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Shirley Drives a Professional Race Car

Shirley, 71, is an energetic older adult who loves the thrill of an adventure. Shirley grew up in rural Texas with a big family. From the age of five until she was 15, Shirley helped on her family farm by picking cotton.

Growing up as a young Black woman, she lived through a difficult time in society and experienced segregated schools and racism firsthand. In school, Shirley was taught an outdated curriculum, and by the time she graduated, she did not feel well-prepared for college. Athletics helped her maintain focus during this difficult time in her life.

Shirley never gave up and worked hard to reach a point where she felt successful in her personal and professional life.

When she was 17, Shirley married her high school sweetheart, who enlisted in the Navy. He was stationed at Moffett Federal Airfield in Northern California and departed for multiple tours to serve in the Vietnam War. During this time, Shirley was a loyal member of the Navy Wives Club. She volunteered with the club for over five years, tending to injured soldiers. However, her husband’s experiences in the war affected his mental health and well-being, and he was not the same person upon returning. They struggled in their relationship. Throughout their challenges, Shirley found comfort in the close relationship she built with her three children.

Throughout all the highs and lows of her life, there’s a unique passion that Shirley has turned to. It all started when Shirley drove tractors and trucks around the farm, long before she was able to get an official driver’s license. She loved the feeling of being behind the wheel, and probably drove faster than she should have.

It led her to develop a love for all things racing—a passion that has stayed with her to this day.

In the 1960’s, Shirley and her husband helped host car races in their hometown. But Shirley was never allowed to participate. Instead, she stayed behind the scenes, cleaning cars and helping the drivers prepare for competitions. Throughout all her years on the sidelines, Shirley never gave up hope that one day, she might also feel the thrill of being in the driver’s seat.

When we heard Shirley’s story, we were honored to help celebrate the amazing person she is by helping her fulfill this lifelong dream.

At age 71, Shirley stepped out onto a professional racetrack in California and suited up to drive a real race car. And to make the day even more special, members of Shirley’s family surprised her by gathering to watch her momentous moment. They shared stories with us about the obstacles she has overcome and the endless love and positivity she offers to everyone in her path.

It was a day unlike any other. Finally, Shirley felt what it was like to be behind the wheel of a real race car. And it was every bit as thrilling as she had imagined! Watching Shirley speed around the track in car #17 brought joy to everyone watching in the stands.

After getting out of the car and taking off her helmet, Shirley could not stop smiling and laughing.

“My lifelong passion for cars culminated in this incredible experience,” Shirley said. “Once I was behind the wheel, everything clicked. I haven’t had a day like this in many years!”

We extend our special thanks to Taryn Southern, LA Reels, and John Kandalaft Photography for being there to support Shirley and capture the excitement of her wish.

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