Dirt track racing revs up Mid-Ohio Valley teens

PARKERSBURG — Two local girls are making a name for themselves in dirt track racing in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Karly Starcher, 14, of Waverly has been racing for six years in the mini wedge division.

Ashley Simonton, 18, from Belmont, attends St. Marys High School and started racing in the mini wedge division when she was only 6 years old.

Starcher attends Pleasants County Schools where she is known for racing and her 4.0 grade average.

“Racing is all I got; it’s how I let go of everything that I went through for the week,” she said. “I also know that I have to maintain good grades to continue doing it; it’s our house rules.”

Racing is a family tradition for Starcher. She is a third-generation driver.

Ray Starcher, her grandfather, locally raced cars from the early 1960s to the late 1970s.

“It feels cool, knowing that I’m racing on the same track, the same dirt as my grandpa,” Starcher said. “It’s a feeling that comes over you.”

Starcher, No. 44K, has won many races at Ohio Valley Speedway and was track Champion at Legendary Hilltop Speedway in Washington County. She has been on the dirt at Legendary Pennsboro Speedway, Skyline Speedway, I70/77 Speedway and I77 Speedway.

She has been in the top 5 at several tracks for many years.

Being a girl in a guy’s sport is not easy, Starcher said.

“You have to deal with a lot and fight for it harder,” she said.

Most people just see another driver, Starcher said.

“My favorite parts of racing, other than holding the checkered flag, is when people who raced with my grandpa come up to shake my hand or pat me on the back and let me know they are watching me, hearing the crowd when I win, and other little girls watching every weekend, come up to me after my race to hold my hand and hang out with me,” she said.

Being the youngest of three children at home, she says she finally feels like a big sister for some at the racetracks.

Starcher will turn 15 in November and will be too old for the mini wedge division in 2020.

“Everything is already in the planning for the 2020 season, including either a Late model or Sports mod,” said Starcher, who was sponsored by Advance Auto in Marietta for the last two years.

“But I’m not telling which one yet. Just have to wait and see.”

Simonton, who is No. 45, aged out of the mini wedge and moved up to sports mods where she finished in the Top 5 for Ohio Valley Speedway season last year. She has many activities other than racing, including the high school band, but racing has more meaning for her as well.

Racing on the weekends helps to refresh and refocus, she said.

“It helps me clear my mind,” Simonton said.

Simonton’s career plans are to become a hospice nurse.

She will continue to race and hopes to advance to another level.

She says that being one of the only girls out there inspires, focuses and pushes her in all ways.

Her advice to other girls: “Follow your dreams.”

“Just because we are girls doesn’t define what we can and can’t do,” Simonton said.

“It may be scary at first, but enjoy what’s around you and fill your heart with it all.”

Simonton has raced at Legendary Hilltop, Midway, Ohio Valley and Skyline. Her big sponsor is Nick Corbitt.

Racing also is a family event for Simonton. It’s made a special bond between her and her dad, Junior Simonton.

“Putting a smile on his face makes me happy,” she said.