Going ALL IN with Barefoot Ronnie and Emerald Pace

Barefoot Ronnie Pace

When you hear the term “all in “you usually think to poker tournaments or betting like that, but not normally drag racing. When it comes to Ronnie and Emerald Pace they are the exception, they are “all in” in this lifestyle now and will do everything to make it work. This is their only way of life right now and we couldn’t be more thrilled and excited for their dedication and what is to come this season.
Ronnie was born in Georgia then moved to Weatherford TX when he was 10-11 years old. That’s when and where he met Emerald. Now I’ve heard of high school sweethearts, but junior high sweethearts is a whole other level of sweet swoon goals, like a made for TV movie. She caught his eye walking down the hallway and near he gave himself whiplash. It’s been like that ever since, turning heads and making others love jealous. They are a true ride or die pair. Emerald and Ronnie have been together for 32 years and married for 28 of those years. They have two children and 4 grandbabies in total.
Ronnie has been into cars all of his life, he remembers being about 8 years old at his grandpa’s house where his grandpa and uncle were working on a Chevelle with a 4 speed. “They threw me in the back seat and I’ve been in love ever since.” It’s been a nonstop journey with and no plans of stopping.
Most guys have a main job and then racing comes next, but not for Ronnie. He had a small concrete business but had to let it go to pursue racing full time. This is what we mean when we say they are “all in”, it is not just a metaphor. During the events Emerald is his rock, not only does she look fabulous lining him up on the starting line, but she whispers words of encouragement, helps calm him down at the light, plus she does all the computer work for the car. She isn’t afraid to get dirty, looks out for him in case someone tries taking advantage of his kind and trusting nature, “she’s my right-hand man and I couldn’t do it without her.” Emerald is someone to look up to that doesn’t get nearly enough recognition for us female race fans.
Ronnie is old school and a die-hard street racer who happens to love JJ the boss and loves the heads up style of racing. Not so much a fan of all the other ways to do a street race like taking the hit and so on. He currently has 4 cars, 71 black Nova, 71 green Nova, 68 Nova, and a blue 71 Nova and a partnership with a 67 Camaro.
Many people wonder how Barefoot Ronnie got his name, well here is the quick story. Ronnie was at a street race many years ago with Street Outlaws, he was on the line backing up, and Big Chief starts knocking on the window. “Damnit boy where’re your shoes at?” Ronnie replies “I don’t wear em.” “You’re going barefoot?!?!, ok then, Barefoot Ronnie it is.” Thanks to Big Chief years prior to the nickname stuck and here we are today. When Ronnie’s car caught fire on TV, Chief and Shawn were the first ones to reach out to him to check and see if he was ok and needed anything. It’s things like that, that aren’t shown on TV all the time, and solidifies that this sport is truly a family. Sometime after that Ronnie received a phone call at 11 pm on a Thursday night asking if he could make it to a No Prep Kings event. Of course, he jumped at the chance and worked all hours of the night to make it to Oklahoma for Friday night at 7 pm. He made it there with one minute to spare at 6:59 pm for the drivers meeting, which was his first time ever down an actual drag strip and his first time on NPK. He lost to Barry Nicholson in the first round. He’s still learning how all of this works, using the tree instead of a hand drop or a flashlight, and selling shirts at the events to help make it to the next race. It’s all a learning curve for them, this time next year look out!
It took Ronnie and Emerald a long time to agree to do the show, they were so afraid of losing their credibility of street racing. Ronnie is the type of guy who will drive around looking for a street race, it’s the adrenaline and thrill of it all, as it is with most of the drivers. In the very first Street Outlaw season, his goal was to get the 66 Chevy Nova on TV but not him. Ronnie explained that when they saw the cameras coming around, the entire family would hide out of view in the trailer. One race against Doc, Ronnie’s brakes went out, he went through an intersection, jumped the tracks and ended up a ¼ mile deep into a cornfield. Luckily everyone was ok. Emerald and Ronnie are always looking to improve themselves in every facet of this lifestyle. She’s always nervous for what he is about to say while the cameras are on. In terms of boasting themselves up, they don’t. They are a very quiet couple who does not brag or trash talk about a soul out there. The social media accounts are simple and they let the car do the talking for them. A purest approach which is extremely appreciated in the eyes of the fans. Although there was one time Ronnie beat Kye Kelly, which is his grandson’s favorite driver, he had to call his grandbaby and tell him who he sent home. The Pace family has such a kind mentality and a humble spirit. They get along with everyone on the circuit and has deep admiration for the majority of them.
