By James Butler
SENOIA, Ga. — Madeline “Mad Maddie” Crane will soon race under the big lights.
The 17-year-old current Super Dirt Late Model driver is slated to compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ July 22 race at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. A conversation truck owner Tracy Wallace had with Crane’s grandfather Virgil Brown played an important role in Crane being able to showcase her skills on such a big stage.
“I think last year Jody Knowles drove for [Wallace], so [he and my grandfather] had been talking recently and thought it was a good idea to put me in one,” Crane said about racing a truck. “I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little nervous, but yet excited. I think it’s a great opportunity and I’m very, very blessed.”
Brown has the confidence his granddaughter will turn in a good showing.
“She’s constantly improved ever since she started,” he said. “A better driver each year and I feel like she’s probably ready for it. She’ll probably run competitive.”
The Meansville, Ga. native, is currently racing Super Dirt Late Models at the Senoia Motor Speedway and she is in second place in her series’ points standings.
“It’s been going pretty good,” she said. “We’ve been running late models for three seasons. I ran crate late models the first two years, and this is my first year running Super Dirt Late Models.”
Previously, Crane made her name racing bandoleros and legends cars at Atlanta Motor Speedway’s grassroots racing series Thursday Thunder. But lately she has taken a special liking to her current race car and the surface she races on.
“The first difference is I’m not on asphalt anymore,” Crane said about transitioning from AMS to dirt late models. “I’m on dirt, so that’s completely different. I’ve never had so much fun racing.”
Brown was influential in getting Crane on the track, as he was racing legends when Madeline became interested in the sport. She started racing when she was 10 years old, and after a slow start, she concluded her first dozen or so races with two consecutive victories.
Brown then decided to scale back his racing to have an impact on his granddaughter’s career.
“I’ve driven with a lot of different cars, [but] I haven’t raced a whole lot,” Brown said. “She’s better than I ever thought about being.”
Her granddad isn’t the only racer and racing enthusiast in Crane’s family, so when she starts her truck’s engine on that July evening in Ohio, she will be doing so for the other kin who came before her.
“I have family members that have raced before, but never have [they] raced in a race this big before, so I’m the first,” Crane said.
Still, Brown’s hope for Crane that night remains simple.
“I just want her to be consistent, do the best she can, and think,” he said. “That’s all a race driver can do.”
No matter where she finishes, for Crane just racing that night will be a dream come true.
“I’ve sat home every weekend and watched (NASCAR) races on TV,” she said. “Just to be able to get out there and race with them it’s an amazing opportunity. I think that that’s what I’m [most] excited about.”