Throughout the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, Advance Auto Parts is spotlighting a series of Home Track Heroes from NASCAR-sanctioned short tracks around the country. Each Home Track Hero, nominated by his or her peers as a result of contributions made to the race track, will have his or her name appear on the C-Post of Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang in a Cup Series Playoff race. The late Jody Deery, the former owner and operator at Illinois’ Rockford Speedway, is the Home Track Hero whose name will appear on Blaney’s car during the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway.
The Home Track Hero whose name will appear on Ryan Blaney’s car during the NASCAR Cup Series championship race at Phoenix Raceway is a special one. And it’s fitting as her home track of Rockford Speedway wraps up its final season of operation.
Jody Deery, who passed away last year at 97, was a leader in the short-track racing industry. Her contributions to racing, fellow promotors and racing facilities can’t be measured; she always stood her ground as a positive influence for other women to be involved in a sport dominated by men. In 1994, she became the first woman to win the prestigious “Auto Racing Promoter of the Year” award.
For nearly as long Rockford Speedway has existed, the Deery family has been involved with the speedway and community. The track was built in 1947 by a group of investors, but by 1966, Hugh and Jody Deery had taken ownership of the facility.
Together, they operated the speedway and raised eight children – Gunner, Ted, Jack, Susan, Tom, Brad, Chuck and David. Hugh passed away in 1984, but Jody was determined to carry on and continued to own and operate the track for more than 30 years with help and support from her children.
“We called it the Deery farm,” Jody explained in a story that appeared on NASCAR.com in 2017. “My husband and I both grew up on a farm. We realized the value of family working together. One of the dreams my husband had was to buy a few small acres and put kind of a model farm so people could bring their kids out from Chicago to see what farm life was like.
“Well that never materialized, but then when we got involved in the speedway it became our farm and my kids, as soon as they could talk or walk, they were involved. They grew up here.”
Jody Deery retired in 2020 at the age of 95. While she was perhaps best known for her role at Rockford, she was just as well known for her generosity. A devoted Catholic, she always went out of her way to donate time and money to those in need.
“Rockford Speedway and all of her community involvement kept her going,” David Deery said. “She was a go-getter. She just never quit. She loved helping people out. My brothers and sisters can probably say it in better words, but that was her forte, really. She always felt that everybody could use an extra hand.”
Jody continued her tradition of giving as part of her will. It was recently announced that she had donated a total of $320,000 to 16 organizations, with each organization receiving $20,000.
In addition, the St. James Catholic Church and the Catholic Diocese of Rockford were each given an ownership stake in Deery Properties, the family’s development group that is working to redevelop the land where Rockford Speedway currently resides.
“My mother was a very generous person and a very religious person, very faithful to the Catholic church,” Susan Deery said. “All 16 she was involved in, either as a volunteer, a member of the board, they all meant something important to her.
“My mom lives on through those 16 charities.”