Harkin hopes consistency will lead to championshipwaterford
WATERFORD — It was a Christmas present that Maddie Harkin of Portsmouth, R.I. never will forget.
“I went to Seekonk Speedway to watch one of my friends in the Mini Cups division and I asked my dad if I could start driving,” the 17-year-old said. “And he kept saying no.”
That continued to be the case until Santa intervened.
“On Christmas I opened up one of my gifts and it was a toy car,” Harkin said. “Then we went to my dad’s shop, and I found a Mini Cup car.”
It was a gift that kept on giving, because Harkin put the car to good use. In her first season she chalked up one win and was fifth in the point standings.
Then she added the Bandolero Division at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl to her workload in 2017 and found instant success. She chalked up four victories and came to within nine points of winning a championship.
Harkin has shown even more improvement in 2018. During the first half of the season she has had four wins and had opportunities for two more. She leads the point standings by seven over former champ Nicholas Hovey.
Harkin will try to widen her point lead on Pit Party Night Wednesday as part of the Wild and Wacky Wednesday festivities. A special on-track pit party, featuring all of the Wild and Wacky Wednesday competitors, will be taking place at 6:15 p.m., prior to the 7:30 p.m. starting time. The Bandoleros, Super X-Cars, X-Cars and Legends will be joined by the Open Vintage Modifieds.
Harkin’s goal will be trying to get one step closer to become the third female driver to win a Bandolero championship at the Speedbowl, following in the tire tracks of Taylor Martin and Rachel Forte.
She says consistency will be the way to get it done.
“When you’re fighting for a championship, you have to be consistent” Harkin said. “That’s the only way I’m going to keep the point lead. So far this season it’s been going pretty well. I have been consistent, and I’m pleased with that.”
Harkin got her start in auto racing by accident — literally.
“My whole life I was doing gymnastics and then I got hurt and couldn’t compete,” Harkin said. “So I watched my friends race, and there was just something about racing that looked fun to me. And not a lot of girls were into it.”
The learning curve turned out to be a small one for Harkin.
“I’d say a lot of thing came easily because I had a driver, Josh Williams, coaching me,” Harkin said. “He was teaching me how to drive.
“My dad also knows a lot about Bandoleros. He made sure I had a tough car.”
The car isn’t just tough, there’s also a tough driver behind the wheel. Harkin has shown in her brief Speedbowl career that she’s determined to get podium finishes.
“When you look at all the hours we spend working on the car and driving to the track and all the money we put into the car, it sucks to lose,” Harkin said.
Harkin says her career highlight was winning this year’s season opener.
“That was a highlight for me,” Harkin said. “It really boosted my confidence”
Helping give Harkin the confidence is her list of sponsors. It includes Harkin Construction, Phil’s Propane, 401 Motoring, Riverhead Building Supply, R&A Auto Body, Racer’s Choice, ArchAngel Charters, South Coast Power Equipment, Beacon Automotive, First Response Plumbing and Rinfret Appliance.
Harkin also would like to thank JW Motorsports.
“John, Josh and Speedy are the crew people on the team and they have helped me learn a lot in the Bandolero,” Harkin said. “I drove down at the Charlotte Motor Speedway last year in one of their cars and they also have come up from North Carolina to help me.”
Harkin’s team consists of her dad, Scott Harkin, Kyle Marchand, Josh Hedges and Josh Williams.
The ultimate destination for Harkin would be a track championship.
“It would definitely mean a lot because I only missed it by nine points last year,” Harkin said. “I just have to work on getting more wins and staying on the podium.”
Harkin says she plans on staying involved in motor sports for a long time.
“I’m started to get involved in the Seekonk Truck Series, and next year maybe I’ll be driving a Legends car,” Harkin said.
She has added incentive to do well in Seekonk truck racing. All the money she earns from the Seekonk truck or from the money Bandolero races will be donated to the Nathan Bruno Memorial Fund. Bruno was Harkin’s classmate from Portsmouth High who passed away during the school year.
Maddie Harkin is also known by her nickname, “Mad Dog,” a name that she has had since she started racing at the Speedbowl.
“And my family and close friends call me the pup,” Harkin said.
She hopes that by the end of the season, they’ll also be calling her a champion.
Press release from the New London-Waterford Speedbowl
Contact Mike Serluca at mikeS@speedbowlct.com