Jeff Jefferson (42) and Jim...
Jeff Jefferson (42) and Jim Inglebright (1) line up for a restart during the Camping World Series West race. Racers restarting on the outside tend to lose positions on restarts.
Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, may owe its survival to one woman's passion for racing. Mary Ann Naumann rescued the track when it was in danger of closing so that her race series, Texas Super Racing Series (TSRS), would have a track to race on.
"I didn't want racing to go away from my local area," Naumann says. "The TSRS series is my baby. It's my goal and reason for running the track."
Naumann has been involved with Thunderhill on and off almost from the beginning. The 3/8-mile D-shaped oval in central Texas, about 15 miles south of Austin, opened for the first time April 18, 1998, under the management of Brian Calloway and Jim Lynch. They hired Naumann as General Manager in 1999, a position she held for three seasons.
Both of Naumann's parents were racers. Her dad had been a race promoter, and she has done it all, from serving as trophy girl to actually racing. She first won a championship in a ladies' class and then took Sixth and Third in Street Stock championships, so she had a good idea what racing was all about. She felt it was important to develop a strong relationship between drivers, crews, race officials, and staff, and she worked to build solid classes for weekly shows. She also worked with some of the touring series in central Texas. Family matters caused her to leave track management but she was still in the pits cheering for family members who raced there.
The only wall at Thunderhill...
The only wall at Thunderhill is along the front straight. Embankments deal with wayward racecars elsewhere.
In 2002 she learned that San Antonio Speedway wasn't going to run its Limited Late Model class in 2003. It seemed like a good opportunity to put together a touring series. Meetings with drivers in Houston, San Antonio, and Austin resulted in the creation of MAN Promotions Enterprises and the Texas Super Racing Series. Car counts in the first year ranged between 27 and 32 cars. "We started off with the focus on the return of the family style racing that was there back in the '80s," Naumann says. The last three races of that season, called the Texas Triple Crown, played to near capacity crowds.
Meanwhile, things weren't going quite so well at Thunderhill Raceway. Lynch wanted to either lease the track out, or close it, and eventually bought Calloway out. In 2005 Naumann became a partner with Lynch in running the track and eventually bought his stake. But Lynch sold the land to the local concrete company whose land abutted the track, and retired.
"This year (2008) is my second year running the track by myself," Naumann says. "I have a three year lease and the owner has no plans to do anything with the land."
Naumann directs pre-race placement...
Naumann directs pre-race placement of Texas Super Racing Series cars.
Subleasing has also helped with expenses, as Naumann leases to America's Auto Auction, which operates Monday through Friday on the grounds.
"You can tell a woman runs this racetrack," she says proudly. "Things like Lysol and antibacterial soap in the bathrooms and we've 'fluffed up' the grounds. It's 100 percent better."
The grounds are kept up on a regular basis now. "Before they waited until just before an event to mow," says Naumann. "The perception was that the track was out of business."
In addition to sprucing up the grounds, the track now has a drive-through tech shed/driver's lounge. With the help of River City Drywall, what was once just a metal shed now has sheetrock walls and ceiling, four garage doors, and dedicated office space. The remodeled building was shown off for the first time at a meeting for drivers and car owners in December 2007. A separate media center in the VIP suite area has been created. Later improvements to the VIP area will include a suite for use for private birthday parties.