The 19-year-old is having the time of her life.
Meansville, Georgia native and Rev Racing driver Madeline “Mad Maddie” Crane has had plenty of success in the nine years that’s she been behind the wheel of a race car.
Clearly, she was listening when someone told her to chase her dreams and that she could do anything she set her mind to. As a 10-year-old, Crane showed that she had what it takes to compete, winning back-to-back races in the “Thursday Night Thunder Series” at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
From there, she steadily progressed and by age 14, she had 59 top-fives in 82 starts in legend cars. Fast forward five years and the 19-year-old just finished her second season with Rev Racing and was once again named a participant in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine.
The NASCAR Drive for Diversity program was first introduced in 2004 and features notable alums such as Kyle Larson and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. The academy style program helps drivers improve both their on and off-track skills.
Not only do the participants take to the track to test their driving skills, but they’re put through grueling workouts, media interviews (both live on-air and print) and even written tests.
This year, 12 participants were named to the 2017 class. Since 2010 Rev Racing (the team that Crane drives for) has managed the Drive for Diversity Program. Four drivers who took part in this year’s three-day tryout will race full-time for Rev Racing in 2018. Three of the four drivers will compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, while also racing a late-model in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. The fourth driver will race in a late model and serve as an alternate for the K&N Series.
I recently sat down with her to discuss everything from her upbringing and racing roots to how her faith keeps her grounded, the Drive for Diversity Program and her future goals.
Upbringing and Racing Roots
One Christmas, Santa brought you a four-wheeler, is that what sparked your love for racing?
Madeline Crane: “I started racing when I was 10. One Christmas I got a four-wheeler from Santa. That was before I ever even thought about racing. I would go as fast as I could. My grandpa saw that. He raced, so he wanted to me to start racing too. When I started, I went from Bandoleros to Legend Cars to Dirt Late Models. I raced Late Models for a good two to three years and now we’re doing what we’re doing now (racing Late Model Stocks in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series). I guess you could say I’ve always had the need for speed.”
Growing up in a racing family, how did that impact you and help you as you started your career?
MC: “I wouldn’t have gotten started in racing without my granddad. He’s been there and guided me along the way and given me the opportunity. My stepdad and his dad used to race on dirt. When I got into dirt racing (at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Georgia) he was beneficial and worked on my car. He’s been such a big influence and was really helpful when I first started racing on dirt, teaching me a lot of the tricks and tips and just what it takes to be competitive.”
What’s your earliest racing memory?
MC: “I remember the first time I got in a race car at a ride and drive at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was one of those deals where you paid a certain amount for a set number of laps that you get to drive. Looking back, it’s crazy to see that I’ve gone from paying to drive at AMS to racing there and now being in Charlotte and getting to live out my dream. I’m very blessed, that’s for sure.”
The Drive for Diversity Program
This isn’t your first time in the Drive for Diversity Program, how have you grown from being through it already?
MC: My first year in the Drive for Diversity Program was my first year ever driving an asphalt late model, so literally everything was a new experience. This year, I was able to take what I learned last year and apply it to the program and really just prepare for a great season. It’s really helped me develop as a race car driver, and I’ve become a lot more confident behind the wheel. It’s neat to see how much the program has helped me grow as a driver and as a person. I’m much more confident than I was before I entered the program.”
The program features workouts, media training and even a version of the Wonderlic test. What area did you learn the most from?
MC: “I’ve learned a lot from every aspect that they try to help us with. I’ve come a long way with speaking and interacting with the media. I’m more fit. I feel like I’m much more well-rounded.”
On taking advantage of the opportunity given to you?
MC: “I think it’s important to put everything you have into the program. They (Rev Racing) are the ones giving us the opportunity to take part in the program and showcase our talents. It’s important that I show my appreciation for that and give them all that I have.”
There are plenty of lessons in auto racing that apply to life? What’s one that you’ve been able to take from the Drive for Diversity or just racing in general?
