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Auto Racing

Mother keeps Wampum family racing business moving forward

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 12:31 a.m.
From left, Brandon Matus, his mother Jackie Matus, and father Brent Matus pause for a portrait at the start of Sprint Car races at Lernerville Speedway on Friday, May 3, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
From left, Brandon Matus, his mother Jackie Matus, and father Brent Matus pause for a portrait at the start of Sprint Car races at Lernerville Speedway on Friday, May 3, 2013.

Jackie Matus knew exactly what she was getting into when she married a young racer named Brent Matus.

That didn't make it any easier when her only son, Brandon, decided to begin racing, just like his father and grandfather, Jerry Matus.

“It is totally different,” Jackie said. “When I met Brent, he was 20 and this was all fun, like an adventure. But when your son starts, it is completely different. The hardest part is that you know something will happen sometime. I just want to make sure I am there if and when it does. I can't stay at home when they are racing.”

Jackie and Brent Matus have two children, Elisabeth, 21, and Brandon, 18.

Brandon is the fourth generation of the family, based in Wampum, to race, and the third generation to race at Lernerville. Jerry Matus won Lernerville's Sprint Car championship in 1981 and 1983-84.

While the hardest part of racing for mothers and grandmothers, daughters, sisters and girlfriends and wives is the unknown, it is also something that Brandon Matus is aware of.

“I think about that,” Brandon said. “When she met my dad, he was already racing, so she walked into it. With me, I know it is much different. The whole way to the track she won't talk because she is a nervous wreck. I ask people how she behaves in the stands, and they say she is worried but holds herself together.”

Even if Jackie is nervous and keeps her concern from showing, that does not prevent her from voicing her opinions about what happens on the track.

“She always gives me her two cents, and it's to help me out,” Brandon said. “She will tell me what I did wrong because she has been around it enough to know what she is watching. She definitely enjoys going to the track. If my dad and I were going to go to a race just to watch, she wouldn't stay at home; she'd want to come with us because it is in her heart now, too.”

From Brent's perspective, the racing operation hinges on what Jackie does behind the scenes.

“It's pretty darn important on a couple levels,” Brent said. “On my end, it was convincing the mother to allow the boy to drive. My mother has been to probably two races in my 30-year career, and she did go to watch my dad race some.

“It's a team effort, and it takes a bit from everybody. On my end, it is to keep this operation going. From her end, it's from food in the hauler, to maps, to GPS, motel reservations, she does it. And she does a lot of the sponsor paperwork over the winter. It's a big part of this.”

Brent has seen how racing can affect a marriage and he made sure Jackie understood what this entailed.

“My parents were married when they went into racing and divorced halfway through,” Brent said. “So I have seen that side, too. I met Jackie at the track, and I told her from the start that this is what I do.”

Even with Brent extolling her contributions to the team, Jackie does not consider herself different from other racing women.

“I think most women who have children know the responsibility that goes along with having children, and certainly the women who are around racing know what goes on,” Jackie said. “I don't think, though, that women who are not around racing know the full extent of what we go through until you are in our shoes.”

From Jackie's perspective, having Brent help guide Brandon is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

“It is extremely important to me that he is here doing this with Brent,” Jackie said. “I've seen a lot of fathers and sons come through this and the father shows the ropes. These two get along very well and they love doing this together. He listens to Brent and expresses what he knows, not in a cocky manner. It means a lot to me, as a wife and mother, that they are doing this together.”

Brandon picked up his first career Lernerville victory Aug. 5, 2011; and last year, he won an All Star race at Sharon Speedway.

“Knowing that he has a promising career is the most satisfying thing about watching him race,” Jackie said. “I was a wreck for over 24 hours after that All Star win. From the time they are born, every possible moment is spent helping to make sure that your child is the best possible person that he can be.

“And at that point in my life, I didn't have any responsibility in what he had done. I am not sure what it is, maybe it is the Matus blood, but at that point, I realized that he was going to be successful in this.”

Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.

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