Updated 8/23/19

Joe and Ellen Ellis

Ellen the model

Ellen checking her bag

Ellen with Sammy


Ellen wanders the Canyon pits

Ellen wandering the Canyon pits again

Ellen checks the chili


Ellen posing on a hill at Ventura

Ellen doing what she is famous for

Ellen opening her birthday card

Ellen with a new hat

Ellen at Arizona Speedway

Ellen just hanging

Ellen ready to go watch some racing

Ellen taking a ride at the Museum

Ellen a little sleepy?

Joe at breakfast

Joe at Putnamville


Joe with a rental car on tour in Ohio

Joe at Wagsdash

Joe with his dogs

Joe in the chili cooking kitchen at Ventura

Joe at his 80th party

Joe's cake


Joe suffering at his birthday party

Joe at Ventura

Joe patient

Joe relaxing in his chair


Joe still relaxing

Joe in the Ventura kitchen

Joe and his buddy

Joe at Ventura

The following 24 pictures were provided by Ellen's siter Martha

Ellen dressed up for her ride with Lealand McSpadden

Ellen taking pictures at the Chili Bowl

Ellen shooting more

Ellen "the" back seat driver

Ellen and Wayne Weiler

Ellen at the Chili Bowl

Ellen with Tony Stewart

Ellen with Tony Stewart

Ellen with Nelson Stewart

Ellen with her sister Martha

Ellen and Keith Rausch

Ellen and JD Cormack

Ellen with Johnny Heidenreich

Ellen at PIR

Ellen with Dave Darland and Stevie Reeves

Ellen at the Chili Bowl

Ellen with Wags, George Rimmer, Mike Clark, JD Cormack, Leroy Bedingfield and Jim Thurman

Ellen with Ed and Juanita Raucsh and George Rimmer at the Chili Bowl

Ellen with Joe, JD Cormack and Jason Leffler's fiancee

Ellen in Ricky Johnson's midget with him smiling

Ellen in the back seat!

Ellen and Lealand ready to go

Ellen and Joe, Race Fans!

