Mary Lawrence broke the barrier of the “glass Ceiling” long before the term was ever coined. But she didn’t do it for a political reason or to advance a cause, but simply because her love for auto racing drove her to do things and go places and say things that women weren’t supposed to do in the world of short track auto racing.
Mary married into a family of auto racers and before all was said and done, at least six of her brother-in-laws and two of her family members participated in dirt track racing , either as drivers or car owners.
She even had the rare experience of owning her own race track along with her husband Florian, along with a brother-in-law and her father-in-law as they built and ran Lawrence’s Speedway in a field west of Trego for several years in the ‘60’s where she had the opportunity to run the concession stand.
When the family moved back to Trego from the Twin Cities in 1971, her involvement with the Rice Lake Speedway began. She immediately began to get interested in the workings of the track through the club, the Indianhead Stock Car Racing Association and she started attending the weekly meetings. At that time, weekly meetings for the association were held in the smoky backrooms of local watering holes, and she was almost exclusively the only female in attendance, listing to what was happening, offering opinions and suggestions and putting up with the verbal barbs of some of the less than broadminded club members.
She volunteered for every committee and was willing to work on any task the club needed done and never asked for anything in return. When it was time to fix the fence at the track or paint or even pick up the garbage, she was always the first one there and the last to leave. Eventually she earned acceptance among the club members and was elected to several positions on the Board of Directors for the club. She was a member of the board when the track was expanded to its current dimensions and was instrumental in getting that feat accomplished. Always a person that felt flying the American flag was important, she assisted Florian in the building of the flag pole which still proudly flies the flag in the middle of the track to this day.
She was one of the biggest supporters of the concept of the Modified class when that ideas was being bantered about, and she and Florian built and owned one of the first Modifieds that raced in 1980 at Rice Lake, the first year the class raced at the track, resulting in the Rice Lake Speedway being the second track in the entire United States that ran the Modifieds and has continued to run them weekly since. On their own dime, they, along with people like Jerry Curnow and Buddy Mayala hauled their cars to places like Menomonie and Kasson to show off the cars and promote the class.
She was also on the Board when the concept of the Street Stock “Little Dream” race was first proposed and she was a strong supporter of the concept. She would be very happy to know that Sam Fankhauser went home with over $8,000 just a couple of weeks ago as the “Little Dream” just keeps getting bigger and better.
One of her biggest thrills was being on the Board when the first big Modified race was presented at the track and she got to meet Ken Schrader and her proudest moment at the track had to be the night her grandson Brandon raced his first Pure Stock race. She would be thrilled to learn that Dave and Mitch have taken over the speedway, that its rich heritage is being preserved and that its future in Rice Lake is strong.
She supported the Rice Lake Speedway in every way she could and saw the track advance from the days when women weren’t even allowed in the pits, payoffs were made in cash and everyone was required to wear white pants, although she would have preferred , even today, to see all the pit personal in starched white pants. She saw the Late Models come and go and then come and go a second time. She was never a showy person and preferred to remain in the back round, never drawing attention to herself. But those in charge knew how much work she did for the track over the years and how much “guff” she endured along the way.
Mary becomes the first female member of the Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Fame.
Mary passed away on December 27th, 2005 following a stroke. Accepting her Hall of Fame plague in the Friends of the Speedway category is her husband, Florian.