Dec 25, 2020 08:16 AM EDT
TANA ROBINSON HAS SHOWN THAT RACING IS NO LONGER JUST A MANS WORLD
Robinson has not rested on her Hall of Fame career as she still spends time working at her passion.
Originally an AARN Exclusive by Kenny Shupp Jr.
(Woodhull, NY) Forty years ago women were not allowed into the pit area at most race venues. For whatever reason, the female gender was not included in the decision-making process or day to day operations of running a race facility. Back then a woman’s place was flipping burgers in the kitchen, scoring or selling programs. When there was a Powder Puff event the gals had to wait in the stands while the drivers brought their cars onto the front straight away and then the women could go onto the track and get into their respective rides. When the event was over, they had to exit their machines and go directly back into the grandstands. In short it was a man’s world!
Fast forward four decades and it is a whole different ball game. There is not one successful racetrack or race team out there that can survive without a woman being involved in some capacity and in many cases the ladies have as much or more involvement than their male counter parts.
Just look around, there are female racetrack owners, promoters and general managers. Heck, there are even women car owners. Some of the sharpest minds in Motorsports Sales and Marketing are women. A few of the nation’s top touring groups are female led and I can assure you that every successful race team has a woman involved somewhere in the operation and in most cases she isn’t just running back and forth to the pit line-up board or putting tear offs on the drivers helmet.
Nope, these ladies are smart, good looking, and well-educated professionals that know a lot about the Motorsports industry. Trust me, from a sales and marketing perspective many of these well-versed women are going to get into some places that most men cannot even get their foot in the door.
One of those is a gal named Tana Robinson and she has spent most of her adult life in and around racing and her resume is quite lengthy having held numerous high profile positions at some of the top venues in the northeast.
“When I was a very young age my grandparents used to take me to Ransomville Speedway. They actually ran Hogansburg Speedway in the 1930’s and it was because of them that I was introduced to the sport. But, on the business side I got started when I was twenty-four as a writer for Dirt Tracking Magazine, stated Robinson. The following year I was a writer for the Patrick family at Gater News. But it was in 1998 that I got my first real break when I handled the PR work for the Friesen family at Ransomville. We got along really well and they hired me full time and I handled a lot of responsibilities like managing the office, sales and marketing, ticket sales, advertising including writing of all the ads and commercials along with handling the go-kart program as well as coordinating victory lane. I had a lot going on, but the Friesen’s were great people to work for.”
It should be noted that during her tenure at Ransomville the track and the Friesen’s were one of the top facilities sanctioned by Glen Donnelly’s Dirt Motorsports Organization and the track was one of the most looked up to venues in the entire northeast as many other race tracks tried to mirror the program being put on at Ransomville.
“What was really nice about working at Ransomville during the seventeen years that I spend there was having the opportunity to work side by side with my three sons who were employed at the track. Dan was the head flagger, Mike was head score keeper and Jeff handle the handicapping. My two daughter in law’s were also there working in the back office on race nights. It was an extremely rewarding experience being there with my kids.” That, according to Robinson.
It should be acknowledged that during her tenure at Ransomville sponsorship increased an astonishing 500%! With numbers like that it puts an exclamation point on her already impressive resume.
What many would consider as a late bloomer in the Motorsports Industry, Tana Robinson may not have been one of those that was born, raised and lived at a race track during her youth, however once she got involved it didn’t take long for her to learn the ropes and move to one of the most respected Sales and Marketing Specialists in her field.
“I love Marketing, claimed Robinson. It was so much fun working with potentially new and existing clients. But when you had a such a well -oiled machine like what the Friesen’s had at Ransomville it made the job simple. I really enjoy the business end of racing and holding the position of General Manager at Ransomville is what I consider my best accomplishment in Motorsports.”
There is way more that goes into putting on a weekly show other than just swinging open the gates on race night. The casual fan and many drivers do not totally understand the amount of behind the scenes work that goes into a successful program and it goes way beyond the marketing end of the business. Such areas as advertising, staffing, inventory, ordering, ticket sales, maintenance of building and grounds, program sales and paying the bills. There is a lot to it!
“Yes, it is a lot of hard work, but extremely rewarding when the fans and drivers go away happy after a competitive night of racing. Probably the most disappointing part of my job or any track promoter or general managers job is when someone is disgruntled and goes home mad. I have always strived to keep things professionally run as possible and stay out in front of anyone walking away disappointed in how we ran the show. Drivers, their crews and fans spend a lot of money to be here and they deserve a quality program.”
Ransomville Speedway aside, Tana Robinson has also shown her expertise at several other high-profile New York State race venues including Canandaigua, Weedsport and Rolling Wheels. She is also an integral part of Super Dirt Week as well as the Dirtcar Nationals. Currently on Friday nights you can find her at the Outlaw Speedway in Dundee, NY wearing several hats including office work, scoring and coordinating victory lane ceremonies. At the Utica Rome Speedway Robinson handles ticket sales and coordinates all victory lane celebrations.