Joe and Ellen

Joe and Ellen at Bakersfield

Joe and Ellen

Joe and Ellen

Joe and Ellen

Joe and Ellen's with her famous Lighted Lealand sign

Joe and Ellen

Joe and Ellen at Manzy reunion

Joe and Ellen

Joe and Martha, Ellen's sister

Joe and Ellen

Joe and Ellen at AZ museum

Joe and Ellen getting chili

Joe and Ellen

Joe and Ellen

Joe and Ellen

Joe and Ellen with 45th Anniversary

Joe and Ellen

Joe & Ellen

Joe & Ellen

Joe & Ellen

Joe & Ellen

Joe & Ellen at Smart and Final shopping for the Wagsdash

Joe & Ellen

Joe & Ellen

Joe & Ellen in the Manzy grandstands

Joe & Ellen

Joe & Ellen

Joe & Ellen

Joe & Ellen

Joe & Ellen

Joe & Ellen

Joe & Ellen

Joe & Ellen and the famous lighted sign

Joe & Ellen

Joe and Ellen in their back yard

Joe and Ellen

Ellen in front of their garage

Ellen with Wags

Ellen and Sonia Duffy

Ellen with Sherri Spencer

Ellen and Sherri Spencer

Ellen the Manzy Queen interviewed by Mickey Meyer

Ellen and Mickey Meyer

Ellen with Mickey Meyer making her the Manzy Queen

Ellen and Mickey Meyer

Ellen with Steve Stroud

Ellen with Rip Williams

Ellen with her Sister Martha at the Chili Bowl in Tulsa, OK

Ellen with Danny Sheridan

Ellen with Alan Ballard

Ellen with Janet McSpadden

Ellen with Ricky Johnson

Ellen and Dave Darland

Ellen and Lealand

Ellen with Mrs Wags at Ventura

Ellen and Biker Bruce Fischer

Ellen and Seth Wilson

Ellen and Richard Watkins

Ellen with Damion Gardner

Ellen and my son Kevin

Ellen and Ron Chaffin

Ellen and Wags at Ventura

Ellen and Joy Paulson

Ellen and Joy Paulson

Ellen and Jim Fargo

Joe and Mrs Wags eating

Joe and Ol Milwaukee

Joe and Ellen at Wagsland

Joe and Ellen with Mrs Wags at Manzy

Joe and Ellen and Joy Paulson

Joe and Ellen and Wags

Joe and Ellen and Tracy Johnson

Joe and Ellen with Ron Didonato

Joe and Ellen with Joy Paulson

Joe and Ellen with Carey Davis

Joe and Ellen with Darleen

Joe and Ellen with Mrs Wags

Joe & Ellen with Steve and Korie Lafond

Joe & Ellen back in Susquehanna feed in 1992

Joe & Ellen with Mrs Wags at Bakersfield in 1994

Joe & Ellen with Leroy Sweeney and Evelyn Clark

Joe & Ellen with Mrs Wags

Joe & Ellen at the Arizona Museum

Joe & Ellen with Janet McSpadden

Joe & Ellen with Joy Paulson

Joe & Ellen with Tracy Johnson

Joe & Ellen at Manzy with Carey Davis

Joe & Ellen with Jim Herdrich

Joe & Ellen with Jim Herdrich

Joe & Ellen with Doris Clark and Carey Davis

Joe & Ellen with Joy Paulson

Joe & Ellen with Darleen Dils

Joe & Ellen at home with Lealand McSpadden

Joe & Ellen with Janet McSpadden

Joe & Ellen with Lealand, George Rimmer, Jeff McSpadden, Russ Creason and a guy from down under whose name escapes me

Joe & Ellen with Mrs Wags and Steve Stroud

Joe & Ellen with Lealand

Joe and Ellen with Lealand

Janet and Ellen Ellis

Janet with fran and ellen with Brodie Roa behind

Janet with Brody, Ellen and Joe

Joe and Ellen Ellis with Fran and Jim Herdrich

Ellen taking pics

Ellen with Mrs Wags and Leroy Bedingfield

Ellen at the Wagsdash

Ellen with Gale Davis

Ellen at the Wagsdash with Sherri Spencer and Fran Herdrich

Ellen in the Arizona Museum with Mark Thrasher

Ellen with Jeff McSpadden

Joe with Doris Clark and Fran and Jim

Joe with Fran and Jim

Joe's trying to switch the number 80 backwards

Joe with Wilda Kindoll and Walt James

Joe with Galen Fitzgerald and his wife

Joe with Wagtimer Krista

Joe with Don and Dode Templeton

Ellen with Lealand and The Ripper

Front porch duck

Ellen's ride in a two seater

Joe's cake

The Golden Driller awarded to Ellen by Emmett Hahn

Ellen with her Golden Driller

The Golden Driller inscription to Ellen

The Golden Driller

The letter from Emmett Hahn

The first time I saw Ellen Ellis was at the races, and two things stood out immediately before I even met her. First, she always had a bag on her shoulder decorated with racing patches that had a strap that went across her chest, and second, she always wore racing shirts of her favorite drivers that she modified into a lady’s V-neck. In addition, she wore many items that were decorated with black and white checkers like earrings, rings, pins, hats, shoes and even watches. She also had a 3-foot long by about a foot-deep white sign that had LEALAND written in black with lights around the edges. Every time her favorite driver, Lealand McSpadden, hit the track, the sign came out and she lit it up for all to see! You could always tell where she sat in the grandstands because that sign was so unique when she held it up and cheered him on. I’m sure he could always see it when he was on the track! The bag that she always carried was packed with a lot of pictures that she took at every race that had not been “delivered” yet to the subject(s) in each picture. Every race she spent a lot of time in the pits before and after the races visiting and taking pictures of every driver she ran across, fans and car owners, too. Sometimes, it would be months and even years before she found her subject again and was able to give them their own copy, personally. Often, she made an extra 8 x 10 copy, especially if she was in the picture with, to get it autographed for herself.

In her home in Tempe, Arizona are several walls in the “picture room” covered with the pictures she has taken over the years. They are all individually enclosed in a plastic cover and then tacked onto the wall and stacked many layers deep on top of each other! If you had a mind to see all of them, it would take hours to keep lifting the pictures to see them, but it would be worth it! I don’t have a clue as to how many pictures are in her “picture room” but it’s hundreds for sure. Her files are overflowing with all the negatives, before digital cameras happened, and everything organized so she can find them. >{? There are many famous people like AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones and many more NASCAR and Indy drivers up there on that wall of pictures. Many CRA and USAC champions and drivers like Bubby Jones, Eddie Wirth, Brad Noffsinger, Dave Darland, Lealand McSpadden, and so many more are there as well, and she knows them all! Ellen was doing this routine when I met her at Devil’s Bowl Speedway back in the early 80’s and she hadn’t just started either, she had been doing it a while.

