South Boston Speedway General Manager Cathy Rice says she is still numb from the speedway’s September 4 championship night event.
Community and racing industry leaders honored Rice for her many years of dedication and leadership at “America’s Hometown Track,” her service to NASCAR and her service to the Halifax County-South Boston, Virginia community during the event, her final NASCAR racing event as general manager of South Boston Speedway.
“It was like a dream,” Rice remarked.
“There were so many surprises and so many people congratulating and thanking me. It never dawned on me that you would have that many people that pay attention to what we do here.
To have people from NASCAR, dignitaries, Bill Mullis from Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway, friends of mine, my son Chris (Rice) and his family and Nick (South Boston Speedway and Pocono Raceway CEO Nick Igdalsky) and his family here was very special. It was unbelievable. It was a dream come true.”
During a series of pre-race presentations Igdalsky presented Rice with a street sign with the name Cathy’s Way on it. The road that runs in front of the main entrance to the speedway will now be known as Cathy’s Way.
“That was a huge surprise,” Rice said with a smile.
“That is an awesome gift in having the road named Cathy’s Way. To be honored in that way and to have the road adjacent to T. Wayne Robertson Road is very, very special.”
Rice, who became only the second woman to serve as a general manager at a NASCAR-sanctioned speedway when she was named as South Boston Speedway’s general manager in 2000, is retiring at the end of the year. She has served 21 years in that post, helping make South Boston Speedway one of the true gems among NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series short tracks.
The Cluster Springs, Virginia resident has spent 33 years on the operational side of things at South Boston Speedway, serving in a variety of capacities ranging from secretary to scorer, to promotor, and her present post of general manager.
While Rice is stepping down from a full-time role at the historic speedway she will stay on in a part-time capacity of advisor and ambassador.
“Cathy is the track,” Igdalsky said.
“This is her home, and she is always going to have a role here in the future. I keep saying the track wouldn’t be as well respected and have the reputation it has for as long as it has if it wasn’t for her. We wouldn’t have put all of the effort, time and money into renovating the track if it wasn’t for Cathy and her leadership being here.”
Chase Brashears, who will take over as general manager at South Boston Speedway in 2022, praised Rice for her many years of dedication and leadership at “America’s Hometown Track.”
“Cathy Rice is as synonymous with South Boston Speedway as the many legendary racecar drivers who have competed at the .4-mile oval,” Brashears noted.
“Cathy and her staff have worked to keep South Boston Speedway at the forefront of grassroots racing, and that makes it an even larger honor to step in and lead South Boston Speedway into a bright future.”
Kevin Nevalainen, NASCAR Senior Director of Weekly Racing Operations, praised Rice for her outstanding work both at South Boston Speedway and with NASCAR.
“You can’t say South Boston Speedway and NASCAR together without thinking about Cathy Rice,” Nevalainen pointed out.
“Cathy has created such a legacy, not only in this community but across the country. When you talk about pioneers in the sport, especially as a female promotor in a sport that’s largely male-dominated, Cathy stands out above so many others. If you go to any of our functions at NASCAR and talk to other track promotors across the country, they have so much respect for Cathy Rice. I think that speaks to the respect they have for her and the things they have seen her do on a national level.”
Nevalainen presented Rice a crystal trophy in recognition of her service and dedication to NASCAR and Mullis, owner of Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia, presented Rice a crystal award trophy in appreciation of her dedication to short track racing.
A copy of a resolution to be adopted by the Halifax County, Virginia Board of Supervisors was read to Rice and fans attending the event by County Administrator Scott Simpson during the pre-race ceremony. The Halifax County, Virginia Board of Supervisors formally adopted the resolution during its Tuesday, September 7 meeting and, with Rice and her family in attendance, recognized Rice for her service to the community, her leadership at South Boston Speedway and her service to NASCAR.
“We want to thank you for being a great partner in the community,” Simpson said as he presented the resolution during pre-race ceremonies.
“You have grown the racing industry here and that has helped grow Halifax County. We appreciate you and wish you well on your retirement.”
Former NASCAR national champion, current NASCAR national points leader and six-time South Boston Speedway NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Late Model Stock Car Division Champion Peyton Sellers of Ringgold, Virginia praised Rice’s work at South Boston Speedway.
“Cathy came in with a humble attitude, took the bull by the horns, operated this track for the last 21 years and has done an excellent job,” Sellers said.
“She has had big shoes to fill. She filled them, exceeded that, and carried the speedway to the next level. Cathy has been able to take this track, manage it, carry the legacy of South Boston Speedway forward and bring it to what it is today. South Boston Speedway is one of the premier short tracks anywhere in the United States.”
The surprises for Rice began the day prior to South Boston Speedway’s championship night event when a trailer arrived from Kaulig Racing carrying a racecar. One side of the car carried the number 11 and the paint scheme used by the late Earl Rice of Cluster Springs, Virginia in competition at South Boston Speedway. The opposite side of the car carried the No. 12 and the paint scheme former NASCAR Cup Series star and now NBC TV analyst Jeff Burton of South Boston, Virginia used in competition at South Boston Speedway.
“That’s where my racing career started in 1972,” Rice noted.
“My son, Chris did that. To have that car come off the hauler brought back so many memories.”
Making the event special was that Rice knew nothing about any of the surprises and awards.
“I had no idea about any of the surprises,” Rice said with a grin.
“I give kudos to the staff and everybody that works here with me for keeping it all secret.”
South Boston Speedway’s long-time office manager, Helen Barksdale, who is stepping down from that position at the end of the year, was also recognized and praised for her many years of dedication and service to the speedway and for her contributions to the speedway’s success.
“It wasn’t all about me,” Rice pointed out.
“It was about Helen too. Like I have told so many people, she has been my right hand through all of this.”
“We are very proud of Cathy and Helen for the work they have done over the years,” Igdalsky said.
“Helen gets a lot of credit too. Helen has been right there with Cathy every step of the way. I always say every good super-hero has a good sidekick, and Helen did a great job working with Cathy hand-in-hand all these years.”