At first, motorcycle racing made Margo King sick. She got over it to become America's first female licensed professional speedway racer. Since her modest ambition is to become "good at racing motorcycles," the 26-year-old Germantown, Md., rider is finding her degree in anthropology from the University of Maryland is less helpful than her steady job at a local Safeway.
"I had never been on a bike before I was 20, when I went trail riding with a boyfriend," she racalled."When he got into motorcrosses (a form of cross-country racing), I did, too. But they are very strenuous. In the summer heat, I got violently ill. Since I love cycling, I went flat track racing. The races are shorter. I motorcross when it's cool."
Flat tracks are usually a half-mile or longer around. Speedway racing is a variation on tiny ovals, usually less than 400 yards around, with four to six riders along four laps. Riders complete in five to six races a meet, earning points for each to decide the meet winner.
"Right now, I'm competent enough not to be a danger on the track," she said frankly. "I'm novice pro, the lowest of the three pro ranks. Any rider can turn pro with two years' amateur racing experience. I'm earning points now to move up to the junior rank. It's a slow process."
It's slow because last season King fell off a minibike and needed 40 stitches in her leg, then suffered "a strange infection in my clavicle. This year, I'm plagued with rainouts."
There are only two speedway tracks in the East. "It's worth a few bucks to be the only woman competing, but I need my job to support my racing," she said.
King does all her own mechanical work, with help from friends at a Gaithersburg cycle shop. She laughs when asked about women in racing.
Women can race," she said." I don't understand why they hold back."