Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face, you have no clue what they may say and a couple of times you’ll hear something that surprises you or gives you a bit of a perspective.
Throughout the 2019 season, I had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of different competitors. During those interviews, there were some quotes that stood out. So it seems only fitting we take a glance back through the year at what was said.
I think the biggest thing is – I don’t want to sound negative, but just be prepared that it might not work out. I think it’s easy for all of us, whether you’re a dad, you’re a friend of a racer or a competitor of a racer and look at people and say, “Oh, they’ll make it. They have plenty of talent. They’ll be in Cup one day, or they remind me of Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon.”
But there’s no model there anymore. So I think young guys that growing up in racing, whether quarter midgets, bandalero, late model, or even the K&N division, is just take advantage of every single opportunity that you can. Don’t waste it, because it cost way too much money to be out there and there’s jobs on the line for a lot of crew guys that are working on those cars. But don’t waste your opportunity, and be prepared that you can go out there and do everything right – you can win races, and you can win championships, and there’s still a really big chance that due to the business, you’re not going to make it on Sundays and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I work with Noah Gragson and I tell him this all the time – just don’t waste your opportunity because if you go out there and win five races over the year and do everything you can, and you’re prepared, and you’re preparing your body to battle, and you’re communicating with your team – if you come up short and you can’t make it to the Cup Series, then you can still lay your head down at night and say you gave it your all. But don’t be the kid that wastes the opportunity and doesn’t take advantage of it, because then you’re going to be feeling a lot of regrets.
So I think it’s about being mentally prepared of the challenge to work your way up through the sport in today’s atmosphere to where it’s not just about talent, but the funding you have in place and what you do with that and whether you take advantage of it.
It’s a really cool position I’m being putting in this year. I’ve raced for the past 15 years and I’ve always kind of been one of the very few girls in the midwest for the up-and-coming drivers to admire and to learn off of. Now that you’re getting into the higher NASCAR series, your platform gets bigger and bigger.
My role for that is to go out there and do what I love; go out there and win and show that it really doesn’t matter, boy or girl, you can go out there and do whatever sport you want. So if they’re looking for inspiration to gout there and race against all the guys, that’s great; but if they can use what I am doing on the race track to help them pursue their dreams, whether racing or another sport, that’s a really cool spot for me to be in and I hope to do that for them.
It definitely helps being involved and having a racing family. I mean, my dad is always there and my grandpa – I can always go to them and ask. But it’s also what they know, their experience, in putting me in the right position and just being involved with a lot of other people in the NASCAR world has really been a help for us. It’s good to know that I can go to my dad and ask for advice, really, for anything about the cars, or anything really around racing.
The K&N and ARCA car are really similar, so going back and forth between those two isn’t too drastic; it’s really just horsepower. But when we go super late model racing and TransAm Racing, that’s completely different and that’s just more or less for experience. So I don’t really take those for competitive, but rather just for learning, like road courses and stuff like that in the bigger cars. The Super Late Model is more so for the competitiveness of the series.
Really, just how to race these cars. These cars have 650 horsepower, but they’re so heavy and really tall; it’s kind of like racing a school bus with a jet engine. It’s just a really big bulky car so you have to learn how to drive it, especially on these short tracks. It’s all about who has the most speed through the center; it’s a big long drag race down the straightaway with whoever can get the power down.
We ran several short track races and we qualified third at Thompson, but we ended up having a really loose car. I think just from everything I learned from that will help for New Smyrna. For the big tracks, I’ve been to the big tracks now so I can be able to use that knowledge with how the air works, how not to use much brake, and that stuff, and going to these tracks for the second time is going to help a lot.
First time I went to New Hampshire, we qualified 13th or something like that. But the next time we went, I qualified sixth, a tenth off the pole. So it definitely helps going to these tracks for a second time.
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