MC: “Having to move up here (to Charlotte) before I finished high school. It’s helped me mature not only as a driver but also a person. I’m up here by myself. I’m having to be responsible for my own actions. There’s nobody to say this is what you need to do or this is when you need to wake up. I’m up here alone having to learn and take care of myself. I just make sure that I do the right thing. My faith in God is very important to me and something that I’ve leaned on during my move to Charlotte.”
This year the participants in the Drive for Diversity program range in age from 15 to 23. With you being in the middle of the age group, how are you able to help the younger participants (like 16-year old Macy Causey) but also gain knowledge from those older than you?
MC: “I don’t know if its age wise, it’s more about coming from different forms of racing. Macey is younger than me but has been racing these cars longer than me. A lot of giving and receiving knowledge depends on your racing background. It depends on what you do and whether you’ve grown up racing on dirt or asphalt etc. So much of it has to do with how you race. I’m always trying to help. Having raced Late Models for the past two years, I’m helping those who have never been in one and telling them different things about how the car will react and what it’s going to do.”
How will the Drive for Diversity Program help you meet your goals?
MC: “To be honest, if I do make it to one of the NASCAR National Touring Series (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series or Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) it’s because of Rev Racing and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program. For some, it’s the only opportunity they get. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my racing career and to be a part of this program is a blessing. There is so much to learn in it, and I can’t thank Rev Racing and owner Max Siegel enough.”
You’re active on social media. How important is it for young drivers like yourself to take advantage of what it has to offer?
MC: “Social media is such a big factor in today’s racing world. At the combine, they were telling us to take advantage of it and that we can use it to connect with anyone. As crazy as it is, the interacting with the media and potential sponsors and even team owners via social media has come to be just as important as the racing.”
Advice and Future Goals
What’s one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?
MC: “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just keep going. I’ve always been hard on myself, and sometimes I get down on myself. Keep your head up and just focus on being the best you can be.”
Obviously, you have a chance to help break down walls and barriers being a female driver. Who was the one person that told you to follow your dreams and that you could do whatever you set your mind to?
MC: “My mom. She’s always been there supporting and pushing me. She was there believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. It’s funny, we went to Charlotte when I was 10, and I asked mom if she thought I would live here one day. She basically told me if it was in God’s plan I would, and here I am today. It’s crazy to look back at that and see God’s hand in everything and how he has played a role in all that has happened these past few years.”
What would you say to that five or six-year old girl who looks up to you and tells and her parents I want to be the next Madeline Crane?
MC: “Be you. Don’t try to be like anyone else. Try to be yourself and be as genuine you can. There’s already someone out that being that “someone else,” so don’t be that person. Be who you are. I’ve always been taught to be authentic. I heard a sermon the other day that said to walk in your grace; walk in the path that God has for you. That’s the biggest piece of advice I would give.”
What’s your ultimate racing goal?
MC: “My goal is just to get as far as I can. I’d like to make it to one of the (three) national touring series. I know if it’s in God’s plan it will happen. What’s meant to be is meant to be. I’m certainly not taking these opportunities for granted. I’m just working hard to be the best I can be.”
Under the Helmet (Getting to Know Maddie)
Favorite Food: “Everything (laughs). I’m from the south. There’s so much good cooking.”
Music Genre: “Country. I listen to both country and pop, but growing up in the south we listen to a lot of country music.”
Season: “Fall. I don’t like when it’s too cold or too hot. My favorite holiday is Christmas, but I love the weather that comes with fall.”
Profession (other than race car driver): “I’d be in school right now. You have to take core classes during your first two years (of college), so that would help me figure out what I really wanted to do. I love all animals and growing up I always wanted to be a veterinarian. So, it would probably be something in that field.”
Dream Vacation: “The mountains. I mean, I love the beach and everything, but I’ve always wanted to go to the snowy mountains and try skiing and snowboarding. I’ve never done it. I’d probably bust my butt a few times, but I want to try it.”
Something You Can’t Live Without: “My family.”
One word to describe yourself: “Humble.”
This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.
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