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In The Traps with Mary Baltzell

Mary BaltzellThere is a saying ‘The family that races together stays together'. That could not be truer for the husband and wife team of Lee and Mary Baltzell. The duo are regulars on the PSCA Pro Street scene with their nitrous assisted Firebird. What many people do not realize is that they were the operators of Ozark International Raceway in the Mid-West for many years. Having seen drag racing from both sides has given the Baltzell's much insight into what is required of a professional raceteam and they have put that knowledge to good use. Bucking the trend of having the male of the family drive the car sees Mary behind the wheel and she does a great job of it. Enjoy getting some insight on one of the fast ladies of drag racing.

1980 when I finished school, I had a real sweet '67 GTO that saw action on the streets of Chicago. Not long after that I got the West Coast bug and headed off to the capital of street racing, California. My need for speed continued there and does so to this day.

It was a street / strip Nova with a small block Chevy topped off with a blower. It was self built and I had that car when I met Lee. I don't know what interested him more, the car or me. Once we got together, we took the Nova from being a 14 second car and got it to run a 10.60 @ 165 on skinny tires. It was quite a ride!

I have seen a lot in our time racing. A couple of things come to mind. When we Pro Street Firebirdowned the racetrack we had this kid that worked for us. Lee sent him off to get diesel for the racetrack tractor. Later that day the motor grenaded and we found out he had bought kerosene instead of diesel. As Lee chased him about the place all he could yell was "it was 20 cents cheaper, I was trying to save money" The other thing still has Lee and I scratching our heads! This guy showed up with a Funny Car that he wanted to test. He had no fire protection and we loaned him my fire suit. With instructions to take it easy, he launched hard and within fifteen feet was sitting on his roof. We looked at each other and could not believe what we had just witnessed. All we can think of is the transmission shifted into reverse instead of second. It was quite something seeing a Funny Car pole vault onto its roof; it could not have reached thirty miles an hour. I doubt it will be something we will ever see again!

I think running the 6.70 that made us the World's quickest Powerglide equipped Pro Street car. The Glide that Mike Stewart builds for us is a fantastic piece, it allows us to turn the car around with a small crew and still handle all the power that Lee's motors make.

Lee hard at workLee! I could kill him at times, but that is part of being married. I would never have done this without him; he had the faith in me when I was not even sure I could do it myself. The original plan was for Lee to drive the car but when he blew his back out, we had a car and nothing to do with it. I volunteered to shake it down on the eighth mile so we could at least see what it was capable of. We headed to the track and took Jerry Hass with us. They slowly got me up to speed and the decision to go eighth mile racing in the Mid-West was taken. It was three years before I made a full quarter mile pass with the Firebird but by then I was totally comfortable in it. Lee and Jerry made the right decision to race eighth mile at the start and it has paid off.

I would have to say the Firebird we run now, with a little bit of a soft spot for my blown Nova. The Firebird was built by Jerry Hass and he has been a great friend to Lee and I and gives us advice whenever we need it. That car just goes downtrack lap after lap and that makes my job so easy. We may not be the fastest out there but getting down the track on race day is what drag racing is all about.

I don't think I have a rival, I'm sure some of the guys don't like pulling up beside a woman, especially if there is a chance of getting beaten. We get on great with everyone in the pits but as soon as I pull into the water box, there are no friends, the win is all that matters, no matter who is in the other lane.

All our sponsors have been fantastic! We would like to thank Mike Stewart and the gang at Mike's Transmission, Accel DFI / Mr. Gasket, NX Nitrous Express, Mickey Thompson Tires, MSD, Isky Cams, Flowmaster, Mel and the PSCA for giving us a place to race. Darin Boelman is a fantastic crew guy, Jerry Hass builds the best chassis out there and Pat Musi has been a great help when we moved over to EFI. If there is anyone out there I have missed I apologize. Lee and I appreciate everyone who helps including those who just drop by and wish us well at the track.

Lots more PSCA racing! We are having a blast at the PSCA events, the people we hang with are some of the best and most knowledgeable in racing, it is lots of fun! We are also looking to raise our performance levels and run a low 6.60 with the same combo. Lee's motor business is doing well and what we learn going racing goes into customer motors. Our other business Performance Electronics aims to put a cost effective weather station into the hands of every racer out there, we just have to make them understand all the benefits of a weather station. It is going to be a busy year but busy is good!