Reagan May not only knows how to wheel a race car to victory lane but can also diagnose and fix any problems that may develop. May, a 22-year-old woman from De Pere, Wisconsin will earn her degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan Technological University in December.
May races in The Unified Northern Drivers Racing Association (TUNDRA) Super Late Model Series, where she earned Rookie of the Year accolades in 2014. Before that, she was the 2010 SuperPro Series Rookie of the Year.
May earned a spot in the prestigious Kulwicki Driver Development Program in 2015. The program was established by the family of NASCAR champion Alan Kulwicki in the wake of his 1993 death in a plane crash.
On the last Saturday of July I traveled to State Park Speedway in Wausau, Wisconsin to meet May in her native element so that I could watch her whip her number 33 super late model around the ¼ mile banked asphalt track there.
May would eventually finish in the top 10, but getting her car back to the hauler unscathed was the real coup in a feature race that saw more than a few of her competitors take serious hits.
May says that she set her sights on racing at the age of nine during a visit to a Green Bay business.
“We were at a bowling alley and there was this go-kart there that the alley was sponsoring,” May said in an interview at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukana, Wisconsin. “I sat in it and said ‘dad let’s do this’ and a year later dad got go-karts for me and for my younger brother.”
“We showed up at the first go-kart track we’d ever been to with a trailer full of go-karts and then we were like ‘ok, what do we do now?” May said.
What they did, of course, was hit the race track. May hasn’t looked back since.
May’s father Kip May and her mother Brenda May have been by their daughter’s side all the way. May’s brother decided to pursue other ventures after a few years in the sport.
“The adventure really started about nine years ago with 4-cylinder rear-wheel drive Mustangs with Reagan as a 13-year-old racing against middle-aged men,” Kip May said during an interview at Wisconsin International Raceway. “Initially they took her lightly but when she started winning there may have been a little bit of jealousy but eventually she won the respect of most of her fellow drivers.”
Kip May said that probably the single biggest factor that made her competitors take notice was the fact that his daughter knew how cars worked and knew how to work on her own car.
“As she’s matured she’s taken over a lot of the work and setup of the car,” Kip May said. “In fact she does all of the setup herself.”
Reagan for her part would love to have the chance to race in NASCAR, but she says that her most likely path to the big leagues will be through her engineering skills.
“Of course driving in NASCAR is the ultimate goal, but unless I can get a big-time sponsor that‘s probably not going to happen,” May said. “With my engineering degree I could make it to NASCAR as an engineer. But really anything that revolves around racing is where I see my future going.”
May said that she comes home from her summer position at the Oshkosh Corporation to the workshop in De Pere every evening and spends several hours working on her race cars.
“I’m in the shop every single night after work,” May says with a chuckle. “It’s a time-consuming sport but it’s worth it to do it.”
May said that the fine-tuning continues at the track on race day.
“On race day I’m on the radio calling the shots on what changes we need to do to help the car,” May said.
Kip May, who drove a Corvette in the SCCA Playboy Escort Endurance Series in the mid-1980s, serves as his daughter's primary adviser, while her mom has become the point person on all things tires.
“When we first started, Kip was trying to do everything himself and that just wasn’t working,” Brenda May said. “So, I started learning everything related to the tires for Reagan’s car. I had a mentor who taught me what I needed to know to do the job.”
Kip says that his wife’s contributions made a significant difference in lowering Reagan’s qualifying times thereby increasing her winning percentage.
Whatever it is that Reagan May ultimately decides to do in the world of motorsports, there is no doubt in my mind that she will be at the top of her game.