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Fast cars and fearless women: Two local racers talk adversity on and off the track

“Everybody kind of looks down on a female...I try to prove them wrong, and so far, it’s been working for me,” says Brooke Bartholomew of Dickinson.

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Mattea Binstock (pictured) and Brooke Bartholomew both fix their race cars and compete against men in dirt track automotive races. <br/>
Photo by Amber I. Neate
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DICKINSON — Dickinson Stock Car driver Brooke Bartholomew and South Heart Hobby Stock racer Mattea Binstock share a similar interest that some girls have never explored before: dirt track automotive racing. Behind braided locks and shiny white helmets, these two rugged females are fearless in a male-dominant sport.

Before every Feature or Heat race, the girls work on their vehicles themselves, or with the help of a small pit crew.

Bartholomew began racing in 2013 when she bought her first race car from her brother before he moved for college. She grew up in a family of mechanics and enjoys tinkering with machines. Her familiarity with repairing vehicles even inspired her career choice as a diesel technology mechanic.

“When you are fixing a car, you are kind of trying to be a doctor for something that can’t talk to you, so you have to figure out what’s wrong with it and how to make it better…” Bartholomew said. “It’s really rewarding.”

In Bartholomew’s experience, the racing community has been accepting and helpful toward female drivers. Her biggest challenge has been working as a heavy equipment parts supplier and mechanic, a dominantly male profession.

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Brooke Bartholomew (right) loves working on cars so much that she turned her passion into a career as a mechanic.
Photo courtesy of McKayla Swallow Photography

“Everybody kind of looks down on a female trying to look up parts or fix things for them like I don’t know anything,” Bartholomew said. “I try to prove them wrong, and so far, it’s been working for me.”

Like Bartholomew, Binstock also works on her car in the pits. Her brothers and father taught her how to change the oil and tires, clean the air filter and radiator and work on the engine. Her family introduced her to automotive racing when she was 14 years old.

“When I got my permit, I just jumped in the car,” Binstock said.

Both of Binstock’s Hobby Stocks were hand-me-down cars from her father and brothers who also race competitively. Binstock is yet to take a personal win on the track, but her car has seen several victories over the years. Prior to her racing career, her father collected a hand full of second place Feature wins at the Speedway in the #88 plum-purple machine. Her brother Jordan also brought home three championship titles in the vehicle.

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Binstock drives a #88 purple and white Hobby Stock that once belonged to her father and brother.
Photo by Amber I. Neate

Bartholomew’s race cars were also both second-hand. She was forced to retire her first vehicle after it was t-boned and wrecked beyond repair at a race. She purchased her current Stock Car (#27R) from a family friend, but it had been sitting on his property for several years and needed a ton of work. It consisted of a frame, a role cadge and nothing else, so Bartholomew had to completely rebuild every single nut and bolt on the car.

Both girls have had their fair share of accidents and mechanical issues on the track. In 2014, Bartholomew crashed her car into the wall during a race and dislocated her shoulder.

Binstock blew the engine in one of her cars the second night she ever raced. After accidentally bumping into another driver, she could feel that her vehicle wasn’t operating optimally and was flagged for a caution.

“As I kept going around the track, the car was getting hotter and hotter, but I didn’t really notice,” Binstock said. “The car didn’t start on fire, but oil went everywhere, and it started smoking.”

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The 60 victories tie him with Kyle Busch for ninth all time in the series.

Her brother Jordan, who was on the track at that time, pulled up to the side of her and shouted for her to get out of the car.

A few years later, Binstock experienced another wreck during a race that smashed her car like an accordion. The dust on the track was so thick that she couldn’t see the car in front of her as she sped around a turn. As she rammed into the leading car, the vehicle behind her tried to break but was going too fast to stop, so she was sandwiched between the two.

Luckily, Binstock was physically unharmed. Her vehicle was salvageable and was repaired by a frame shop that performed extensive body work.

“I’ve been in a few pretty good wrecks, but it didn’t really scare me,” Binstock said. “I know I’m pretty safe in the car. It’s like getting back on a horse, you just have to do it.”

Just like Bartholomew, Binstock grew up around mechanics, so racing became a fun and competitive family hobby. At one point, she even competed in the same vehicle class as her brothers and got to watch them place first and second in a race.

Bartholomew races in the same class as her husband. They met when he accidentally rammed into her car on the track. He proposed to her on the backstretch just a few years later. They recently competed together at the Dakota Classic Modified Tour in the B Main Feature and were running neck-in-neck.

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Brooke Bartholomew (right) met her husband when they were competing in the same race. Just a few years after that, they got married.
Photo courtesy of Brooke Bartholomew

“I said ‘I’m gonna pass him, I’m gonna go for it,’ and I sure enough did,” Bartholomew said. “It was just awesome. I came out of the car ecstatic and smiling because we haven’t been able to race side by side like that for a very long time. I almost race him harder because he is my husband, but then again, we have to be careful because if we wreck each other, we have to fix both cars.”

Binstock and Bartholomew agree that racing is one of the best ways to temporarily escape from reality.

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“Sitting in the car, waiting to go on to the track, I’m pretty nervous,” Binstock said. “But when I get there, I forget about everything else.”

“The thrill of the moment and losing yourself in that is one of the best parts about racing,” Bartholomew added…“It’s something I enjoy doing, not because I win, but because it’s something fun to do with my race car family.”

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Bartholomew (27R) and her husband (85) compete in the same vehicle class, which they did intentionally, so that they could share car parts.
Photo courtesy of McKayla Swallow Photography
READ MORE BY AMBER I. NEATE
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Amber Neate grew up in rural Skull Valley, Arizona. Her passion of covering sports of all types, including personal favorites wrestling, hockey, rodeo and football, began at an early age.

She obtained her Associate of Arts Degree from Yavapai Community College before attending Northern Arizona University for a three-year journalism program. While at NAU, Neate worked as an Assistant Sports Editor for the Lumberjack Newspaper as well as a hockey commentator for KJACK Radio.

Gaining her experience working for a small community paper, The Wickenburg Sun, as a general news and features reporter, her love for sports and a small-town community brings her to Dickinson to cover southwest North Dakota sports.

LANGUAGES: English
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