Ia Hidden Star: /Ishelley Leslie

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When Shelley Leslie first met her future husband, Ben, she wasn’t terribly impressed.

It was on a family vacation to Daytona Beach, Fla., in 1991, and Shelley was 19 years old.

“We kinda dated,” Leslie said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want any more out of this.’ ”

But she changed her mind, and in December 1992, the couple was married. They moved to North Carolina, where Ben started working with his brother, Tracy, who drove a Busch Series car.

Eventually, Ben started working for Roush Racing. That was cool, for Shelley was a Mark Martin fan from her younger days in Ohio, where she followed the driver from ASA to Winston Cup.

Shelley has worked for Roush Racing for five years now, first part-time and then full-time as travel coordinator and scorer for the No. 17 team and driver Matt Kenseth. That was cool, too.

But before the 2002 season, Ben Leslie was moved from crew chief of Kurt Busch’s team to Martin’s.

“When it happened, I can’t even describe it,” Leslie said. “It was kind of weird. As a young girl, I though Mark Martin was great when he was nobody. And then to come up to, ‘Oh, my God. My husband is his crew chief? How weird is this?’

“Because ben has worked very hard, I always wanted him to be a crew chief. When the Mark Martin thing came up, it was like déjà vu or something. ‘My husband is your crew chief? How weird is this?’ It’s pretty neat. I like it.”

She also likes her jobs with Roush, though they both have their moments. As travel coordinator, Leslie is responsible for five Winston Cup teams – including Greg Biffle’s part-time effort – and two Busch Series teams. That’s a lot of people to move from one place to another.

“If we have all the Cup teams going and the Busch teams going, it’s very chaotic,” Leslie said. “There are about 125 people each weekend. We have our own 727, which is wonderful to have. I’ll take my Thursday people out on it, bring the plane, take us out on Sunday morning and bring us all back on Sunday night.”

Leslie usually has to book 70-80 hotel rooms a weekend, often spread over two to three hotels. She also books 15-20 rental cars, broken down by team. Each team gets three cars, one for the driver, one for the crew chief and one for the crew. On Sundays, she also books a bus to pick up crewmen from the 727.

“It’s chaotic at times, trying to get all my ducks all line up in a row,” Leslie said. “It gets rough.”

She books hotels up to a year in advance, meaning once she leaves a track she calls hotels in that area to book rooms for the following year. Rental cars are reserved at the start of the season.

The conversation with a hotel is often comical.

“Hey, I want some rooms,” Leslie tells hotels.

“How many do you need?” comes the reply.

“I need about 80,” Leslie said.

And she is careful to always book an extra room or two, sometimes using ingenious crewmen’s names.

“I always forget somebody. I always get the phone call, ‘I’m not on the room list,’ ” Leslie said. “Well, OK. There’s always the hidden ‘Pebbles Flinstone’ room or the ‘Barney Rubble’ room. And one of my favorites, ‘Justin Case’ goes with us once in a while. You have to have them.”

Leslie is pretty resourceful when it comes to her other job, too. Scoring can be a boring proposition, especially at a short track. When a race starts, a clock starts counting seconds, and a scorer writes down the time each time their driver passes. At a short track, that happens every 15-20 seconds.

Yes, NASCAR has computers and transponders to keep track of scoring, but sometimes there’s a glitch in the system.

“They do have transponders in the car, but they do still rely on us,” Leslie said. “Every once in awhile, the transponders will break down. Last year at Martinsville, which is one of the most tedious tracks to score, Matt hit the wall, and hit the wall so hard, it knocked the transponder out. They got the car fixed, and they were relying totally on me. I was like, ‘This is great. This is the one track you’ve got to rely on me?’

But Leslie did fine, as she always does. Soon, though, he jobs will end, as Ben and Shelley are expecting their first child, who is due the Bristol night race in August.

Shelley is hoping for the best, that the baby will be born before qualifying or after the race so Ben can be there. She jokes that with her luck, the newborn will want to come out right at the drop of the green flag.

Perhaps, but if that happens, Leslie will figure some way to get Ben there.

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