Chuck Stewart and B.J. Carter race for more than family bragging rights when they speed to the finish line in their mini-stock cars.
We always try to win for our sister Tammy, says Chuck, a native of Hydro, Okla., (pop. 943). Shes taught us a lot about life and racing.
Tammy Carter gave up racing in late 1999 after she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She was the only female mini-stock driver in all the races she had entered before she quit.
Although her prognosis is good, cancer has forced the resident of Thomas, Okla., (pop. 1,176) to become a spectator. She once lived for racing and competing against half-brother Chuck in the male-dominated sport.
Before I got cancer, my greatest fear was hitting the concrete wall around the racetrack, Tammy says. But cancer is much scarier than that.
Fortunately for Tammy, doctors caught the cancer early. She didnt have to undergo chemotherapy.
Brother B.J. Carter of Thomas, Okla., understands Tammys fears. He started racing after her illness to make sure people didnt forget his sister or the impact she made in racing. He now sprints for the checkered flag in her car while she watches from the stands every weekend.
I feel really honored to be racing her car, B.J. says. I figure its the least I could do for my sister. In a way, I think it helps her feel like shes still a part of the racing excitement and the adrenaline rush. I know shes thrilled because I picked up where she left off.
B.J.s drive to make his sister proud helped him earn the 2000 points champion title at Hub City Speedway in Clinton, Okla., (pop. 8,895).
That was a victory for both of us, Tammy says. I was really excited for him. That award is definitely a special one.
Seeing B.J. racing her car is like she never left the track, Tammy says. I feel like his accomplishments are also my own.
Attending races as children sparked Chuck and Tammys love for the sport. Chuck built his own car and began racing in 1996. Tammy followed in 1997, racing for about two years before she quit.
As a kid, I would always sit in the stands and talk about how I would do things differently if I were racing, Tammy says. At the time, I never thought Id get that chance.
A female driver was a novelty, so she turned the heads of many children who are fans. Those kids look up to all the drivers, Tammy says. But they really liked seeing a female driver. It was fun interacting with them.
Bryan Reed, a regular at Clintons Hub City Speedway, says Tammy was probably the tracks most popular driver.
Everybody watched to see if she could handle a mans sport. She proved that she could compete with any man, he says. Reed hopes she makes a comeback. She makes a positive statement for women and racing.
Tammy says she and Chuck thrived on their friendly sibling rivalry but admits competition got a little intense at times.
Tammy did get mad when I lapped her sometimes, Chuck says. But that just made her try that much harder.
With Tammys racing days behind her for now, Chuck and B.J. have taken on the family rivalry.
I like to intimidate B.J. a little bit on the track, Chuck says. I let him know big brother is still in charge.
The two brothers work hard to keep competition in perspective. They know their battle for the finish line isnt nearly as important as some of lifes battles and credit Tammy with helping them realize that.
Tammy dreams of returning to racing in the future.
Racing is in my blood, she says. Im ready to return and show them all whos boss.