Pit Lizards: An Oral History of Racing’s Wildest Subculture

EDITOR’S NOTE: A portion of this article was removed at the request of one of the interviewees. All questions and answers, including the removed content were approved and answered by the interviewees themselves before publishing.

Motorsports has fascinated and entranced me for my entire life. Over the decades, I’ve made it a priority to learn as much about my favorite sport as humanly possible. When it comes to the cars, the drivers, the business side… I’ve been fortunate enough to absorb a lot of information to better understand this passion. One thing that’s frankly fascinated me in recent years however, are the, uhhhh, social lives/personal lives of some of its competitors.

Fine, let’s play it straight: I want to know about the pit lizards. If you’re unfamiliar, pit lizards go by many other less glorified names: mud dobbers, track treats, hauler crawlers, rubber humpers…but the title can best be equated to a “groupie” of the racing community. For all those years, and even today, racing for me had been a family experience- in the sense that I’ve almost exclusively attended races with family or very close friends. The social lives of any of the drivers was never something to think about, except for the movies and tv shows. While I’ve been expanding my mind recently on this aspect of racer life, everything on this particular subject all came to a head late last week.

The personal life of professional dirt late model racer Tyler Carpenter was brought out into the public eye last week as his Facebook fan page was suddenly used to air some dirty laundry. The post in question, confirmed to have been created by Carpenter’s wife (and has since been taken down), described in no uncertain detail the names and circumstances of an affair between Tyler Carpenter and another woman. Let’s be super-duper clear, nothing in this article will make light of or involve anyone’s family or children, nor will it make a case for any kind of infidelity. That being said, I was intrigued by the notion that this whole affair was specifically caused by what was described as, quite simply, a “pit whore.” As I devoured all the social media drama that Friday provided like it was some kind of meal, I was presented with a number of questions: Are pit lizards really that prevalent? Do those who chase drivers have any particular goal in mind? Is the pit lizard phenomenon really all that different from the sexual missteps of anyone in the non-racing community? To get the answers, I went back to the trusty internet and started asking around.

The Drivers

Some teams take things less seriously.

Who better to ask first about this than the main attractions themselves? Most everyone I talked to wanted to be cloaked in anonymity, and as you’ll soon read, for very good reasons. While I was unsure of the responses I would get, I was able to make contact with several drivers from across the country. Some were former, some are current, some from local tracks, and some with national credentials. My first question was of its prevalence. While it may have peaked before the age of social media, it’s always been a part of the racing subculture. As one driver told me about the ritual of the Saturday night races,

Back in the day everyone used to hang around in the pits after the races and party until the track owner announced that he was closing the gates, and then we would move the party out to the front field. There was a circle of girls back then who almost made it a competition to see who they could hook up with. Believe it or not I had two girls fight outside the gate one night ‘cause they both wanted to come home with me and didn’t want the other one there. It was strictly hooking up with no relationship or strings attached. Almost like a status statement.”

Naturally, pit lizard life isn’t merely confined to the home track. In fact, in some cases the place to race was indirectly determined by the girls themselves (track promoters worried about car counts, take note of this one),

“For several years when my home tracks rained out, I would always find another track to race at, sometimes 5 hours away. Many times I decided where I was going by which pit lizard was going to be available. I was single for the record. I shake my head now, but there were some huge rivalries created because some of these pit lizards made you feel like there was gonna be more.”

Perhaps most perplexing to me was the concept of the “married pit lizard”. Not in an infidelity sense, that’s not surprising at all. What was surprising was who they were married to in the first place,

“Many of the pit lizards are married to racers. And that doesn’t stop them. In one instance, one very top notch driver actually enjoys the swinging deal and watches. We could have a series on Netflix with all the crap that happens behind the scenes.

It’s not all fast cars and faster women with some racing operations however,

“Well, not really sure a pit lizard is a good thing in general, they can be distracting. My team has a strict “no lizard” policy, we don’t need the distraction and drama, and besides, we need to focus on trying to win.”

The Wives and Girlfriends

There’s a big, BIG difference between any supposed pit lizard and most of the women in the pit area, especially significant others who are actively a part of a race team. If you’ve ever walked through a short track’s pit you’ve seen what I mean: some run for parts, some handle the scoring and lineups, some are under the car making changes, some built the damn engine…there are a lot of race teams out there that would be sunk without the wives and girlfriends that keep the whole operation together. Surely some of these women have an opinion about the lizard life. First off, what’s the best way to tell the difference? One such crew member tells me,

They want the attention of being a racer’s girl, they don’t give a shit about the sport or the man. Pretty easy to spot them, they’re the ones in the pits with a full face of makeup and their hair all done up, super short shorts and boots and they don’t own a racing shirt. Every last one needs their ass whipped.”

The thought about becoming a racer’s significant other seems to be nearly universal, but one dirt street stock girlfriend/mechanic explains that most would be in over their head,

“I think that they want a racing man. But, as a race car driver’s woman, I know that it looks pretty on the outside, but they have NO IDEA. My nails are black. My fingers are bruised. I wouldn’t trade a Friday night for anything. I work on his car just as much as he does. We are a team and that’s how it should go! We can all see who’s in it or not and for what.”

