Paula Shank, a 31-year-old racer from Petersburg, Va., isn’t afraid to mix it up with the big boys in the AMA ATV Extreme Dirt Track National Championship Series.
Shank not only captured her fifth consecutive Women’s championship in 2012, but she also finished first in the Unlimited A class and seventh in the Pro-Am Unlimited class, racing some of the best men racers in America.
And for Shank, winning never gets old.
“I feel great and excited about winning both the Women’s and Unlimited A Championships this year. I also feel very proud because this was 5th consecutive Women’s Championship,” Shank says.
But the victories didn’t come easy. She says all the competitors in the Women’s class are tough and keep her on her toes. Her fiercest competition in the Unlimited A class came from her teammate, TC Gordy of Germanton, N.C. That championship was decided at the last race.
“The Pro-Am Unlimited class, where I finished seventh, included many great pro and amateur riders,” Shank says.
Winning takes a lot of concentration. Here’s how she tackles the track on the first lap:
“I pull up to the line and pick a good starting spot. I clean my starting spot off and heat up my tires. The starter gives the sign to start the bikes. I pull the clutch in and put my quad in second gear. When the starter points at me, I immediately look at the light and hold steady on the gas. When the light turns green, I dump the clutch and get on the gas,” Shank says.
“My goal is to get to turn 1 first. I go as fast as I can and as long as I can into the first turn, pull the front brakes in and tap the back brakes to set the bike up for the turn and slip the clutch to get through the turn and out of the turn as fast as possible,” she says.
“I continue racing the entire track and concentrate as much as possible. I try to get down the straight sections and through the turns clean and as fast as possible. I don’t let up until I see the checkered flag,” she says.
Shank pilots a Honda 450R, which she says “handles great, runs awesome and is fast.”
Like other competitors in the AMA ATV Extreme Dirt Track National Championship Series, Shank enjoys the family atmosphere of the races and hanging out with her family and friends. She also enjoys technical tracks, where she excels.
She’s no newcomer to ATV racing, having started riding a quad at the age of 5 while growing up in Clyde, Pa.
“I went to a race with my brother and decided I wanted to start racing ATVs,” she says.
“I began racing in 1990 on a Suzuki 50cc. I continued racing by competing on an 80cc Automatic and then an 80cc Modified. While racing the 80cc Stock and Modified ATVs, I won multiple District 5 (Western Virginia, Western Pennsylvania) championships,” Shank says.
“Then, in 1996, I moved up to racing a Honda 250R and began racing the AMA ATV National Motocross Series in the Women’s class. I continued racing the AMA ATV National GNC Series from 1996 to 2000 when the series consisted of half motocross and half TT races,” she says.
“In 2001, The AMA decided to split the AMA ATV GNC Series into two different series. There was a motocross series that consisted of 10 to 12 races and a TT series that consisted of six to eight races. I continued to compete in the AMA GNC series and rode a few of the races in the TT series,” she says.
“In 2006, I decided to race the Extreme Dirt Track TT series full time and only raced a few of the AMA motocross races,” she says.
When she’s not blasting around on an ATV, Shank says she enjoys hanging out with friends, hunting, fishing, watching football and drag racing, and going to the gym or to the movies.
No racer achieves success along. Shank thanks Gordy Racing, Fly Racing, Streamline, Quadtech, Hinson, Rath Racing, Full Flight, Tom’s Cycle, Lias Tires/American Racer, K&N Filters, VP Race Fuels, DWT Technology, Victory Motorsports, ESJ Graphics, Exotic Powder Coating “and a BIG thanks to my dad!”