A Trip to the Track Has Turned into a Lifelong Adventure for Kathy McLeod, SCCA’s 2023 Steward Worker of the Year

Kathy McLeod’s first experience with sports car racing came as a spectator at the Chicago Region June Sprints at Road America in 1966. Three years later, she was dating a gentleman who was going to Road America to race, so she tagged along. “It was fun to be a guest because I could run around and do whatever I wanted,” she remembers. “But I wanted to do more.” Through the years, she’s undeniably become more involved, having her accomplishments recognized in 2023 as one of the SCCA® Workers of the Year, presented by Mazda.

After that 1969 Road America experience, she next attended a race at Brainerd – there, she worked a corner as a tower recorder.

“I did that for a year and decided that what I really, really wanted to do was to be out [on the corners] and flag,” she says. “That’s where I stayed for many years.”

In the early 1970s, there were two women in the flagging corps, primarily at Blackhawk Farms, who were interested in becoming Stewards. “We were told that we could come to all the training sessions, but that females were not welcome as Stewards at that time,” she recalls. “I learned a lot by going to the training sessions and appreciated what it took to be part of it, but it was still an ‘oh poop’ kind of moment.”

When McLeod moved to the DC area in 1981, she was still determined to become a Steward – but then racing intervened. “I bought my first race car and raced for 10 years,” she says. “I was a poky SSC driver with the nickname ‘Pylon,’ because the guys always used me as a pick, which was OK because I knew they did it. They thought I didn’t [know] and laughed when they found out.” When she stopped racing, McLeod found that the Washington DC Region welcomed women in the Stewards program, and she’s been there ever since.

One of McLeod’s primary responsibilities this year is as a Race Director for SCCA’s U.S. Majors Tour which, she admits, is both “extremely frustrating and extremely fulfilling.”

McLeod has a goal for every driver’s meeting to give the drivers something to think about. “Last year, one of my topics was arm restraints,” she says. “It came from an incident where a driver was wearing his restraints way up on his arm. He rolled [his race car] ... I told the drivers that I wanted them to have all their fingers.” She received several good responses from drivers when they realized that, by wearing the restraints properly, they could do everything they needed to do and be safer.

A Steward has to be a bad guy sometimes. “I don’t make a very good bad guy, but as Operating Steward at Summit Point last year, I hollered at a group because they were way overdriving a yellow, and a guy went off and almost hit a tow truck,” she recalls. “Nearly all of them apologized during the weekend.”

McLeod’s reason for remaining in SCCA is one you might have heard before: the people. But she went further. “The people in SCCA are fabulous. I don’t think there are that many other groups, other than the military, where once you’re a member, you have a friend everywhere in the world. There are no six degrees of separation in SCCA – it’s more like one or two.”

During her time in SCCA, McLeod believes she’s tried nearly all the specialties, and she continues to work more than one now, including being the pre-event Registrar for her Region – she and Betty Harrison do all the pre-event work for DC Region. “We don’t want any surprises on Friday when we arrive at the track,” she says. Still, she’d like to do more, saying she’d like to spend a little more time with Timing & Scoring “because it will give me a better appreciation of some of the things that go on in Stewarding.”

McLeod stays quite busy within the Club, something retirement allows her to do. The weekend after this interview, for example, she was Clerk of the Course at Summit Point.

It’s been an unbelievable journey, with many adventures along the way – and SCCA was honored to be able to recognize some of McLeod’s accomplishments in 2023 when she was named the Club’s Steward Worker of the Year.