The Frontstretch: Potts' Shots: For The Love Of Their Wheelman - The Wives Who Make Racing Thrive by John Potts -- Thursday April 14, 2011

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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 on

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 race track.

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.


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04/14/2011 10:11 PM

What a lovely tribute to Leah and all the racing WAG’s. My condolences to her family and friends.

04/14/2011 10:23 PM

It always hurts to lose a member of a local racer’s family. My sympathies to her family and friends.
There are a lot of people behind the scene at local short tracks who help keep the show going. Besides the racer’s family there are the track owner and promoter, track personnel and photographer and the fans who show up every week. It’s too bad too many of the posters on this site have never been to a short track.