I met Jennifer Lathrop and her husband, Randy, when I was living in Northern California a few years ago. While I noticed that they were both picking up the pace on the off-road track, I couldn’t help but be curious when I heard that Jennifer could wheel a dirt oval car with the best in the country. When I learned that she had picked up a class championship in the Triple Crown Dirt Oval Series last week, I sought her out on Facebook to ask her about her racing career for this week’s Talk It Up Tuesday.
Aaron Waldron: How old are you, and where are you from?
Jennifer Lathrop: I am 33 years old. I was born and raised in Santa Rosa, CA but currently living in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.
AW: How did you get into RC, and how long have you been racing?
JL: RC was introduced to me by my husband, Randy, back in Dec. 2011 when he brought home an old HPI Blitz. Naturally, I was like “what is this?” LOL. Randy ran a few races and one day handed me the controller and said “here, go try it.” Well, that was all it took — and I was hooked! Six years later and the racing is still going as strong as ever!
AW: What do you do for work? Does your job make it difficult to attend racing events?
JL: I work in the medical field — as a First Assist Surgical Technologist for a plastic/reconstructive surgeon. I am very fortunate with my work schedule, and it does not interfere with any of my racing events.
AW: When did you decide to start attending big races and trying to attract sponsors?
JL: I never looked at it as attending big races or trying to attract sponsors. We just went out and raced, and the majority of the sponsors that I have, have come to me.
AW: What’s your favorite track? Favorite big event? What different classes have you raced - and which is your favorite?
JL: My favorite off-road track is the old indoor track at A-Main Hobbies, called Outback Raceway. For dirt oval, it was BMI Raceway in Ohio (which was an indoor go-kart track with over 30 degrees of banking).
I have been again very fortunate to have raced as many classes as I have. I have ran on-road, stock and mod sedan; off-road 1/10-scale mod and stock 2WD buggy, mod and stock 4WD buggy, stadium truck and short course; 1/8-scale E-buggy and nitro truck; dirt oval 1/10-scale mod sprint, wingless sprint, SC Mod, and 1/8-scale nitro late model. My favorite off-road car is my 4WD buggy, and my favorite dirt oval car is my mod sprint car.
AW: What are the biggest differences between off-road and dirt oval racing? How are they similar?
JL: The biggest differences are that, in off-road, you have to learn how to control the car in the air — and in dirt oval you have to learn how to keep the car in a specific line while doing 4-5 second laps. You have to have very good car control in both, along with a good car setup.
AW: What is it like being a female racer in a male-dominated industry?
JL: It’s tough, and has its moments. Most of the men do not take you seriously until you prove yourself on the track. I’ve personally had to keep my head down and kick ass on the track to earn respect, especially in dirt oval.
AW: How does the racing scene in your area vary from other places you’ve visited?
JL: We are very spoiled out here in California! We have some of the best tracks in the nation!
AW: What are your proudest RC moments?
JL: When I won the DLMRA national championship in 2012 at BMI Raceway in Ohio. I was the first female to ever win a national dirt oval race. I still get chills just thinking about that race. And I’m also proud of my recent championship win in Outlaw Sprint from the Triple Crown Dirt Oval series held at the Auburn Performance Raceway Dirt Oval. That championship was up for grabs down to the last race and last lap. That was extremely exciting!
AW: Do you have any goals for your RC career?
JL: I will be running the 2018 Chili Bowl Nationals dirt oval race in Tulsa, Oklahoma. That is going to be a very tough crowd and my goal is to make the A-Main in all 3 of my classes: mod sprint, wingless sprint and SC Mod. I would love to run the IFMAR Off-Road Worlds someday, and maybe move up in the RC world and continue to make my sponsors proud.
AW: When you’re not at the racetrack, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
JL: LOL! When am I not at the racetrack? My hobbies are racing, racing and racing. If I’m not at the RC track, then I’m at a dirt track watching sprint or wingless sprint cars, or at an on-road track watching full-size cars or trying to get into a full size car myself. I love racing!
AW: What’s the best part of RC racing? What about RC racing annoys or bothers you?
JL: The best part of RC racing is all the people. I love seeing and hanging out with my RC family and meeting new people. It’s never a dull moment at the track. What bothers me the most is the lack of racing etiquette from other drivers. Reminder, you are not going to win the race the first lap nor first corner — lol.
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most?
JL: #1 Randy Lathrop — my husband; I would not be where I am if not for him. He has taught me all that I know, helps set up my cars, and gives me the most amazing support! He is the best crew chief! Thank you!
Randy Pike; He has helped me in so many ways, and helps me understand my cars in a different way. He has so much patience when explaining anything and everything. He has been so supportive over the years. Thank you!
Brian Strange; Brian has been there from the beginning. I can’t tell you how many times we have walked tracks together while he explains to me which lines to run and why in off-road. He has always been able to explain things to me in a way that “clicks.” Thank you!
Kevin Jelich; I have been very lucky to have one-on-one time with Kevin as he showed me tips and tricks in the off-road world. Thank you!
There are so many others that have helped me in one way or another: Ruben Benitez, Brent Thielke, Brian Sullivan, and more. I can’t thank them enough.
AW: Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JL: Thank you so much for contacting me for this interview, this really does mean a lot to me.
I’d also like to thank all of my sponsors for standing by my side with the best of support: Tekin, Pro-Line, DE Racing, ProTek RC, A Main Hobbies, Schelle Racing, Gens Ace and Maverick Chassis). And stay tuned — you haven’t heard that last of me. I have a lot of big plans for 2018! You can always see/follow where I’m going to be running next or what’s going on in my RC life on Facebook at Jennifer “Sippy Cup” Lathrop: www.facebook.com/sippycup48/