On June 4, Shirley Kear Valentine, owner of Kear’s Speed Shop in downtown Tiffin, was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. Shirley is the fourth woman to receive the honor, and the first supplier.
“I was so shocked, I was on cloud nine!,” Shirley said. “I couldn’t have done it alone, without my family.”
Shirley and her late husband Chuck began the business in 1969. They started out supplying parts for motorsports, but quickly found their niche in sprint car racing. The Kears, along with their children, traveled to raceways all over the country and made a national name for themselves selling sprint car parts.
“Over the years, we have grown with the kids and the shop together; my youngest, Vicki, grew up with racers as friends and vacations at the track. Micki left for a while to go to college to become a nurse and start a family, only to return with her husband and family to the speed shop. Kids have always been a large part of our life and racing, this has truly been our life.”
Shirley said that you miss a lot being on the road so much, but the racers become another sort of family.
The Kears were industry pioneers in many ways. When they started traveling to raceways, women were not allowed in the pit area. “As women, we just had to learn to stand our ground and be accepted,” Shirley said. “Along the way we’ve had promoters, car owners and drivers that are women. This was the business I chose to be in with my husband, and I couldn’t stay home, so, I brought the kids too, when it was time.”
They also spearheaded many events including the Fremont Racers’ Flea Market, Manufacturers’ Give Away Nights at Fremont (worth thousands of dollars), the Kear’s Speed Shop annual Open House (which draws about 200 people each year), promoted a race at the Attica Raceway Park, and created the Chuck Kear Memorial race. Shirley was also inducted into the Fremont Hall of Fame in 2011.
Keep an eye out for signs posted around town announcing Tiffin as the home of National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee, 2016, Shirley Kear!