Matt has an Audience with the Queen

When taking on this project I wasn’t expecting to meet royalty, but after some intense political wrangling, I was at long last meeting the supposed “Queen Pit Lizard.” Sounds a little unsettling to be talking this directly with such a polarizing accolade, but after speaking with her I’ve learned a whole new appreciation for the phrase. The first thing to ask of course, how does one claim such a title? What makes her the Queen Pit Lizard?

“Honestly, I had no idea what it was and what the title “pit lizard” truly meant. I’ve heard things like it’s girl who goes after a driver with lots of money with nothing but sexual intentions, to a girl who longs for attention from every driver. I feel like nowadays a lot of girls in the racing community from all around, from every state and track get misjudged as a “pit lizard.” In my case my so called ”friends” like to pick and choose who is called a pit lizard one weekend to the next.

Her personal race track experience led to plenty of misconception and prejudice,

Since I grew up around racing, from having drivers in the family, to having family members who have ties to a few different race tracks in KY, you meet a lot of people, and you build many friendships. I don’t know how it is at all tracks but the majority [of drivers] are all guys here in Kentucky. I have a lot of friends that are drivers, WITH NO SEXUAL INTENTIONS, or even caring about getting special attention…and because I am friendly to all and cheer them all on, I was a labeled a “pit lizard.” It’s all fun and games in a close knit circle until it then turns into high school drama all over again because another lacks attention from the “group.”

So as a young attractive woman in the pits (she is also “Miss Speedway” in her home state of Kentucky) gets branded as a pit lizard slut…gross. But why wear it with pride?

“I think after some time they realized I didn’t care what they had to say, what they called me, nor what they thought of me. None of that mattered to me. No one outside of my group of 5 “friends” called me a Pit Lizard, it all came down to attention for one person— and putting others down, name calling, and starting drama was their way of collecting attention and laughs from the peanut gallery. None of the drivers I am friends with are interested in the drama, nor have time for it. They are there for one thing, and one thing only. TO RACE. I know who I am and I know I stay true to myself.
If my “friends” didn’t think much more than they clearly do of me, and choose to drag my name through the mud, and talk bad about me consistently, then I’m just going to brush it off with a smile. But I know when it comes down to it, I know who is on my side.”

But when it comes right down to it, the Queen herself can’t imagine most real racers could even find the time for such extra curriculars,

The way I see it, there is already so much going on at the race track from making adjustments to the cars in the pits… grinding, grooving, and siping tires, fueling up, adjusting aerodynamics, checking and repairing parts, all the way down to the drama out on the track…the drivers accusing other drivers for racing dirty, one intentionally crashing another, confrontation in the pits, it is a sport that is full of unexpected things happening all the time. There is no doubt about it, emotions always run high at the race track. I just don’t see how there is time for anyone who is truly there for the racing, to sit and pick out the pit lizards.”

Tyler Carpenter.

Iesha Carpenter speaks to TehBen.com

The launching point of this whole article was inspired by Iesha Carpenter’s social media explosion. I was dubious about the prospect of speaking with her, but she’s been amazingly candid with me in the days that have followed. While private family details will always stay off of this website, we felt it important to share her thoughts as to the root of the problem,

“I feel like when women throw themselves at men, married or not, they are going to look at it like an easy piece of ass and they are going to go for it. [The Drivers] don’t look to commit to them at all and they don’t want to get caught but they keep talking to them so they will slowly go away. I feel like I had to tell the world because this happens all the time and I’m sure this won’t be the last home wrecked by [the other woman]…I never wanted to hurt Tyler’s racing career. He’s not a bad guy, he just made some terrible decisions.

*As of this writing, Tyler Carpenter has not returned TehBen.com’s request for comment.

Could that really be all there is to this issue? Is there nothing else to this subculture than no strings attached sex for at most a status symbol notch on the proverbial belt? Most of us on the other side of the catch fence get a kick thinking about racer groupies, but hardly anyone I’ve talked to feels “good” about this stuff other than those that have some cool old war stories. I was fully prepared to end this article on a somber note, but one of the first drivers I talked to reached back out to tell me a little more about their experience.

The way I met my future wife was because I met her at the track 30 years ago during kart week at Daytona, and I was winning everything at the time. If it wasn’t for that she probably never would’ve noticed me or paid me any mind. I’m blessed with a good one who loves racing and loves me racing too. They are hard to find.”

If nothing else, no matter the obvious heartache, the tension, or the piggish old world behavior we’ve covered, there’s always going to be at least one story that works out in the positive, and we should always remember that possibility. There’s a natural connection for us as race fans and racers alike to be drawn to each other from the shared experience, and naturally some of that connection (depending on the people) is going to evolve sexually. But maybe, if we take a step back and think more about what brings us together, we can be better prepared for the things that try to drive us apart.

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4 comments

  1. This is hilarious!! These were around when I raced in the 80s (males also) but we just called them groupies or hoes 🏁🏁. I first heard them called Pit Lizards by a friend a couple of years ago 🦎 😂😂

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