This article was written by ToughTested Ambassador Wendy Parker during an interview with race car driver Cassie Gannis’ mother, Kathy Gannis.
Kathy Gannis never had a problem finding something on television to entertain her daughter, Cassie. From a very young age, Cassie had a fascination with racing. While her sister was entertained with things like “Sesame Street,” and popular children’s shows, Cassie had other requests.
“I just want to watch the cars go around in circles, Mom.”
When your 4-year-old chooses racing over cartoons, you may be on the fast track to eventually watch her … on the fast track. And that’s precisely what happened.
Today, Cassie Gannis is a 26-year-old force to be reckoned with – both on and off the track. In 1999, at the ripe old age of 9, she began racing quarter-midgets in a used car her dad, John, fixed up. John promised if she worked hard and did well, they’d move on to more expensive and bigger cars. After acing 15 top five finishes in 18 quarter-midget races, Cassie not only worked hard and did well, she mashed the pedal and kept on going.
Her professional goal of racing in the Sprint Cup Series is on target with recent approval to participate in NASCAR Xfinity Series. Cassie’s point standings in the NASCAR Super Late Model series at Tuscon Motor Speedway show Cassie holding her own. She’s in the Top 10 early in the 2017 season. Cassie doesn’t just “watch the cars go in circles” anymore, she races one of them.
Watching your child come “full circle” to attain her goals has a whole different meaning to a mom of an aspiring race car driver.
Kathy wasn’t new to racing. John raced dwarf cars as a hobby. So, their daughter’s interest in racing wasn’t totally out of left field. Cassie was also a gifted swimmer, and her mom kind of hoped she’d stick with swimming – for obvious reasons – but it wasn’t meant to be.
After years of begging her parents to let her race, Kathy and John made a deal with Cassie, who struggled with dyslexia. They agreed if she memorized the rules, they would get her in the quarter-midget program.
A combination of sheer will and hard work enabled Cassie to learn the rules front to back, and the rest, as they say, is history. Cassie had her NASCAR license before she had her regular driver’s license, and had put more miles on a track turning left by the time she was 16 than most people do in a lifetime.
While it’s not the profession Kathy would have chosen for her daughter, she realized early on it was Cassie’s passion. As a parent, she knew the importance of supporting that passion.
Parental instinct still kicks in. As a mother, she can’t help but have concerns. But as a manager, Kathy is confident in the crew and safety equipment they use. Veteran status in a number of racing circuits has given Kathy the insight to understand that even though so many things on the track are out of her control, the ability to choose – and surround – Cassie with a top-notch team of professionals is something that greatly improves her safety.
With a season that runs from February to November, Kathy has spent more than one Mother’s Day weekend on the race track, and there’s no place she’d rather be.
Happy Mother’s Day, to all the moms out there, supporting the dreams of people you love. Thank you for being Tough Tested!