Cannings are Volunteer Speedway's Classic couple

Jeff Birchfield • Jul 8, 2019 at 7:36 PM

Jim Canning Jr. and his wife Sarah Osborne-Canning are into the Classics.

It’s not classic movies or music that they’re referring to. Instead, both husband and wife race in the Classic division at Volunteer Speedway on Saturday nights. It’s truly a family outing with their children, Cooper and Emmy, hanging out at the 4/10-mile Bulls Gap dirt track.

The Johnson City couple has a true love of the sport and Sarah doubles as the track’s official photographer. They’ve raced together for about a year now and there’s a special bond they share wheeling around the No. 13 and No. 31 race cars.

“I’ve been racing since 1998, getting in and out of it,” Jim explained. “When we met, the family life took over and I got out of it. She kept supporting me to get back in it. We found the first Classic. Then, she wanted to do it and we found the second one. I guess we’re in it for the long haul.”

The only time Jim has been worried about Sarah is when he’s watched from the sidelines and has seen all the chaos that goes on during one of the wild dirt-track races. When he’s behind the wheel of his No. 13 machine with the cars sliding and mud flying, the focus is on his own effort. As far as them racing together or with the other drivers, there hasn’t been any on-track issue.

“We’ve never once touched cars,” Jim said. “She races well and everyone knows her at the track where she also takes the pictures. Nobody treats her any differently than one of the guys.”

With Sarah earning her rookie stripes, their fellow competitors have been good to offer a helping hand.

“All of the guys have been real supportive,” she said. “They give me tips and try to help me out any way they can. Some of them have said, ‘Follow my lead or follow my line on the track.’”

It’s easy to see their passion for the sport. They both have a love affair with the automobile, Jim working as a mechanic and Sarah as a welder and fabricator in their daily jobs.

“There are some times it makes it harder to race,” Jim said. “You’ve worked 10 hours on everyone else’s cars. It’s hard to get motivated to come home and work on your own. The good thing is when I work on it through the week, I know what’s coming Saturday.”

Saturday is race day, which means family time and also a chance for them to experience that feeling of absolute bliss behind the wheel. Jim credits new Volunteer Speedway owner Landon Stallard for making it even more of a family atmosphere, while Sarah said it’s a good place to leave the stress of everyday life behind.

“It’s an escape from real life when we go to the race track,” Sarah said. “You don’t think about work. You don’t think about what bills have to be paid. It’s fun where everybody’s nice. It’s a different world at the race track.”

Sarah, who was recently named the track’s official photographer, often has a tough time deciding which role in the sport she likes more, the competitive side of racing or capturing the action through her lens. She did photography in high school, and got back into it as a hobby after receiving a camera as a Christmas gift. Once some people noticed her work, it ended up leading to the current role.

“I went to the race track and took all the pictures of Jim,” she said. “I got a few shots of the other guys and next thing you know, everyone was like, ‘Hey, take some pictures of me too.’ It just blew up from there.”

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