Sarah and Bridget Burgess make history in ARCA West
No sport for (only) fathers and sons: Sarah Burgess and Bridget Burgess became the first ever mother and daughter duo to share the starting grid, in a historic moment for ARCA Menards Series West at the Bullring.
They have been working towards this historic moment since earlier this year – when the Burgess family acquired a second car for their small family-run team.
In her third season of ARCA Menards Series West, Bridget Burgess made noticeable improvements; after two top ten finishes last year, the 20-year-old driver of the #88 BMI Racing Chevrolet has so far scored four already, with one round left in the 2022 season. Her best results have mainly come at road courses – like at Portland International Raceway, where Bridget was close to her top-five finish last September.
Originally from Brisbane, Australia, Burgess and her family moved to the US to pursue their motor racing dreams. Sarah – Bridget's mother – was no stranger to the sport, having raced in a variety of disciplines such as drifting, rallycross, off-road racing, and stock cars. And, by relocating in the United States, she was ready to support her daughter to climb the NASCAR ladder in the most competitive of environments.
The Burgess family, though, is not your typical highly-funded organization. 42-year-old Sarah, in order to sustain the family and its ambitious racing program, works full time at eBay Motors as senior business development and partnership manager. On weekends, she is the crew chief and owner of the #88 Chevrolet piloted by her daughter Bridget – who also works at a McDonald's in Utah. Alongside her father Adam – who takes care of the racecars' maintenance during the week – Bridget herself gets her hands dirty in the team's workshop.
But at the same time, Sarah remains a racer at heart – and, initially lightheartedly, started thinking about joining Bridget on the starting grid. The idea was seriously considered in the first months of 2022, when the team purchased a second car – and almost became a reality at Irwindale last March, when she was added to the entry list, but then withdrew shortly before the event.
But that plan was not called off – only postponed. Sarah Burgess, after all, is a racer and if she had to make her series debut, it was not only to make up the numbers or for the headlines.
After months of preparations, it was finally announced that Bridget and Sarah Burgess would make history at the Bullring, Las Vegas Motors Speedway, for the penultimate round of the ARCA Menards Series West on October 14th – becoming the first ever mother/daughter duo to race together in a NASCAR-sanctioned event and, possibly, in motorsport.
While it has become common to see father and sons sharing the track, in more recent years there have increasingly been daughters continuing their family traditions and racing together with their fathers. The Al Qubaisi family surely offers an international example: an established GT racer with starts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Emirati driver Khaled Al Qubaisi shared the track with his two daughters Amna and Hamda earlier this year, with the 20 and 21 year old ladies both finishing ahead of their father in the Formula Regional Asian Championship.
The passion for the sport, though, has no gender and is being passed down through the generations from mother to children as well; Swedish racing ace Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, for example, inherited the racing bug from her mother – former European Rally Championship driver Susanne Kottulinsky. World-class karting driver Sophie Kumpen birthed a Formula 1 world champion. In rallying more than in circuit racing, mothers and daughters have teamed up as driver and co-driver before.
But, until last week, we had no records of them competing against each other.
This historic moment was made possible thanks to Sarah's employer, eBay Motors, who came aboard and sponsored the #97 Chevrolet SS for the debut of Sarah Burgess.
“The eBay Motors team is made up of car enthusiasts like Sarah,” said Ron Jaiven, General Manager of the online marketplace. “Our passion is to support and engage in the automotive community, whether it’s sponsoring events that draw car lovers nationwide or being the source for hard-to-find performance parts. It’s incredible that Sarah and her daughter Bridget will make NASCAR history together."
"eBay Motors has been a resource for us over the years and the first place we turn to, to find the race parts we need for the cars" – echoed Sarah Burgess. "I’m thankful to have eBay Motors step up and support our aspirations and be a part of this historic moment – without them this wouldn’t have happened."
The focus then switched to the racetrack, as the BMI Racing #97 and #88 Chevrolet were prepared for the Star Nursery 150 on Friday. In the 90 minutes practice session, Sarah Burgess got up to speed and learned the lines, with help from her husband Adam – usually spotting for Bridget's #88 machine.
The session also set the starting grid for the race and Bridget and Sarah qualified respectively in P21 and P23 in a 26 car field.
At the green flag, Sarah dropped a few positions, but a caution soon after gave her the chance to regroup and she would later start to make up positions in what was effectively her first race on an asphalt oval.
Bridget was also making quick progress: through the 150-lap race, the driver of the #88 HMH Construction Chevrolet SS climbed the order and reached the top ten.
Unfortunately, after a late caution, she was bumped on the final lap at the restart and she slid back two places, ultimately finishing in 12th position.
Sarah Burgess, in her series debut, took the chequered flag in an impressive 17th position.
"Our small team did an amazing job getting both the cars ready for this race.” – she commented.
In an iconic post-race moment, Sarah hugged Bridget, in a history defining moment for the family – as well as for all motor racing: the Burgess family proved that motorsport is not only a father and son activity, but mothers and daughters can equally take centre stage, and be competitive.
On November 4th, Bridget will get back behind the wheel for the final race of the ARCA Menards Series West season at Phoenix Raceway; Sarah will return in her crew chief role. But, if their small family team will be able to secure enough support, we might get to see them back in action together sometime next year.