With an intense interest in racing back in the early 1960s, Barb Hamilton-Advey would spend many days and many nights at the race track.
She would watch racers work on their cars, and then she would watch them wheel to wins.
All the while, she would be thinking about how she wanted to be doing exactly what they were doing, and how she wanted to wrangle up some tools, wrench on a car and go wide-open throttle down track.
But at the time, racing was a male-dominated sport, and the twenty requests for a competition license that she sent to the sport’s sanctioning body between the years 1962 and 1963 were rejected.
While she was decidedly disappointed, she was determined, and she was not willing to be deterred. Finally, in 1964, in the 1937 Willys Gasser she had purchased for $750, she became the first woman to receive a license to drive a supercharged car in the National Hot Rod Association.
She immediately began traveling from race track to race track with her close friend and crew chief, Nancy Leonello, by her side, and when she wasn’t busy putting gas in her tank or pulling the heads off of her engine, she was competing in the C/GS — or C-Gas Supercharged — category.
She held her chin up and held her own while she won, set records and blazed trails before retiring from racing in 1971.
But she would not be forgotten, and proof of that is in the fact that she was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1992, often has her car on display at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Florida, goes to races and car shows and stays in touch with all of the drivers she raced through the years. Some of them even credit her for the role she played in their racing careers, and among them is Mark Benjamin, who went from carburetion to injection on his 1933 Willys solely because Barb suggested it.
In addition to being celebrated as an impressive racer, Barb is celebrated as an impressive person. She loves people, and people love her, especially her husband, Dick Advey, with whom she shares a home in Willoughby, Ohio.
Barb once said that she admired sixteen-time Funny Car champion John Force because of his enthusiasm for the sport, but what we can only hope she knows is just how much she’s admired because of her enthusiasm for the sport.
For all of those reasons and more, she was honored as the grand marshal of the Lingenfelter Performance Engineering Blue Suede Cruise on July 14, 2018 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
After being recognized on track by Summit Motorsports Park president Bill Bader Jr., Barb, whose car was on display at the event with the ScottRods AA/Gassers, smiled and waved as she was warmly applauded.
Story/photos by Mary Lendzion
Summit Motorsports Park Media and Public Relations
NOSTALGIA DRAG WORLD