BRISTOL, Tenn. – Holmes County will be represented when the Bristol Dirt Nationals kick off next week, with Westville resident Sydney Kitchen slated to be the event’s only female stockcar driver. In addition to stock cars, the race will feature several different classes and offer an overall combined purse of more than $400,000.
22-year-old Kitchen was one of 20 drivers selected out of a lottery of more than 700 hopefuls from all over the U.S. after her husband, Braeden Kitchen, entered her in the race.
Her stepdad, Craig Cole, bought a race car when she was 13, and she raced for the first time at Southern Raceway in Milton when she was 14.
“I was dead last,” recalls Kitchen with a laugh. “The leader lapped me three times.”
Despite that first loss and numerous wrecks, Kitchen was hooked and has competed in more than 400 races since then. And while Kitchen’s mother, Kimberly Cole, is one of her strongest sources of support, Kitchen says her mom has a hard time watching the events.
“I wrecked for the first time when I was 16, and I made sure that I called my mom so she didn’t freak out as badly as if someone else called,” she said. “But then I totaled my first car at 19, and that was harder.”
Kitchen is no stranger to pushing the traditional conventions of sports, having made history as the first female to compete on the varsity boys’ wrestling team at Niceville High School. She says that racing isn’t a hobby, but rather a lifestyle.
“You work on your racecar every day, all year ‘round,” she said. “Either you’re in or you’re out. There’s no halfway with racing.”
Drivers in next week’s Dirt Nationals will compete in heats for the chance to race in the feature race against NASCAR names like Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Kitchen is hopeful that her number, S64, will be among numbers on the board for that race.
“Just knowing there’s a chance I’ll even be on the same track as names like that is so surreal,” she said.
During the 2021 season, the landmark 60th anniversary of Bristol Motor Speedway, track officials are celebrating the milestone with a nod to the early days of racing by transforming the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” into a pristine dirt racing facility. It will be the third time BMS has converted its revered high-banks to a dirt surface.
The Bristol Dirt Nationals will run March 15-20 and be streamed on raceXR.com and raceXR apps, which is available by subscription.
A GoFund Me Account has been set up to help offset expenses associated with the race, and anyone interested in helping sponsor Kitchen may contact her team at [email protected].
Meanwhile, Kitchen says she has a message for young girls who are interested in racing or any other male-dominated sport or profession:
“If you can imagine that you want to do something, you can. No one in this world can tell you that you can’t – and if they do, do not listen to them. If there’s this fire inside of you telling you to do it, then do it.”
This article originally appeared on Washington County News: Breaking Barriers: Westville resident only female stockcar driver bound for Bristol Dirt Nationals