Jim Baker's Then and Now

Meet Hannah Rickards

When you grow up in the Mississippi River town of Canton, Mo., have an interest in cars and racing you wind up attending events at Tri State Dragway at Kahoka, Mo. That is the path taken by a young Len Rickards, who became friends with Jack Briggs, a well-known drag racer from nearby Quincy, Ill. When we started writing for DRO in 2010, Len saw my name and inquired with publisher Jeff Burk if I was indeed the same Jim Baker who ran Tri State Dragway during the ‘60s when he attended? The positive response from Jeff has spawned a close friendship with Len and family while unveiling the interesting story which follows about Len’s daughter, Hannah!

Fast forward to 2017, Len is married to Sandy and they live in the Las Vegas Summerlin Desert Shores community. Their daughter, Hannah, is the subject of my column. After lower grades 1-12 in Denver and Mesa, Az. the family settled in Las Vegas where Len is a regional manager for Mercury Insurance Company and a well-known car nut.

 

After graduating from UNLV, Hannah accepted a PR job with the Las Vegas Sands Corporation at their Venetian Hotel & Casino. There she utilized some of her many talents becoming a gondolier on the hotel’s elaborate canal system. She sang and guided tourists through the replica of Venice, Italy.

 

While employed at the Venetian, an opportunity arose for a Public Relations intern at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. She accepted the offer and for a time worked at the Speedway part time and sang for tourists ‘on the strip’.

 

Hannah’s responsibilities at LVMS grew under direction of General Manager Chris Powell, covering all aspects of the sprawling Motor Sports Complex just north of the Las Vegas Metro area, to the point that continuing as a gondolier was no longer prudent.

 

Today, Hannah is one of the top PR executives at LVMS. Her Official title is Director of Client Relations, and she has been the ‘voice’ of the short track ‘bull ring’ stock car track and is entering her seventh season. Twice a year, the NHRA ‘Big Show’ props its tent at the Drag Strip portion of the Speedway. Hannah does celebrity interviews for local TV, Radio, and Fox Sports.

Although quite young in the business world, Hannah has already earned an Award of Merit from the Public Relations Society of America, plus an Electronic Media Award. Her work has appeared in: NASCAR Home Tracks; Motor Racing Network; National Dragster; Drag Racing On Line; Z.F.Com; CBS Radio; The Huffington Post; Fox Sports 1; and Speedshift TV.com.

 

This past April found her doing interviews with several NHRA stars during the NHRA Denso Nationals at LVMS. These included John Force (above), his daughter Brittany, plus Ron  Capps; and Tony Schumacher.

VOLUME XIX,  NUMBER 6 - JUNE   2017

Las Vegas Motor Speedway is one of the most popular tracks in NHRA Division 7. Hannah helps the team participation that has netted the raceway ‘Track of the Year’ several times.

 

Her main job responsibility at the complex is to:

 

- Ensure fulfillment of client and partner deliverables by maintaining departmental contract database, designing pre-race documents such as suite guides and vendor information packets, and creating year-end reports

- Manage on-site event elements including vendor midway layout and logistics, Neon Garage setup and entertainment, plus operation of corporate suites

- Support development of sales strategies by compiling research, data collection, and calendars of local upcoming events.

 

WOW!

She has ‘hands on’ experience too. When the Pure Speed Drag Racing Experience came to the Speedway, Hannah took the instruction and drove their dragster. Then she got her ‘best buddy’, father Len, to do the same. To quote Hannah directly, “Even at an early age, I realized the ‘nitro gene’ might be real after all.

 

“My grandfather satiated his need for speed through jalopy and boat racing. While a funding shortage derailed his high-speed hobby, he continued sharing his passion with all three of his children. Similarly, my dad passed his love of motorsports to his pigtailed, pink-enthusiast daughter. We followed burning rubber from Denver to Phoenix, and eventually Las Vegas, all while catching as much seat time as possible in everything from Ferraris to dragsters.

 

“Upon completion of undergraduate studies, I secured the amazing opportunity to host video updates and question-and-answer sessions for Las Vegas Motor Speedway.”

Another part of Hannah’s beat is the ‘Laps for Charity’ event held yearly during January at the Speedway. For a donation of $30 to Speedway Children’s Charities, anyone with a safe, licensed, and insured car can drive several laps around the track at speeds approaching 100 MPH. Shown above are mom, Sandy, and Hannah at the track waiting while we boys made another pass. DRO photographer Brad Baker even ended up in the Winners Circle!

The ‘Laps’ event draws more than 800 participants and forwards a large amount to the Children’s Charity every year. This writer has made the scene yearly while living in nearby Henderson.

Several seasons ago, Hannah’s natural ability and acumen from UNLV allowed her to cause even John Force to ponder his next comment.

And back at a time when Pontiac was still a brand of GM and sponsored a Pro Stock Special at the LVMS drag strip, there was Hannah interviewing Mike Schmidt. To quote Hannah again: “Much like the Rickards patriarchs, I find no greater joy than imparting my zeal for motorsports, creating unforgettable events, and encouraging everyone to get behind the wheel of a dragster.”

OUCH! In an attempt to ‘cool’ off, Hannah and a group went to nearby Mt. Charleston for some snowboarding. She said that each run was a ‘little scary’ as they tried to stop at the bottom. After several uneventful trips down the mountain, they decided to go one final time. And as fate would have it, she fell getting off the ski lift, breaking her right wrist. The injury sure didn’t take away her wonderful smile!

After my wife died unexpectedly in October 2014, there was father Len and Hannah inviting me to the Goldstrom Car Show in Las Vegas. Spending the day with those two photographing cars and talking to racers was great therapy for me. Thank you!

Everybody has a hobby or favorite sport. Even though she works in the Motorsports world full time, Hannah’s other passion is marathon competition. Here she is in her favorite ‘banana’ shirt at a recent run.

And when the winningest Funny Car driver in history declares you as the Champ, you know you really are special! We agree.

 

It is my opinion that drag racing suffers from a lack of star power that it had in the days of the Beach Boys and Chuck Berry. As long as it has folks like Hannah Rickards as a spokesperson, there is reason to smile about the future of our sport!

 

Until Next Time, Be On Time!

 

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