Not surprisingly, Ryleigh Lemonds doesn't remember the first time she attended a race at Langley Speedway. She was only 18 months old at the time.
That night, Aug. 28, 2004, is one few fans of the 62 year old track will ever forget. During the Legends 25-lapper Ryleigh's grandfather, Dale Lemonds, crashed off of Turn 2, hit the wall and died instantly.
Months later, Dale's widow, Sandy Lemonds, bought the track to honor the wishes of Dale, who had agreed to purchase it three days before his fatal accident. One of her first acts was to christen "Dale Lemonds Victory Lane."
Before this past Saturday, no Lemonds had won at Langley since Dale's final victory in June 2004. Ryleigh, who turned 9 on Wednesday, became the first to drive into the Victory Lane bearing her grandfather's name, by winning a 15-lap race in a miniature stock car called a Bandolero, which weighs 550 pounds and reaches speeds of about 70 mph.
The race was Ryleigh's first at Langley and only the eighth of a driving career that began in January. The victory is her fourth and by far her biggest.
"It's very exciting to be the first (Lemonds) to win here since D-Daddy won," Ryleigh said, using the name Dale's grandchildren call him. "My parents told me he was a good driver and won a lot of races and championships here.
"This is very special."
Dale, a stock-car driver for more than 30 years, introduced Legends Cars — 5/8 replicas of 1930s coups — to Langley Speedway the final decade of his career. He won two division championships and dozens of Legends races, sharing the hobby with son Chris, who won a handful of races himself.
Joy remembers that when she told Dale she was pregnant with Ryleigh, he said, "Call Langley Speedway and reserve a car number." So Ryleigh's win at Langley was a celebration of past and present for Joy and Chris.
"Ryleigh is a third-generation Lemonds, and they've all had wins at Langley," Joy said. "It's neat that she won in her first race at the track.
"They probably spent 50 hours on the car this week, tinkering and practicing."
Chris said, "Those three minutes in Victory Lane is what this is all about, not so much for me or the (family) history.
"It's about her. Ryleigh knows how much work goes into this, so for her to be able to reap the rewards feels good."
Racing is more fun than hard work for Ryleigh, a third grader at Seaford Elementary in York County. Competition cheerleading, now that's hard work.
"I got really tired of cheerleading because I had to go to practice four days a week," she said.
So when Chris asked her if she'd prefer to race, Ryleigh jumped at the chance.
"Racing's a family thing and I like to go fast," she said. "I'd race five days a week if I could."
Opportunities are plentiful, because Chris and Joy own Little Race Cars. The Legends and Bandoleros vehicles and parts dealership requires them to be at a track somewhere in Virginia or the Carolinas most spring and summer weekends.
Chris and Joy say they have always been open with Ryleigh about her grandfather's death. And while Ryleigh says that thought scares her a little, she trusts that her parents have provided everything to make her car as safe as possible.
In any case, she's having too good a time to give up racing any time soon.