Memorable Turns with Peggie Barten by Jes Zurell

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Even in a world where every driver wins and no one gets a trophy, vintage drivers are as competitive as anything. Peggie Barten is no exception. She runs a Triumph Spitfire against Corvettes, Mustangs and Chevrons that completely out-horsepower her, but she loves to zoom.

“It’s funny being a Gearhead Girl, because I don’t know a lot about engines,” Barten says. “But I know my gas pedal and I just try to go! I’m not the fastest, but I’m not the slowest. I go out and have fun, and that’s what racing’s all about – doing what you love.”

Barten and her husband, Paul, mostly run Sebring. Their Spitfire loves the Sebring short course with all of its turns. Not always knowing who will pull out a victory is one of the biggest thrills for her – especially on the occasion when she has a chance to race another woman. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, Barten doesn’t hold back.

“One time I was neck-in-neck with a 9-14 in my little Spitfire, and the two of us had the best race I had ever had. At the end of the race, I got out of the car to look at who the driver of the 9-14 was and it just happened to be another female! When I got out, we gave each other a big hug. My husband just laughed and said, ‘There’s no hugging in racing!’ She’d get ahead of me and I’d get ahead of her… it was the most fun I’ve ever had in a race car.”

She still keeps in touch with the other driver, and often runs into her on the Florida tracks.

One other race stands out in Barten’s mind for more personal reasons. With a passion for being a breast cancer advocate, Barten manages a women’s imaging center. Last October, her track had a race for breast cancer awareness, in which everyone wore pink.

“We even had a pink and black checkered flag,” she says. “One of my patients came out and was an honorary starter. Racing for the cure and making strides against breast cancer are very important to me.”

Barten is accustomed to meeting new people on the track. It’s where she met Paul, among dozens of other friends. Collectively, the Bartens’ track family gave them one surprise they will not soon forget: a wedding ceremony on the track.

“What a surprise that was,” she said. “They actually had an old driver’s jumpsuit for me and made tails for Paul. One of the marshalls is a justice of the peace, so she performed the ceremony. We still had our original, formal wedding back in Maine, where I’m from, but this one was so funny. I had to laugh because the wedding cake at the track was bigger than the wedding cake at my formal wedding. We’ve been married almost 16 years and people still come up to us and ask if we’re ‘that couple’ who got married at the track.”

Barten is lighthearted about her track memories, but the truth is that she’s had a great deal of luck in (and on the fringe of) the racing world. She was the H-Production Regional Champion two years in a row, back when she raced regionally, but is taking it easy this year. Her last race was in November 2011 in West Palm Beach. This summer, she has a different kind of driving in mind.

“I bought myself a Corvette convertible and that’s my daily driver. When I went to buy it, the salesman wanted to know how long I had been looking for a ‘vette, and I had to tell him I’ve really been looking for one since I was sixteen. He said it was the best answer he’s ever heard,” she says.

The Bartens are driving the Corvette up north this summer, to Buffalo, NY, then to Maine, before driving back down to Florida again. It’s a journey the pair has had before, but this time they plan to make a few stops along the Finger Lakes Wine Trail and at Watkins Glen. By highway or by race track, Barten appreciates speed, turns, and a really great adventure

Super Daytona Peg

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