As Lucas Oil Raceway marks 60 years of racing, these Hendricks County wives share their behind the scenes stories and bond
By Stephanie Dolan
While many sporting events run without fans in the stands in 2020, this Labor Day weekend race fans and Hendricks County residents will hear the familiar roar of the drag racers and motorcycles zooming down the track, and some will have a seat in the stands to watch the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals, part of Lucas Oil Raceway’s 60th year of events.
Behind the scenes is a little-told story about a group of Hendricks County women who have built a fierce friendship and support each other thanks to sharing a title: wife of a drag racer.
The racers and their wives consider themselves as one big, chosen family.
“It doesn’t matter what side of the ladder you fall on, we build each other up,” said AnnaMarie Krawiec, a Danville resident married to Eddie Krawiec, a Pro Stock Motorcycle racer for Brownsburg-based Vance & Hines Racing. “If one is struggling with race day, we try pushing them. My husband, if he loses a round and his teammate is up, then he’s there cheering them on. We’re a big family that helps each other out.”
The support goes beyond just on the track.
“Everybody’s busy, especially when you have kids,” Billie Brown who is married to Antron Brown, Top Fuel drag racer for Don Schumacher Racing in Brownsburg. He has won the 2012, 2015 and 2016 NHRA Top Fuel World Championships.
With the accolades come time on the road.
“Your husband is gone, and you’re home with the kids, and you don’t have time for very much socialization,” said Brown whose husband was named NHRA driver of the decade Dec. 31 and has been racing since they became a couple in 1998. “With that comes a great common understanding that should a race wife or family need anything, everyone is ready to jump in because everyone knows what it takes. There may be wives out there that I do not know, but if anything were to happen, I guarantee those wives would jump in.”
As fans fill the stands for the raceway’s biggest annual event they will see these wives at the track cheering on their husbands but likely don’t know their stories. Like those who have filled the historic stands of Lucas Oil Raceway for six decades, the spouses also send up prayers for safety in a sport where danger is part of the excitement.
“I don’t worry about the safety portion of it,” said Tanya Hines who lives in Avon and is married to Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle racer for Vance & Hines Racing. “He’s been racing and riding motorcycles since long before I met him.”
The mother of three focuses on the mood of the team because that affects her husband’s safety and sometimes the race outcomes.
“They’re obviously very competitive,” Hines said. “The Safety Safari, which is the team of folks prepping the track, don’t just stay at the track in Indy. They travel with the NHRA. They have the same team of safety professionals. It’s very comforting knowing that the Safety Safari are there. They’re a top notch group.”
These women will be there with their husbands, cheering them on with the rest of the fans and praying that they stay safe and uninjured from one race to the next.
Unlike Hines, Krawiec “100%” worries about her husband on his motorcycle, although it’s less of a concern than when he started.
“What he has under him is powered by himself and his team,” said Krawiec. “I worry more about riders in other lanes coming across that line. I just want everybody to get from point A to point B safely.”
Safety off the track for drivers, crews and spectators is of heightened importance this year with COVID-19 precautions in place. Even with limited attendance, fans will still travel from all over the country to see the U.S. Nationals.
For the fans, it’s more than about who crosses the finish line first.
“I think one of the unique experiences they get at this race is that so many of the professional drivers usually have open houses to allow people to come in and enjoy the shops and how they build their cars,” Brown said. “Usually, Northfield Drive is very, very busy.”
It’s also about bringing families together, and that boosts the Hendricks County economy along the way, filling hotels and restaurants with race teams and fans.
“The thing that stands out most in my head is that so many racing teams and families are here, and it’s so much of a family atmosphere out at the track,” Hines said. “Even the races for the kids, you get the sportsmen coming from all over the Midwest and the country. It definitely brings in lots of people that influence where they stay and where they eat.”
The U.S. Nationals is also a premier event for Hendricks County race fans and draws scores of locals to the stands, Kraweic said.
“It’s a great facility, always clean,” she said. “It just draws everybody from around the country. People from overseas even come to race at this track.”
Cleanliness will be key this year as racegoers flock to Lucas Oil Raceway during the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s not deterring diehard fans or race families. With two events already complete in 2020, LOR is taking safety precautions from temperature checks to sanitation stations.
“Right now it doesn’t matter that COVID(-19) is taking place,” Kraweic said. “It’s a big national event, and everybody wants it. It’s really the Super Bowl of the NHRA.”
The wives may be busy trackside and with their families, especially Labor Day weekend, but there are still dinners out, backyard barbecues in and pushing each other to grow in areas including fitness.
“Billie recruited me several years ago, along with a bunch of other racers’ wives and girlfriends, to run a half marathon at Disneyland,” Hines said. “All the ladies ran a half marathon on Saturday morning, and then we all went to the Pomona Race Track to see the men run the race.”
Amid the pandemic, the wives look forward to seeing their husbands race in the U.S. Nationals to bring some sense of normalcy to 2020.
“We’re thankful we still get to be on the track,” Brown said. “I know we have a maximum amount of fans who can come to the track, but I encourage everyone to watch it on TV ‘cause that supports us just as much.”
Getting to know Tanya Hines
Town of residence: Avon
Family: Husband, Andrew; three kids: Ryon, 20; Declan, 10 and Genevieve, 3
How do you give back to HC? We try to be very involved in the schools that our kids are in, always volunteering and helping out in the schools. Both Andrew and Eddie have visited schools on career days.
What is your favorite track memory? It would probably be this past year at the finals. Andrew won the championship this past year. It should have been an easy win. A series of extremely unlikely events all had to fall into place at the end of the day, even though he didn’t clinch it fairly easily. It was a lot of pacing and fretting all day, and we got to celebrate at the end of the day.”
Getting to know Billie Brown
Town of residence: Brownsburg
Family: Husband, Antron; three kids: Arianna, 18; Anson, 16 and Adler, 12
How do you give back to Hendricks County? Our business is here. We go to school here. We live here. We go to the grocery stores here. We dine out here. I’m kind of a homebody. We utilize everything that Hendricks County offers.
What is your favorite track memory? My husband has some pretty exciting wins that I got to watch on TV. I was able to be there when he received his first championship in Pomona, Calif.
Getting to know AnnaMarie Krawiec
Town of residence: Danville
Family: husband, Eddie; two children, Kayden, 10 and Chase, 1
How do you give back to Hendricks County? By doing volunteer work and donating clothing to local shelters.
What is your favorite track memory? That would be at Oldbridge Raceway Park where I met my husband.
Getting to know Amy Johnson
Amy Johnson personality box
Town of residence: Avon
Family members: Husband, Tommy; son Logan, 19
How do you give back to Hendricks County? TJ does volunteer at some Riley events. He goes out to that and does stuff with the kids. There’s a Riley bowling tournament, and I go. They also have an auction, and we go and bid and help to raise money.
What is your favorite track memory? I think my favorite is just getting to meet the Make-A-Wish Foundation families. My very first race I went to was in Vegas, and TJ granted a wish in Las Vegas. To see that side of it and what it means to them, that would be my favorite.
If you go
DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals
When: Sept. 3-6
Where: Lucas Oil Raceway, 10267 U.S. 136, Indianapolis