OSAWATOMIE — Raegan Shadden was born to race.
She is the next generation of her family to take on the sport, joining her father, Billy Shadden Jr., her uncle, Justin Shadden, and great uncle, Bill.
Billy started racing in the pure stock division in 1998. His first full season was 1999. Billy did not just compete. He set the bar as one of the top five racers on the track.
Justin is racing on the dirt oval circuit now, winning an event a few weeks ago at Nevada Speedway in Missouri. He started from the back of the pack and drove to the checkered flag. Billy started on the pole for a heated race and drove his way to second place.
Great-grandparents Roland and Wanda supported and encouraged the family racing. Uncle Bill started racing in 1962 and raced into his 90s.
The Shadden family, uncles and cousins, have raced on dirt ovals across the state of Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma for decades. They race at Nevada Speedway in Missouri and Humbolt Speedway in Kansas.
Billy Shadden Sr. has worked on vehicles with his boys Billy and Justin for years, supporting them in the shop.
The keys have been handed to another generation with Raegan taking her turn behind the wheel. This is her first season of racing. She has been to the track several times to practice and has started competing this summer.
Raegan is racing on the dirt track before she has a license to drive. Raegan, 12, is a sixth-grader. She has gotten off to a fast start on the track, sitting fifth in the standings.
“I have followed my Dad and Justin to the race track for years,” Raegan said. “I always knew I wanted to race, just like them.
“At first, I thought I would be more nervous, but then when I got behind the wheel it just became natural,” she said. “You get adrenaline when you are out there and everything is going by fast.”
Raegan doesn’t just race. She is right in there to help get the race car off the trailer, check all of the equipment and start setting up for the races.
She competes in the Mini Stock Division, driving a 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier. Other divisions are Pure Stock, Midwest Modified, B-Modified, Street Stock and Late Modified.
She might not be nervous, but for her mother, Alexis, race days do cause a few butterflies.
“It is one thing when your husband is racing,” Alexis said. “It is a whole different deal when it is your daughter racing. It was never if she was going to race, but when she was going to race.”
The Shadden family has three race day superstitions: do not eat chicken, no green on the car and do not put your helmet on until you are in the seat of the race car.
Billy Sr. and Debbie Shadden support the racing, but they do their work behind the scenes.
“Dad has always been a big part of our racing, but he never raced,” Billy said. “We partner up with the Folk family in Iola.
“Dad is a bigger part of our racing than what he likes to say,” he said. “Dad and Mom are a big part of our racing, they just don’t like to take credit for it.”
Dirt racing, like most car racing, is one big family, Billy said. Race day is a family reunion with a barbecue and stories, lots of stories.
“My first memories were of that race track in Humbolt,” he said. “We had family get-togethers before the races. We would be there at noon and stay until the next morning. I wasn’t into football or anything like that. I was just about the racing.
“I enjoy driving and the competitiveness of it,” Billy said. “Really, I like the atmosphere. There are 75 to 80 guys all turning laps and having fun. It is just like a second family. I enjoy going down and having a good time. It is competitive, but it is still family, too. If you break down, you will have 11 or 12 guys trying to help get you going. That is just the way it is. You are family and family is first.”
On a typical race night in Nevada, competition on the track can be 18 to 20 drivers in a division.
Drivers get three hot laps (warm up), run eight heat laps and 15 laps in the feature.
There are a lot of adjustments to make in a short amount of time, Billy said. Drivers need to know what is going on with the race car and communicate that with their pit crew between hot laps, the heat race and the feature.
The main thing right now is getting better every time around the dirt oval, Billy said.
“The more time you put into it, the better you are going to do,” Billy said. “Right now Raegan wants to go out there and do better than she did last time,” he said. “And, she is doing that.”
Racing is just part of the family blood line, Bill said.
“Family is what got me started racing,” he said. “The Folk family, dad and mom and our grandparents, Roland and Wanda, got me hooked on racing.
“Grandpa didn’t race, but he helped run more race cars than anybody,” Billy said. “It was nothing to take off on a Friday and go to Humbolt and run to Joplin on Saturday or back home to the Linn County Speedway or Adrian Speedway. We would take off and go to Muskogee, Okla., or Monte Speedway in Monte, Mo.” Billy still races off and on, but he has turned his focus to the business and helping his daughter, Raegan, and younger brother, Justin, out in the shop and on race day.
Raegan is the daughter of Billy and Alexis Shadden of Osawatomie. She has an older sister, Alyssa.
Raegan is sponsored by Brewer Automotive in Osawatomie, HFI Fabrication, Higgins Services in Parker, Freedom Lube, Giggin Motorsports, Iola Transmission, Norma Davis Photography, BBC Maximum Chassis, Alacron Floring, Buger Automotive and ½ Crazy Motorsports out of St. Joseph, Mo.