Beth Chryst Sets Goals, Ready To Move Forward In MX-5 Cup Competition
May. 8, 2012 - TOPEKA, Kan. -
When it comes to professional racing, often the fan in the stands or watching on television is consumed with the front of the field – who is winning, who is leading the championship, who is turning the fastest laps – and misses the battles brewing just behind, oftentimes the most spirited battles in the race.
|Beth Chryst, racing hard at Sebring (Weber photo)
It’s fractions of seconds that make the difference between the two groups, and the difference often comes down to resources – experience, seat time, preparation. The struggle for young drivers, especially, is how to gain those things. A sponsor often wants to see a driver run up front; a driver needs that sponsor to help get the ability to run up front.
Beth Chryst is just one of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup drivers currently staring at that circle, carefully plotting the balance between the two and chasing a dream that began with a go-kart ride as a 14-year-old.
The Herndon, Va. native had grown-up visiting the short tracks in her area, but didn’t truly become interested in driving herself until an acquaintance invited her and her father, Martin, to Summit Point Raceway to participate in the Woodbridge Kart Club’s fun finale. Fifteen minutes on the 2-mile road course, and she was hooked.
For 10 years, the Chryst family traveled up and down the east coast, progressively running up the karting world’s ladder at events on road courses from Loudon, New Hamphire to Daytona, and hitting circuits currently on the MX-5 Cup schedule like Road America and Mid-Ohio.
With Regional, Grand National, and World Karting Association World Championships under her belt, and an accounting and accounts receivable job offering some flexibility, it was time for something new.
“While I was racing go karts, I tested a Formula Renault, I raced a Formula Renault a couple of times, I did my all Skippy schools,” Chryst says. “I made the decision that I’m not getting any younger, I need to jump.”
That opportunity came in the MX-5 Cup.
“I had the opporutinty to buy [former MX-5 Cup competitor Brian] Audet’s car in May of 2010,” Chryst said of the opportunity. “I started doing Regional stuff with SCCA [Club Racing] in September and started in 2011 [with MX-5 Cup].”
The transition was a tough one – with relatively little seat time in a car, Chryst showed up at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the season 2011 season-opener and realized quickly that she was going to have to reassess her goals.
“It’s hard sometimes because we’re used to being up front and being competitive, and it was a huge slice of humble pie for me last year to kind of, well, Beth, you’re going to be caboose,” said Chryst in a moment of self-assessment.
“I think that’s probably the biggest obstacle that I’m still currently faced with. I don’t have the background in car racing that most of the competitors in our series have. I thought it was going to be a much easier cross over, and it really has been quite challenging.”
The struggles gave her a clear path to work down, and after a couple of races Chryst learned that the MX-5 Cup really is the perfect opportunity for a new driver to learn the ropes – both for working on the MX-5 and for her driving.
“We literally printed out the Sachs Shock manual and we sit down and it says ‘corner entry understeer or corner entry oversteer,’ and we sit down and follow our finger over and make an adjustment from there,” Chryst said. “We have the Copeland’s who have more experience with it, so we discuss things as a group. We’re trying to go at it knowledgeably, and doing a little research before we just take a big swing at it.
“There’s more people that I have established more of a relationship with, that I feel more comfortable with. Charles Paquin and I raced together a lot last year, and I can ask him where he thinks he’s doing better and why. He’s really helped me. Everyone at C.J. Wilson has always been really welcoming to me, so I’m sure that if I ever wanted to go to them with a question they would help us.”
Despite the challenges, improvements continued to come during the trying rookie season, and the 26-year-old entered the 2012 season-opening doubleheader at Sebring with optimistic, yet reasonable hopes. The improvements were noticeable for those who were paying attention, but the results still showed a 17th and a 16th-place finish – further down the charts than the small team hoped.
“Unfortunately, my results at Sebring don’t really show it, but I think if you look at the lap times between the leaders and myself that I’m closer to them,” she said. “There’s not such a speed difference between us. That I’m really happy with. The things that I’m not happy with are, like at Sebring qualifying on Sunday, that I’m getting quicker, but I’m still almost last. That really shows the caliber of drivers in the series, I just feel like my improvements aren’t being shown as much.”
With plans to run the full schedule in 2012, however, don’t be surprised to eventually see the No. 2 Chryst Brothers Construction Mazda MX-5 continue to creep up the finishing order all season long, especially when the series returns to some of the tracks that it also visited in 2011.
In the meantime, Chryst will keep working her angles, looking for sponsors, and finding new and unique ways to reach out to people and get some assistance. Chryst displayed her car – one she’s lovingly nicknamed “Miss Scarlet” - at the Washington, D.C. Auto Show over the winter, and blogs about her racing experiences at Female Racing News – and has used that, along with her social media prowess to grow her fan base on Twitter.
“I have been fortunate enough to meet a couple of great people. Studio Rhoad is hosting my website for me, and they made my hero cards. They really are helping me hone who I am as a driver and to lure people in. I’m a driver for Race4Girls, which is an organization where people can donate money and I can accumulate points, and once I accumulate my set level of points I can apply for a grant out of that fund. Other than that, it’s my 7 – 3:30 finance job, and that’s where the funds come from.”
For Chryst, the path is clear – keep pushing, keep improving, keep hunting for those sponsorship dollars, and eventually the results will come.
Chryst, and all of the competitors in the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, returns to action this week with a doubleheader “home race” for the Series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Each race in the Playboy MX-5 Cup in 2012 is aired on Velocity, a high-definition channel in the Discovery family of networks. More information on the series and the television schedule can be found at www.MX-5Cup.com.
Follow the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup on Twitter @MazdaMX5Cup.