Grandma shows cars aren't just for boys

— "Break, shift, turn, accelerate."

Barbara McPherson, a Great Bend resident since 1957, said these are the words that go through her mind when she's participating in her hobby. Barbara, known as "the racing grandma" by her eight grandchildren, is one of very few grandmothers whose hobby is race car driving.

Barbara, who grew up in Arkansas City, got her start in racing by showing cars. She and her husband, Brock, polished and cleaned cars for car shows, but Barbara thought there was something more exciting waiting for them. So in 1986, they went to a racing school in Denver and have been racing ever since.

But Barbara said her interest in cars started even before that, when she became a mother of four boys.

"You can either join 'em or go in the house and do your needlepoint," Barbara said.

And join them she did. Now, she and Brock race about once a month during the summer.

Barbara and her sons used to race, but stopped when they began families of their own. She said she thought some of them may race again after their kids were grown.

Barbara and Brock have been in road and street races in Hallett, Okla., Heartland in Topeka, Road America in Wisconsin and Road Atlanta in Atlanta. Barbara said they joined the closest vintage racing club, Rocky Mountain Vintage Racers based in Colorado, so they do most of their racing in Colorado.

Barbara said there weren't very many women racers.

"I don't think they have the opportunity sometimes," she said. "And some people think that it's a man thing."

When Barbara first had to race with men and women, she said she was a little scared because men are more aggressive. She said it seemed to her that women did not have near as many wrecks.

"I think women are just much more considerate," she said. "Maybe that's a chauvinistic statement."

Barbara races a 1965 Shelby and a 1966 Ford Lotus Cortina. "It gets expensive in a hurry," she said.

Barbara said she has only had one close call. A man ran into her passenger side once when he was trying to pass her, but she was not injured.

"It's a challenge and I like automobiles," Barbara said. "Our cars are well-prepared so I feel safe."

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