The legendary Bowman Gray Stadium will open its gates for the first time in the post-pandemic era on Saturday and one of the drivers who will receive lots of cheers is Sportsman competitor Amber Lynn.
Unlike several of the Bowman Gray Stadium regulars, Lynn has been racing semi-regularly since the coronavirus pandemic began, predominantly in the Carolina Pro Late Model Series. But the 22-year-old from Walkertown, North Carolina is ready to get back to Bowman Gray – even if there are things she enjoyed about her time away from The Madhouse.
“I’ll put it this way, I’m excited for most things,” Lynn told Short Track Scene. “Some things, not so much. The drama, social media, you get that anywhere, but at Bowman Gray, because you have so many people, it’s so much worse. I enjoyed my time away for sure. I missed it, but there are a lot of mind games that happen at Bowman Gray Stadium so it was a very good mental health year.”
Lynn scored four top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes in the Carolina Pro Late Model Series, which raced at four different tracks. She believes that touring experience will give her an edge at Bowman Gray, which does not have any rubber on the surface after nearly 22 months without racing, and she expects to win at least three races on the season.
“We’re hoping for at least three wins, seems like a constant theme over there for us,” Lynn said. “The track is so different. There’s no telling how these other guys are going to take it. A lot of the men, and the women honestly, they don’t race at other tracks, so I don’t know if they have the ability to adapt as well. As far as I’ve seen, a lot of people are doing pretty good.”
Anyone who has ever been to Bowman Gray Stadium knows the track is a different experience, for racers and fans alike than any other short track in America. The partisan fanbase and the engaging driver personalities make the atmosphere at the track electric – which famously contributes to overflowing tempers and fights which are almost always caught on camera.
Lynn, who feels she has been disrespected in the past due to her gender, has been caught up in some of that herself – including a viral incident in 2019 that earned her the nickname “Amber ‘TKO’ Lynn” from track announcer Randy Pettitt.
“A lot of people gained respect for me because, being a female, men have this aura around them that, ‘I’m the man of the Madhouse, I do what I want, and there’s nobody who can tell me different.’ Then a little girl comes there, I think I was 17 when I started there, and I win. They’re like, ‘this can’t be, this is my house,’ so they try to push me around. Then that incident happened and, even though it had nothing to do with racing, it stood out to let most people know that I’m not going to take anybody’s, well, let’s say crap.”
Lynn, who became the first woman to win a Sportsman (Limited Late Model) race at Bowman Gray Stadium in 2019 and is the only woman to have wins in two different divisions at the track, now hopes to because the only the stadium’s second female champion. (Glenda “G.R.” Merritt won a championship in the former Blunderbust division in 1982.)
“If you’re not thinking about a championship, you shouldn’t even go to the track,” Lynn stated. “I don’t see myself any different than the men, I just see myself as a driver. I feel like it would be more monumental to the fans and my family because I have a huge female following.”
After the abbreviated Bowman Gray Stadium season ends in August, Lynn will return to the Carolina Crate Modified Series. Until then, she will compete full-time at The Madhouse, which has not held a race since August 2019.
“When Bowman Gray ends, we’ll probably run some more Carolina Pro and Modified races, probably more so on the Modified than the Pro Late Model. Our sponsors are on the car for Bowman Gray. I love being there because I love all my fans and I miss my fans. I try to stay in contact with a lot of them. They come to Bowman Gray for Bowman Gray as well, not just for me. I like Bowman Gray.”
Aside from in the workforce, Lynn does not feel too affected by the social impacts caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“[COVID-19] really hasn’t affected me,” Lynn explained. “The restaurants closing did bother me. I’m a wife, I cook a lot. The whole mask thing is annoying, but it doesn’t really bother me. I did lose my job initially, a small business that couldn’t keep up, so I had to get a different job. But we kept racing. Our year started really late last year, it started in May, where it normally starts in February.”
Lynn has six career wins at Bowman Gray Stadium, three in a Street Stock in 2017 and three in Sportsman in 2019. The 2021 season at Bowman Gray Stadium will go green on Saturday, June 5th.