Her and Joe have been to a lot of races around the country and gone on many CRA tours to see Lealand and the other stars race. They went to California frequently to see CRA racing at Ascot, Ventura, Santa Maria and many more tracks. That’s how we got to know them along the way. We became friends and began sitting near them at the top of Manzanita’s grandstands in the reserved seats when we went there. It was great that my press status got me in to the pits and grandstands at most of the USAC and CRA races, but I still bought those reserved seats to sit near them on race nights at Manzanita. They also became part of our Wagtimes group and Ellen got involved in the many things we did. She came up with the idea of the driver calendar! Thanks to her idea, she had them made and then also sold them, with the proceeds always going into the annual Wagsdash. She would sell 50/50 tickets or help organize our Wagtimes booths or whatever needed doing, Ellen was always there helping the Wagtimers along the way.

One thing you could be sure of when she was at the races, as hard as she worked for the group, she was always seated in the grandstands when the sprint cars hit the track, she never missed any racing! She and Joe went to every Wags feed along the road, as well, and came for the annual “Wagsland” party we held once a year in Mission Viejo, CA. Ellen was all in on everything she did.

If we raced on Friday and Saturday night at Manzanita, after the Friday night race, and also after PIR day races, she would be up half the night organizing and writing the dates on every picture she had taken to be able to pass them out to the drivers the next day in the pits. Many nights we would hang until we got too tired and then hit the sack as she worked away into the late night. That was her mission every race, to take pictures, get them developed and put in envelopes to give to the drivers, car owners and fellow fans. Over the years, she recorded thousands of wonderful memories for “her guys.” Ellen is a dedicated “ambassador” to the sport of racing and the love she has poured into racing has been returned to her 10-fold because she is loved by all!

Ellen is unique with her love for sprint car racing and watching her interact at the races with her drivers, her friends and other fans is always fun. Seeing her enthusiasm spilling over on all those around her is heartwarming, as they respond in awe at her joy being with them. She will visit in the pits until the lights go out and then hurry home to work on her pictures, time and time again. It has been her life’s work and she is respected for all she has done over the years for so many racers. Everyone who gets a picture from her keeps it, and often will discuss some of them when they are together the next time. And never, I said never, did she ever sell one of her photos, they were always her gift to them!

Another wonderful quality Ellen possesses, is she faithfully sends cards on Christmas, birthdays and other events to all her many friends. Trust me, she receives as many, if not more, in return than she sends out.

Joe and Ellen are loved by all who know them, but they don’t get to travel as much as they once did due to Ellen having Stage 4 lung cancer. An example of that love happened in April at the 4th annual Lealand McSpadden Classic at Arizona Speedway. Ellen was just out of a week-long stay at her local hospital on Thursday before the race, yet was at the track on Saturday visiting with Lealand and many of his followers who gathered around that day. Laurie Sertich, Rip Williams and several others came from the pits to see her and somehow in their conversation she mentioned she had lost her much-loved sprint car ring in the grandstands at Manzanita 10 years ago. Rip quietly asked Laurie, who has made a lot of sprint car jewelry over the years under her business Lad Arts, to make her a new one for Ellen and he would pay for it. He did that because, as he told me later, he really appreciated the many pictures she had given him over the years. He has saved them all and recently spent some time looking through them and enjoying the memories she had captured over his many years of racing. Like many, he loves Ellen and all she has done for him and the other racers. Ellen was beyond touched and appreciative when she received the ring!

Joe and Ellen have been married for nearly 50 years and though they have no children, they always have furry kids (particularly Dachshunds), who are treated better than most kids! Let’s just say their dogs hit the jackpot when they were adopted by Joe and Ellen! Today, they have a lovely little boy named Sammy and he’s spoiled, as all their others have been!

They live in Tempe in a home that is richly decorated in all things racing, including stacks of still boxed die cast cars, racing pillows and more racing pictures than you can imagine! The “Ellis Hacienda” is full of rich stories and memories collected over the years and they can tell you about all of them. We always stay at their place when we go racing nearby and “our” room has a red and white polka dot sign that reads” The Wags Arizona Nest” hung on the door. She has similar signs she puts up for other friends/guests to make us all feel welcome when visiting. We have always felt at home in their home and appreciate their wonderful hospitality each visit! Racing brought us together, but they also became our friends for life, and for that, we are so grateful.

Though Joe is 87 and Ellen 77, they are young in heart, mind and spirit. Unfortunately, they have some heavy health battles they are fighting (like many of us cotton tops). Getting old isn’t easy as many of us know…it just sort of creeps up on you. Some people get in their rockers and are content sitting there as the world goes on by. Others keep on living and enjoying life as much as is possible each day! During our recent visit, despite dealing with the cancer, Ellen never complained. Her mind was on visiting and going to see The Lealand McSpadden Classic!

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