A teenage race car driver said she’s been the victim of hate, harassment and threats at Oxford Plains Speedway.
Bella Flaherty said she’s been targeted for her age and gender. The family that owns and operates the speedway said this is the first they’re hearing of it.
Bella, who lives with her family in Alfred, started racing stock cars when she was 10.
“I’ve never raced with another girl. Always only been the only girl. And we’ve never really had any problems,” Bella said.
The 16-year-old said that changed this year at Oxford Plains Speedway, where she’s been targeted on and off the track.
“They run after me. They scream at me. Say that they’re going to fist fight me. I’m underage,” Bella said. “We’ve had people come up to us and tell us they’re going to wreck me. I’ve been spun out. Driven into the wall.”
Her father and crew chief, Rob Flaherty, said the adult men she races at Oxford don’t like her for some reason, and they let her know it.
“Not even a half a lap, they drive right into the back of her. Racing is racing. But not wreck her every week. And when I brought it to the track’s attention, they don’t care,” Flaherty said.
Bella and her dad said they went to Oxford racing officials and the director of competition for the speedway.
“We went to them about a month ago, and we shared our complaints. And they just hushed us up and told us that it’s not their problem. And then last week, we went to track officials. We went to two different people, and they wouldn’t do anything about it,” said Bella, who is currently fourth in the standings in her division.
Bella posted online she’ll no longer race at Oxford, saying: “For months we have been putting up with the disrespect from drivers, physical contact, words of hate, sexual harassment, threats. I’ve been told ‘I’m a bad driver’, ‘Girls shouldn’t race’, and get physical death threats every week from grown adults. The track has done nothing to help or stop it.”
Mike Mayberry, the vice president of Oxford Plains Speedway, said the organization never received any complaints from Bella or her family. He believes the family is upset because this past Saturday the parents went into another driver’s pit to voice concerns for their daughter’s safety and were asked to leave by security.
Bella’s father said he only went to the pit to find out why a racer and his dad were chasing after his daughter.
“Two grown men, chasing her through the pits, there’s several witnesses. Two grown adults had to stop these guys from chasing her down and attacking her. This is enough. We’re not going back to Oxford,” Rob Flaherty said.
Mayberry said Oxford Plains Speedway welcomes female racers, and their fans enjoy watching them.
Bella said most of the issues she’s been having are with the adult men whom she races. She will continue racing, but not in Oxford.