TOPEKA, Kan. – As a group, racecar drivers have some very interesting backgrounds. Having a keen interest in motorsports matched with the drive, determination and skill needed to compete at the highest level of competition is an uncommon mixture of personality traits.
However, the drivers who do battle in the highly competitive SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires have the right stuff for the job.
The backstory behind each driver gives him or her the tools which they use every day to make themselves a better racer. Some come from a family of racers and grow up at the racetrack, while others find auto racing later in life. Regardless, each driver has developed the traits it takes to become a success behind the wheel of a race car.
Beth Chryst, of Herndon, Va., is the child of auto racing fans. Before seeing the light of day for herself, Chryst was at the racetrack, in her mother’s belly, as she attended races at the local asphalt short track.
Chryst’s father had participated in a few autocross events, but other than that her family had no experience competing in motorsports. In 2001, at the age of 13, she had an experience that would change her life goals.
“A family member of my dad’s co-worker was racing at Summit Point one weekend with the Woodbridge Kart Club, and we went up to watch,” Chryst said. “At the end of the day, they had an event called the ‘Fun Finale’ where you could head out on the track in someone’s kart for 20 minutes. From there, I was hooked. We bought a kart and never looked back.”
Chryst raced karts on both the regional and national level through the World Karting Association, missing only a handful of races in 10 years. While she enjoyed karting, Chryst wanted to take the next step in her racing career.
“In karting I made some really great friends,” Chryst said. “One of my best friends, Dean Copeland, had moved up to run Spec Miata. When I wasn’t racing we would go to Summit Point and watch him race. After being in that class for a couple of seasons he moved up to the Mazda MX-5 Cup.
“We went to a few of the races, to watch him, and really liked what we saw. While a spec series can be a tricky, it was something that really piqued our attention. Most of the tracks that were on the schedule were tracks I had raced at my entire racing career. In addition, the cars are evenly matched and this makes for some great racing at every event we attend.”
Robby Foley, of Randolph, N.J., is another young, up-and-coming driver who started running in the series in 2013. Foley grew up in an SCCA family, attending Solo and racing events from a very young age.
“I found interest in motorsports through my dad,” Foley said. “He is a 30-year SCCA member, so growing up I was always going to Solo events and races. At an early age, I developed my passion for racing by watching Formula One, American LeMans Series and Pirelli World Challenge races with him.
“He helped me get my start in karts, and from there he has supported me in turning my passion for racing into reality.”
For some drivers, the behind-the-wheel part of being a racecar driver is the most important, and only, part they like. Foley, like many racers of his generation, realizes that the part of being a racecar driver that happens outside of the car is equally important, and is very fun. The ability to be a spokesperson and role model is an important part of the job.
Foley has fully embraced that aspect of the job, which is exemplified by his work with Mazda and Project Yellow Light at the New York Int’l Auto Show. Foley is an ambassador to young drivers, reminding them of the dangers of distracted driving.
“I always had the typical kid dream of becoming a racecar driver,” Foley said. “I want to be one of those guys on TV that people looked up to, like the drivers I looked up to.”