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Roy Schmidt photo from 2006
Roy Schmidt photo from 2006

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 (Loves Park, IL) – As you walk into Jody Deery’s office, you look over to the right, stop and just stare at the giant newspaper headlines that fills the wall. The history on that wall alone is only a small part of the 60 years of racing at the Rockford Speedway.

Mrs. Deery, the matriarch of one of the “first families” in short track racing, is preparing for the 60th year of racing at the young age of 82. Her energy level hasn’t slowed down and her will to have one of the finest facilities in the Midwest is still at the forefront as the promoter of the high banked quarter-mile oval. She is realistic and optimistic about the track’s future, “I don’t know where the economy or the future of grass roots racing is going,” Mrs. Deery recently stated. “But, I think if we all work real hard, it will survive.”

Mrs. Deery also realizes that the competition is much more than it was when her late husband, Hugh Deery took over the Speedway in 1959. “Everything goes in circles, we are at the bottom of the circle and we are looking forward to things getting better.” Mrs. Deery states. “The competition for our entertainment dollar has increased. It’s a constant battle to compete with other forms of entertainment." Entertainment has always been the focus within the Deery family. Her late husband always felt that the Rockford Speedway was an entertainment place rather than just a racetrack. “He always did,” Mrs. Deery confirmed. “If you at any of the articles on the wall, he always said we are not in the racing business, if you want to go to a race, go to Daytona. But if you want to come and have fun, come to Rockford Speedway.”Hugh’s idea of entertaining came from his love of the circus, “He loved the circus, and anything he thought he could put from the circus into the racetrack, he would.”But that wasn’t to everyone’s liking. “People used to criticize him because they didn’t want all of these circus acts,” Mrs. Deery recalled. “But we did the Penny Gold Rush, Bike Races, we did thing like that for the kids that nobody ever did. We also had grocery cart races and bowling contests on the track. Those were some of the unique things we did; I don’t think anyone else did them.”Mrs. Deery moved into her Promoter role after Hugh’s death in 1984, “I felt like I was one of the first women promoters, I felt like a pioneer.”

In 1994, Mrs. Deery was recognized by her peers as she was selected as the Racing Promotion Monthly Auto Racing Promoter of the Year. Hugh received the award in 1976 & 1984.Mrs. Deery will be the first to admit that it was hard to fill Hugh’s shoes. “At that time, there were Jack, Tom, Chuck, David and Susan (five of her eight children) all here,” Mrs. Deery recalled. “In those days, all my kids thought they wanted to be Hugh and they couldn’t. So somebody had to say no, so I had to be the top and they couldn’t fill his shoes. They all wanted to fill his shoes but we all had to take part of his shoes to fill it. I mean we took a segment of what he did.”Another thing that Mrs. Deery has seen in her 45 plus years of operating the Speedway has been the evolution of women becoming more involved in racing. “The one thing that stands out for me is that when we were racing back in those days, women were not allowed in the pits.” Mrs. Deery remembered. “And if they did go in the pits they camouflaged as boys. They put their hair up under their cap and wore men’s clothing.”

Today Mrs. Deery feels that the percentage of race fans is about 50/50 between male and females and is proud to have the Winged Women on Wheels as one of the racing divisions competing every year at the Speedway. Another thing that Mrs. Deery recalled was a certain color. “Anyone wearing green was forbidden on the racetrack, car or in the pits because that was an unlucky color.” But the one thing that Mrs. Deery enjoys more than anything is the people she interacts with in the racing business. “People would ask, aren’t you afraid with dealing all of the money that you are going to get robbed? I said if we did, I don’t think they would get out of the track. Because racing fans and racers are probably the most loyal to their kind. If they saw us being robbed, they would put themselves in jeopardy to help. This is the kind of people they are.”

But, Mrs. Deery probably sums up the racers better than anyone else, “They hate each other, but they love each other. They are very unique.” Each year, Mrs. Deery presents the Jody Deery Award of Excellence to someone or a group for their outstanding humanitarian efforts surrounding the Speedway. This year’s award was presented to Ryan Carlson and Mark Numbers for their fundraising efforts for the RAMP (Regional Access & Mobilization Project). RAMP’s mission is to promote an accessible society that allows and expects full participation by people with disabilities.

Mrs. Deery's other achievements include: Who's Who Female Executives, 2000 in recognition of leadership abilities; Don Martin Memorial Award, 1999 in recognition of efforts to enhance the image of auto racing through a spirit of generosity and dedication to the sport of auto racing; NASCAR Team Player of the Year, 1998 in recognition of the spirit or cooperation, sportsmanship and contributions to the NASCAR Winston Racing Series; YWCA Connie Tremulis Award, 1995 in recognition of female business owners.Along with being the Owner and CEO of Rockford Speedway, Mrs. Deery is also the owner and CEO of Deery Companies Inc.; Owner of Forest Hills Lodge, Inc.; Partnership in Midwest Motorsports, Inc.; Shareholder, Board of Directors, Consultant of Byron Dragway in Byron, IL.Mrs. Deery received an RN Degree in May 1946 from St. Anthony’s School of Nursing in Rockford, IL.

The 60th season starts on Saturday, April 7th with the Spring Smash-O-Rama. The 30th Annual Spring Classic will take place on April 14-15 with the Wisconsin Challenge Series, Big 8 Series, and the Mid-American Series will be in action along with the first ever Hornet vs. Bandit Challenge.The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series weekly racing action will kick off on Saturday, April 21st.For more information or to get your advance tickets, please call the track office at (815) 633-1500 or visit the website at
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