDaniel is fortunate to have several locally based marketing partners who make her program successful. It takes considerably more than a father’s wallet to go racing every week, just in case you had that misconception.

“I’m proud to have the support of Papa H. and Diane; Galen L. Burke Construction; 207 Trading Co.; K.S. Whitney Excavation; Black Fly Firewood; Wayne K. Allen Backhoe Service; Harry Hepburn’s Antique Clock Repair; Herrie Plumbing & Heating; and Newt’s Auto Service.

“We also have 3D Handyman Services; Collins Plumbing and Heating; Paul M. Gallinari Excavation; Bob Morse Guide Service; WAM Alarm; Jon Cummings; Western Maine Steel; Mike’s Rod Shop; N.W.P. Lawn Care; and K.J.’s Pizza & Subs. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do this.”

As the 2017 season quickly draws to a close, McDaniel has a goal in mind and may possibly take her learning curve to a new division in 2018. 

“I’m just hoping to pull off a top five before the season ends, which I feel is a realistic goal,” she said. “My father just asked me about next season, in fact, and we’ve had a Rebel car at my house for two years now.

“With any luck, I’ll continue to hone my skills as a driver in Rebels on Wednesday nights next year,” she said. “It’s another very competitive class, but I’d like to give it a try.”  

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Addie McDaniel
Addie McDaniel of Bridgton drives off Turn 4 at Oxford Plains Speedway earlier this month. McDaniel competes in the class with the most cars, one which is often dominated by male racers, yet she holds her own behind the wheel. 

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