It’s no secret that Ronnie and Emerald don’t come from a lot of money aren’t ballers in the sense of fancy trailers, spare parts or team members. When the couple says they are “all in to do whatever it takes to make this work”, they mean it. He works on his own car, does his own paint and body work. They love to travel and to see as much as they can while on the road, but it doesn’t come easy. One time headed to a race in North Carolina they ran out of fuel, they had no money or no credit cards. Ronnie jumped out and started panhandling, doing anything he could, even offering to sell his personal belongings. Luckily someone pulled in at the gas station and recognized him and filled his tank. We need more people like that in this world. After making it to the race event, they survived off of selling shirts, shared value meals and copious amounts of sandwiches. This life is a hard one to try and live, but with the help of this racing family they couldn’t have made it at times. The pair have a special thanks to James “Doc” Love, Joe “Dominator” Woods, Ryan Marin, and Cali Chris Poncia, who helped them with anything they could including groceries. The Pace’s owe them so much and will always have their backs no matter what wherever they are. On top of the many thanks, they have for the drivers and their families they also owe their gratitude to Mark, Bobby, and Darren at DMB Motorsports in Delaware/Maryland. Without them they would not even be at the point they are now.
A highlight of Ronnie’s career was when he wasn’t even racing. He went to a different racing event and through the pits he heard his name being shouted. It was Clay Millican, and he wanted to take a picture with Barefoot Ronnie, a real street racer, which took Ronnie by surprise. His dream car is a 69-70 Superbird with a big ol’ wing on the back. He is also currently pursuing his dream job of driving and hopes that it will eventually pay off. Most people make a judgment about their favorite tracks by the racing surface, but they also take into consideration the tracks accommodations. Since the pair has a small travel trailer without sleeping quarters or water, they look for warm water to use to freshen up. They have a window unit for A.C. in the trailer, use a hair dryer for heat all the time (even at home), and a torch to make grilled cheeses. With that being said Norwalk is at the top of their list. Despite hardships, it has not made them jaded, in fact, because of all this, they are even more thankful for the fans and opportunities they have before them. Ronnie’s huge heart shows when he meets and greets every person he can that comes to see him, they love hearing all the stories about the people and how they got there and stories about their own cars. He will never say no to a signing or a photo op, and if you can’t afford something of his, just tell him, don’t steal it, he’ll most likely just give it to you because he knows what it’s like to go without. Ronnie and Emerald at one point turned their living room into a workshop for fans. They have over 100 pieces of random car bits and parts and signed each and every one of them. Just like B-Rad Brad Eglian, Ronnie also hands out hot wheel cars to the children when they come around to his pit. “The fans mean everything to me, if they stop coming, we stop racing, we’re so incredibly lucky to be a part of this”.
When, not if the day comes that Ronnie and Emerald start to make it big, their dream is to help others. Visiting children in the hospitals, bringing other guys with them to brighten up the kids day. Show them that dreams do come true in this world. He would also love to start a raffle somehow at the beginning of the season for the younger crowd. He would like to build a car and at the end of the season hold the raffle for it. It’s a way to get the younger generations involved and help start them off so the sport doesn’t die out. He would also like to send his momma on a vacation as well. After traveling and racing, the couple loves to come home to their family and momma and daddy, to have a Sunday dinner with them, and play cars on the floor with those grandbabies they love and miss so much.
Not many people realize that this lifestyle isn’t all flashy lights, cameras, and a huge bankroll. We forget there is off camera things happening, friendships being made, and non-blood families coming together to help one another out. Ronnie and Emerald Pace prove to the world that there is still hard work and dedication that goes into family, the sport, and trying to make dreams a reality. We may not know which car for sure he will show up in, but look for the shirtless, shoeless guy in the pits, and if you can, bring him some ice cream, he’ll be our best friend.

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