Inducted into the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 2011
Joan Simmons was born in Detroit on January 16, 1930, and remained in the
Detroit area until moving to Florida in 1992. She died at her home in
Florida on September 2, 2005.
Joan was married to Figure-8 legend and MMSHOF member "Lil Richard" Simmons.
She was also the mother of racer Billy Simmons.
Joan came to racing through her husband, “Lil” Richard,” and ultimately
became more involved in the sport than just being a supportive wife and
mother. No, much more than that, Joan Simmons became a pioneer in Michigan
auto racing and was involved in the sport for well over 30 years with 20 of
those being in the promotional end of racing.
Joan was the first lady promoter in the State of Michigan and possibly the
entire country. In 1950, Joan organized and raced in the Michigan Powder
Puffs. This daring group of women raced at the old Motor City Speedway and
at Flat Rock Speedway. Don’t let the term lady racers fool you, as she and
Gladys Hood raced against and beat the men racers at Flat Rock Speedway.
From 1952 - 1959, Joan worked as a secretary for D.A.R.E. Racing Association
with Jack Goodwin, and beginning in 1956 also worked with Andy Barto at Flat
Rock Speedway with only a short hiatus in 1954 for the birth of her son,
In 1960, Joan took over the promotional reins of the then failing Flat Rock
Speedway where she designed a point system for deciding season champions,
increased the car count, and also increased track attendance by 81 percent.
Joan would stay on as General Manager of Flat Rock Speedway after John and
Mildred Marcum came on board in 1962 up until 1970, where she tended to the
day-to-day operations of the speedway for ARCA. During this period, Joan
also became a licensed USAC promoter, establishing the Figure-8 races at
Flat Rock, and was the General Manager at the State Fairgrounds Speedway
working with Pete Spencer, and became the first woman to become a licensed
Joan led the way in promotional ideas to help increase attendance way back
in the early 1960’s by holding non-racing events at the speedway. Joan
brought in her pet lion and things like wrestling, and circuses in order to
bring non-racing fans to the track, thus increasing fan awareness and
creating new fans of racing. Joan could always be found out front at the
speedway welcoming the fans and then later heading on down to the pits to
thank the drivers for being there and encouraging them. There was no job
that was beneath her at the speedway and she did them all, including
un-blocking storm drains after a storm so the track could dry to get the
Joan had a wonderful career in Auto Racing all the while being the wife and
mother of two successful racing drivers. While Joan’s presence may be gone,
her contribution to the sport will not be forgotten.
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E. Brown with questions or comments about this web site.
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