Column By: RON SZCZERBA / RPW – MAYFIELD, NY – Checkerboard Square at the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway is hallowed ground for drivers in dirt track stock car racing and the goal of every driver who has ever raced at Fonda is to get on that piece of history. In 2017, one local driver from Mayfield, NY did just that, realizing a dream at a track where she grew up watching her father race.
Kathy Bellen reached her goal of winning a feature at Fonda on May 20 of last year but that one came due to a disqualification of the top three finishers in post-race tech. “This isn’t really how I wanted to win but it is a dream come true”, she said that evening on Checkerboard Square. Four weeks later on June 24, she led every lap of the Limited Sportsman feature event for her second career victory at Fonda and was very happy with the way it happened that night.
“I got to stand up on Checkerboard Square and won that night because of my driving ability,” Bellen said recently. “I grew up at Fonda watching my father race and always had a dream of winning there and being on Checkerboard Square.”
Back in 1997 at Caroga Creek, Kathy fell in love with racing after a family friend named John Mills let her race his Go-Kart. The next year she started racing a Go-Kart at Caroga Creek, at Dodge City when she could, and also on the big track at Albany Saratoga. At age 14 she ran Rocky Warner’s Street Stock in a Powder Puff event at Fonda finishing in the fifth spot in that event. Her Street Stock debut then came at the end of 2002 at Fonda, which she ran for one season.
Bellen next stepped into a 600CC Micro Sprint, which she ran in Massachusetts, racing to many top five finishes. When Kathy graduated from Mayfield, NY High School in 2005, she took a break from racing all together.
In 2015, she decided to get back into racing in a Lightning Sprint, racing locally at Glen Ridge and Albany Saratoga, which she continued to do the following year in 2016. She also tried her hand at the POWRI Midgets at Glen Ridge but a bad wreck put a stop to that when her step mom Becky who is nicknamed the “Big Boss Lady” told her that she could not race those cars anymore after that wreck.
Bellen ended up buying a 2007 Teo car from another female competitor from Thunder Mountain named Kailee DiMorier and began racing that in the Limited Sportsman division at both Fonda and Glen Ridge in 2017. At seasons end at Fonda she had compiled two feature wins and a third place finish in the final point standings while at Glen Ridge she led the points for most of the early season until motor issues and handling issues with the car took her out of a chance at the championship.
“I ended up fourth in final points at Glen Ridge and won the Hard Luck Award at their banquet because of my mid to late season issues with motors and the car itself,” she said. “Running at both tracks I learned a lot about how the car reacts so it really helped me out a lot.”
Kathy was also recently awarded the “Rookie of the Year” at the New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA) banquet for her accomplishments in the Limited Sportsman division at the Fonda Speedway in 2017.
THE “LITTLE BOSS LADY”
While Kathy’s step mom Becky is the “Big Boss Lady” of the #77 Racing Team there is also a “Little Boss Lady” on the team as well and that is Kathy’s seven-year-old daughter Khloie.
“We call my car the Khloie Express obviously after my daughter,” Bellen said. “My dad (Don) had actually named his sportsman car “the Khloie Express” back when my daughter was born but when I got my sportsman car it just seemed fitting that I take on the name.”
While Kathy’s win at Fonda was a special one it was also special for another reason, it was the day after her daughter Khloie’s seventh birthday.
“Before racing that night we had a little birthday party in the pits for her at the track,” Bellen said. “And after I won my adrenaline was through the roof because it was just that special of a night.”
Sometimes the best advice or the nicest things said are just that no matter how young or old the person is that said it. In Kathy’s case, something her daughter Khloie said to her holds a special place in her heart.
“She told me how proud she was of me for taking a break from racing but not giving up on something that I wanted to accomplish,” Kathy said. “Khloie tells me that she wants to grow up just like me and how proud of me she is, and that means the world to me.”
Sponsors on the #77 car include Paul’s Auto Body in Mayfield and Kathy is currently seeking additional sponsorship for the 2018 season. The pit crew on the race car consists of Kathy’s father Don, step mom Becky, stepbrother Ryan Sweet, family friend Matt Hart and of course the “Little Boss Lady” Khloie.
Kathy would also like to send out a special thanks to Bob Baumgaertel from 2B Extreme Graphic and Design for the awesome graphics on the Khloie Express! She also wants to send a huge shoutout to her whole crew for all their hard work and long hours they put in including multiple engine swaps in the middle of the season last year that enabled her to have such a successful first year in 2017!
“I also want to say a huge thank you to my dad for always believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself and for all that he has done over the years to improve my racing career,” Kathy said. “There’s no way I could do any of this without him.”
Bellen sees herself racing in the Limited Sportsman division for one more season before moving up to the Sportsman division and possibly doing a little travelling including the King of Dirt “KOD” Series.
“Modifieds have always been a far off dream on mine,” Kathy said. “But I definitely want to master the sportsman before moving up to anything else.”