“Being in victory lane is really cool. You are up close with the feature winners and you get to share in their excitement especially for a driver that had just won his first feature event.” It’s an awesome experience.”
What is interesting about her is that she is not all about, Tana Robinson.
“I like to see the track that I’m involved with be successful. I want to see racing in general succeed. What is rewarding for me is seeing a show run well and people going home with the attitude that they cannot wait to come back the following week and see another great program. That is what it’s all about!”
It is that hard work and a positive attitude that has found her being acknowledged during in the Dirt Motorsports Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony in 2010 where she received the Outstanding Women in Racing Award.
‘That was an incredibly special moment in my career, stated Robinson. To be welcomed in as Outstanding Woman in Racing during the Dirt Motorsports Hall of Fame festivities is something that I will never forget, and I will always be grateful. There are some great drivers, mechanics, women and journalists in the Hall of Fame and to be include in with many of the greats in our sport, that is really special.”
Included her fabulous Motorsports career she has the respect and admiration of numerous other track owners and promoters including Outlaw Speedway Track Owner, Tyler Siri.
Tyler states that "I needed someone who would take control of things and that with her experience (Tana) would get the job done. There isn't anything at the track that she can't handle."
According to Cory Reed, Marketing Director of the Brewerton and Fulton Speedways as well as being the Dirtcar NE Sportsman Director, “Tana is a super organized person who doesn’t mess around. Getting things done and done right is a valuable trait. She is highly proficient in selling and maintaining track sponsorships, which at the short track level is not an easy task. It takes a passion for this sport to stay in it as long as Tana has. Working weekends takes dedication! No wonder she’s a Dirt Hall of Fame Woman in Racing Award Winner.
Trish Friesen, formerly of the Ransomville Speedway could not be more to the point when she proclaimed, “We absolutely love Tana Robinson! She was hired to write for the track by the late Alex Friesen and we were just in awe of her passion for the sport. She has a gifted talent in marketing and business, and she is also a great advocate for the drivers and fans. We worked extremely well together; in fact, we pretty much raised all our kids at the track. One area that she really excelled in along with the marketing was her ability to teach others. She would take the time to work with employees and others to make sure things were done the right way. She could also be tough at times when things were not done properly, but again her passion for making the best race night possible was her main goal. Tana was what we consider the ice breaker. She is the one that made it possible for other women to advance their careers in the sport. When she came here, it was during a time when women still were not too well accepted in racing. However, her work ethic and professionalism are what opened doors for others like her to get involved at racetracks across the region. With all her expertise in Motorsports she would make a great track manager or promoter. Sales and Marketing may be her strong suite, but she is so well rounded in this business that she can handle anything. Commitment, dedication, diversity, professionalism and intelligent. That is Tana and a great deal of our success at Ransomville was because of her.”
Robinson has not rested on her laurels as she continues to stay quite active in the industry and outside of any potential employment at Outlaw and Utica Rome in 2021 her companion, Mike Welch shares the same passion for racing as she does.
Welch currently holds the head tech position at Outlaw Speedway and is one of the top drivers in the Street Stock Division at the Land of Legend’s Speedway in Canandaigua.
In addition to her potential 2021 employment at Outlaw and Utica Rome, Robinson is currently employed part time at DC Allen, but says if the right opportunity comes along for another full time position in the race community she take a serious look at the job description.
Outside of racing she is the proudest of her three sons, Dan, Mike and Jeff along with two daughter in law’s, Stephanie and Taylor as well as two grandchildren Lucas and Madelyn and a third on the way.
Robinson currently resides in Canandaigua with companion, Mike Welch.
On a personal note I have had the privilege of working with Tana at the Outlaw Speedway over the past three seasons. Albeit that I am not there every week I can always trust her judgement that any information she sends along to me for my weekly story is accurate and unbiased. When employees enter the facility on race night they are greeted by her pleasant smile and a friendly face that makes everyone feel welcome. She is not just interested in the drivers and fans having a good night it is also her nature to see that employees are treated nicely as they too are big part of the show. Before I met Tana Robinson for the first time her reputation had already proceeded her as being one of the best sales and marketing guru’s in racing and after getting to know her better I could sense a feal business savvy and thru our conversations and looking at her extensive Motorsports resume this gal has all the right stuff to make a race track work. Should she pursue another shot at a full time managerial or marketing position in racing she will be a tremendous asset to whatever organization that brings her onboard.
Robinson is a real diamond in the rough. It is refreshing to see more and more women involved in racing receive the credit they are due. Ladies, you have come along ways from the days when you were not even allowed into the pit area and it is individuals like Tana Robinson that have paved the way for more women to find careers in Motorsports.