Being a girl shouldn't slow you down
Did you ever want to get involved in a "boy's" sport, but thought you might be intimidated by the boys who played them? Stephanie's advice is to not let that stop you. When she was 5 years old, she got in the seat of a race car and has been driving ever since. In 2004, at age 16, she became the youngest female race car driver to win the U.S. Auto Club race (USAC). Read her story about how she got started, where she is now, and what her future holds.
How old are you?
I just turned 20 on January 24th.
What is your hometown?
Westfield, Indiana, a small town about 25 minutes north of Indianapolis.
When did you realize you wanted to be a race car driver?
I've always grown up looking up to my parents as many normal kids do. For me, my dad was a race car driver. He offered my sister, Shannon, and I a chance to race when I was 5 years old. I decided to let Shannon feel the waters first! I watched my sister for a little while and one day I randomly walked up to my dad and asked if I could "try it." He said, "try what?" And I replied, "I wanna race." From that point on I have been in the seat of a race car every summer. I was more into baby dolls and Barbies the first few years, but, by the time I started winning races, I was HOOKED!
In 2004, you became the youngest female driver to win a United States Auto Club (USAC) race. What did that feel like?
That was a very unexpected thing. I had no idea that I was going to be the first female; I was just looking to win the race the same as every other driver there. I did not know I was the first until the interview and it became a big deal from there.
Would you say that was your greatest achievement?
I would say that my greatest achievement would be finishing third place at the 61st Annual Coca-Cola Night before the Indy 500. It is a race for the USAC National Midgets and I started very deep in the field. My teammate ended up winning the race and it was a night that I will remember forever. I am hoping to be able to win that race in the coming years because it's a really cool night in Indianapolis; the following day is the Indy 500.
What is your favorite part of being a race car driver?
There are really a lot of things! I am a really lucky young lady to be able to be living my dreams at a young age. I can't thank Ford Racing, Clorox, and East Enterprises enough for the opportunity that I have been given. I love every part of this sport…but I would say most of all I love the adrenaline rush that you get. There is no other feeling like winning a race.
What other activities do you enjoy besides race car driving?
I would say that I enjoy running the most; it is a great way to vent frustration. I also enjoy playing tennis (which I played all through high school). I like to be outdoors and be active.
What does it take to physically prepare to be a race car driver?
It's actually a lot more of a physical sport than people want to believe. I have a personal trainer to help me with lifting weights because, being a girl, I am naturally not as strong as the guys that I am racing against. I do a lot of the running and cardio on my own. I try to make sure I am in the best shape I can be in.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration would be my dad. He has always been there for me and makes sure that I am able to race every season and stay "sharp" in the race car. He wants the best for me and has always been there for advice when needed.
You are currently attending college in Indiana as a sophomore. What are you studying there?
I am actually studying at a college in downtown Indianapolis called IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis). I am studying Mechanical Engineering Technology, and pursuing a Certificate in Motorsports and a Minor in Business. I am hoping to never have to use these degrees because ultimately I want to race for a living. I do realize that things can happen and it is best to go to school at this point in my life because it only gets busier from here.
Is it hard balancing your career and studies?
Sometimes. It's really easy for me to get burnt out on school (just like anyone else). I just make sure to push through it because I know that it will benefit me either way. I am studying what I love and it does help me to know about the technical side of racing.
What advice would you give to other girls who want to be race car drivers?
Only do it if you love it. Don’t let anyone push you into it, because if you don't enjoy it, you more than likely won't succeed. If you love the sport, go for it. And if you realize that you are competing in a "man's world," you’ll be less likely to get discouraged. It's a great sport!
Photo © Ron Laymon
You were recently named one of CNN.com’s ‘Young People that Rock.’ What did that feel like?
That was a cool thing to be on CNN.com. My sister, Shannon, was the one who landed that interview for me. It was very good publicity for me and we are looking for sponsorship to race a USAC Sprint Car next year. So maybe it has helped get my name out to people that watch CNN.
Feel free to add anything else you may want to share with our young female readers.
We can all do anything that we want to do—don't let people get to you. As girls, we may be the minorities in some sports, but in my sport, the race car doesn't know if I'm a girl or guy. It's important to keep your focus on what you really want to do because it CAN be accomplished.
Content last reviewed May 01, 2008
Page last updated May 01, 2008