not very often that you hear somebody say, "racing saved
my life", but Debra Mathias feels like she can make that
claim. Deb credits driving a racecar with saving her
life, and her doctors say that is entirely possible. The
use her upper body and the pressure of the shoulder
belts during an October 2003 Sports Car Club of America
(SCCA) club race caused her to feel the presence of a
tumor at a very early stage. Deb was diagnosed with
breast cancer in December 2003. She underwent surgery,
chemo and radiation therapy, completing her treatment in
June 2004. Deb is a confirmed believer in breast
self-examination, which combined with the stress of
competition, allowed for the early detection of her
Deb's goal throughout her therapy was
to race again. After a period of time to recover, Deb
was ready to get back in her car. Although not at 100%
of her ability, Deb competed in one National Auto Sports
Association (NASA) race and four SCCA races in the
latter part of the season. Her lap times were not as
fast as her times the previous year. Deb lost a lot of
her strength due to the chemotherapy, but she worked
through the pain and got out on track. In her last race
of the season Deb began to get back up to speed, and she
ran enough events to again qualify for an SCCA national
license in 2005. Because of Deb's courage and
determination, her peers awarded her with the 2004 Area
4 Spec Miata Sportsperson of the Year. A fellow
competitor describes her as a "solid driver".
grew up near Raleigh, North Carolina, as Debra Cummings.
She had two older brothers who both had a strong
interest in automobiles, and she was exposed to
motorsports at an early age. A lifelong NASCAR fan, Deb
has driven the Richard Petty Driving Experience twice,
once at Charlotte in 1996 and once at Las Vegas in 1999.
That sparked a desire to compete. In 2001 Deb and her
husband Dennis decided to race in SCCA Club Racing.
During the winter of 2001-2002 they prepared a Mazda
Miata that they share in the rapidly growing SCCA class
of Spec Miata, a class for equally prepared Mazda Miatas.
The class rewards driver ability above horsepower and
large budgets and offers close, exciting wheel-to-wheel
racing. Deb had no road racing experience but she passed
both of her driver's schools at Nelson Ledges Raceway,
near Warren, Ohio and earned her regional competition
license in 2002, competing in 3 events.
In 2003 Deb competed in 7 events at
Mid Ohio and Nelson Ledges. In each race Deb improved
her lap times and finishing position over previous
events. She raced in both SCCA and NASA events. She
earned an SCCA national competition license for 2004.
Deb's goals in 2005 are to get back up to speed and to
race in many more events at tracks throughout the
eastern United States. Debra and Dennis reside in
Galena, Ohio, in the central Ohio area, and are members
of the Ohio Valley Region of the SCCA and the
Ohio/Indiana region of NASA. They have named their team