- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Doug Ford
It didn’t take long for 14-year-old Libby Privette to find out she felt comfortable behind the wheel of a racecar, and the Nathalie resident has had an impressive rookie campaign thus far at Franklin County Speedway.
Privette, the daughter of Dennis and Wendy Clay of Nathalie, is a self-admitted race fan, but didn’t climb into the seat of a racecar until last August.
At last count, she had three wins, two second-place finishes and one third-place finish in the U-Car (four cylinder) Division at Franklin County Speedway, the first female driver to win at Franklin County Speedway since 1999, and the youngest female driver ever to win there.
Libby has come a long way since she began competing this year, according to her mother.
“The car belonged to my husband and his brother,” said Wendy Clay. “They came up in July and cleaned the car out, did some tweaking to it, and took it up the first weekend in August.”
Privette has recently been running in a class for drivers under the age of 18 years in a mini stock car similar to those driven in the Pure Stock Division at South Boston Speedway, according to her mother.
“Her statement when she started was ‘I don’t know if I will like it or not, but I want to try it,’” her mother recalled.
“She has a natural knack for it and picked it up right after she got into the car, and she came a long way in a few weeks.”
Clay’s brother-in-law, Donald Clay, has raced for over 20 years, and Privette is only a few tenths of a second off his times on the track in the same car, she added.
“She’s running a couple tenths of a second off his time,” Wendy Clay explained.
“She likes it at Franklin County. She’s not old enough to run anywhere else right now, but has thought about running at South Boston.”
Currently, the age limit for NASCAR-sanctioned tracks is 16 and older, but that may be reduced by one year for next season.
Privette, who turned 15 in December, will probably stay at Franklin County for the time being, but may race at other tracks as she gets older and more experienced.
“She had thought about South Boston, but she really likes the Franklin County speedway,” said Wendy Clay. “I think the guys up there have taken an interest in helping her, and so she’ll probably go back there next season.”
Privette said she never realized how good she could be behind the wheel of a racecar until she tried the sport.
“We’ve always been really big race fans because a lot of people in my family race, so I wanted to try it out, and I found I loved it,” Privette said.
“I would watch racing and never knew how comfortable I could be racing until I got behind the wheel, and I never thought I’d do this well this soon in my rookie year.
“My first win felt like the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I was just so happy I could barely speak.
“I’ve learned that it takes a lot of time to learn racing and I feel the more time I spend behind the wheel the better I will become.”
Not that she’s got the racing bug, Privette plans to move up in class and competition.
“My goal is to keep moving up in racing to the higher classes, and this is something I want to do for the rest of my life,” she said.
“If I move up, there is a chance I may do different tracks like South Boston, or other tracks closer to home.
“I hear they’re lowering the age limits at NASCAR sanctioned tracks from 16 to 15 years, so I’ll probably race a little down here (South Boston).
“I would like racing at South Boston because it’s something a little different, but I guess you can call Franklin County my home track for now, and I’d probably want to get some more experience there.”
Wendy Clay said current plans are for Privette to run a modified mini stock next year, a much quicker car than the one she drives now.
“She’ll be running the same class as my brother-in-law, and running with bigger boys,” Clay said.
“There’s a car owner who is interested in having her run for points at Calloway next year, so the idea is to give her some more seat time to get her ready, and then start branching out.
“She has to stay at one certain track to run for points and she realizes that, so we gave her a choice and she wants to stay at Franklin County and come to South Boston later when she gets older.”