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Sports

Rankins make racing a family affair

| Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sheila and Gary Rankin are a Butler husband and wife team that has taken togetherness to the racetrack, where they race his and hers sprint cars.

The fact that this has not resulted in trips to victory lane does not diminish the experience.

"We just come to have fun," Gary said before a recent two-night World of Outlaws program at Lernerville Speedway. "We're here to race, but we're here to have fun, too. It's just the way we've been, even on a regular night."

Gary had run 35th in the time trials on the first night of the two-night show and Sheila had been 39th, or last. Neither made the A-main on either night.

No problem.

"I've got about $8,000 in the car. How do you run against guys with $40,000 motors?" Sheila said. "I'm still running an all cast-iron motor. My motor needs rebuilt really bad. I'm here to gain a little more experience running with these guys. I want to go and do the best I can, learn what I can from these guys."

Gary does have an aluminum V-8 in his No. 16 car, which is the root of Sheila's dig that he has superior equipment.

"Well, yeah," he said, before deadpanning, "My money.

"I've got another aluminum motor at home I'm trying to get together to put in hers."

While Steve Kinser, the King of Dirt, racing alongside son, Kraig, was the high-profile family affair storyline of the weekend, the Rankins were a grassroots sidebar.

Their much more modest career bests still are meaningful to them.

"Last year, I finished second here (in a sprint feature)," Craig said. "Against Ed (Lynch Jr.), that was just as good as a win."

Sheila's best was a fifth in a feature at Mercer Raceway Park.

"Guys came down to watch me climb out of the car," Sheila said. "They didn't believe it was me driving."

Gary grew up in a family that went to race tracks Friday through Sunday.

As he got older, he leaned toward participating.

"A friend of mine had a sprint car and he wouldn't let me drive it, so I just got mad and told him I was going to buy my own," Gary said.

That was in 1985, when he bought a six-cylinder modified. After an interlude with a big-block modified, Gary moved to sprints in 1993.

Sheila inherited the racing gene from her father, Carl Murdick.

"Ever since I can remember, I was down in the pits with my dad helping him, or working on the car at home," she said. "It's what I always wanted to do."

Sheila has been racing 16 years, the past 11 in sprints. She took a year off during the transition from six-cylinder modifieds to sprints to have her second daughter.

"They're usually here with us, too," she said.

Rooting for mom or dad?

"Both," Sheila said.

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