SWANSBORO, NC – The last checkered flag in Myrtle Beach Speedway history waved on a Mini Cup feature early Sunday afternoon with two North Carolina girls scoring wins at the historic .538-mile track in South Carolina.
15-year-old Carmen Odum from Jacksonville, North Carolina, picked up the overall win in the Coastal Carolina Mini Cup Series feature, edging out older sister Morgan Odum, 15, for the victory. In the Jr. Mini Cup field, which ran alongside the unrestricted CCMCS Mini Cups, 15-year-old Carsyn Gillikin from Morehead City, North Carolina picked up her third career win and her first outside of Carteret County Speedway.
All three girls share a close, personal friendship that extends both at the racetrack and away from racing. The Odum sisters share a room at their home in Jacksonville and they both became friends with Gillikin after meeting at a Coastal Carolina Mini Cup Series race at Dillon Motor Speedway earlier this summer. On Sunday, all three played a pivotal role in writing the final chapter at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
Morgan had won at Myrtle Beach Speedway earlier this year and did her part to help her younger sister’s dream of winning at Myrtle Beach Speedway become a reality.
“I’ve been wanting that win ever since we started racing there two years ago and I finally got it,” Carmen Odum said. “Sadly, this was the last race there but at least I got my win before it happened. Morgan helped me with that. She helped push me throughout the whole weekend to get there. I’m sad that it closed down but I guess we’ll just have to race somewhere else.”
Sunday was not the first time Carmen wrote her name into history. In 2018, she became the first woman in Carteret County Speedway history to win a division championship when she edged out Chase Singletary in the Jr. Mini Cup division. As she and Morgan raced each other wheel-to-wheel, Carsyn Gillikin was looking up to them and cheering them on as she watched the races her uncles, Mini-Stock driver Travis Provost and U-CAR driver Steve Sullivan, competed in at Carteret County Speedway.
Gillikin never knew she would end up becoming such close friends with her idols.
“I was always scared to talk to them and I didn’t know if they would like me or not,” Gillikin said. “It’s great that we can be friends and that we are finally able to race together or finish a race together. It’s also great to know that we were able to make history tonight.”
For both the Odum sisters, who have been featured on WITN-TV where they won an award after a photo finish at Carteret in 2019, it is humbling and exciting to know they are looked up to.
“It’s pretty great to know that you are impacting other people and helping them get into what they want to do and follow their dreams for what they want to do,” Morgan Odum, who finished second on Sunday, said. “It’s just pretty great to be able to make an impact on girls and boys who are getting into racing at any age or any type. Anything that they want to do, they see you doing it, and then they do it and do it with you.”
The younger Odum sister never would have imagined she would be someone’s idol.
“Yeah, I never thought anyone would look up to me as a person or racecar driver, but now that I’ve gotten into it and see that people do, it’s awesome,” she said. “People try to get into racing and I want to help them as much as possible, or if they want to take pictures or get autographs because I’m their hero because I’m a girl racer and I win, it’s just awesome because I like seeing little kids look up to me.”
The bond between the Odum sisters was evident on the closing laps when Morgan helped Carmen’s dream come true in the last ever feature race at Myrtle Beach.
“It felt good to be able to come in second behind my sister because I knew she really wanted to win there and I already had one,” the older Odum sister stated. “It just felt good to know that I had the chance to let her do that and get what she wanted and her dream to win at Myrtle Beach Speedway.”
While Carmen and Morgan predominantly race in the Coastal Carolina Mini Cup Series, which travels across the eastern regions of South Carolina and North Carolina, Carsyn Gillikin is a rookie in the Jr. Mini Cup division at Carteret County Speedway where she has two wins and a second-place finish. Sunday’s win in the Jr. Mini Cup portion of the Coastal Carolina Mini Cup Series feature was her first in the series.
“It’s amazing,” Gillikin remarked. “It’s an amazing feeling to know that I was able to stay up there with the seniors and, it’s great, to be honest. It’s amazing.”
After their victory at Myrtle Beach Speedway on Sunday, the trio spent time together and ended the weekend eating dinner on the waterfront in Swansboro, North Carolina. Gillikin returns to school on Monday for the first time since North Carolina schools were closed in March due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic while the Odum sisters continue to share their bond as both siblings and best friends.
“We share a room and it gets pretty interesting sometimes because some races just don’t go the way we hope to and we get mad at each other so that’s always interesting at night,” Carmen said. “Most of the time, we are very happy with each other and don’t get mad and we always try to help each other the best we can when it comes to racing.”
Morgan plans to enlist in the United States Air Force and pursue a bachelor’s degree, and she hopes Carmen’s dreams of racing in NASCAR come true.
“I think that Carmen’s going to be really awesome whenever she gets into different types of racing,” Morgan said. “Personally, for me, I don’t think it’s going to happen for me. But, for her, I think she’s got big things coming for her.”
“Racing was my main goal when I first started and it still is because, I really don’t know what I want to do yet,” Carmen stated. “I do want to race. Hopefully, that’s where I will go, but if not, it’s okay. I’ll still have it on the side because it will always be a part of me.”
Like Carmen, Gillikin also hopes to one day race in a Late Model but, right now, her focus is on Mini Cup racing.
“I really love driving the Mini Cups right now,” Gillikin said. “I’m not ready to look towards the bigger cars but don’t be surprised if you see me in a Late Model one day. I just love being at the track and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
Gillikin also revealed that she likes to sing while she’s driving – a ritual that she feels helps her not overthink anything.
“It came about one day just listening to the radio station in my earpiece and it just kind of stuck with me since then because I feel like it honestly helped my run,” Gillikin explained. “It’s a good thing to keep me focused and calm, especially when I’m trying to figure out new things with the car so I’m not overthinking anything. I don’t know, it just kind of stuck with me and it’s a thing I kind of do now. It helps me out a lot.”
Throughout its history, Myrtle Beach Speedway has produced historic moments for women in racing.
Shawna Robinson won in the defunct NASCAR Goody’s Dash Series in 1989, and former Southern National Motorsports Park Limited Late Model champion Haley Moody’s first Late Model win came at Myrtle Beach in 2013 in one of the most emotional moments in the track’s 62-year history. Moody was the only known woman to win a Late Model race at Myrtle Beach, although Whitney Meggs picked up a win in a Charger race earlier this year.
The final feature race in the track’s history was dominated by women.