“Fear is a state of mind, Will is an action taken.”
Over the past few years I’ve come to realize how wonderful and passionate “racing” people are but also how cutthroat and demanding this industry can be. Racing has completely possessed every ounce of my body, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Fast forward to 2010 when I made my first professional race debut at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. I received some of the best advice from a very well-known professional driver. He told me, “You’re not a pro driver. You’re not a pro driver until you have a full ride, win a race and/or make money. You have to earn your right in this industry.” Heavy… yeah! So at that point I was a driver competing in a pro series, not a pro driver. His advice grounded me and made me truly strive to be a pro. I also noticed quickly that it wasn’t just about what you did in a car, but what you did outside of a car as well. A few races into the next season, I won the Long Beach Grand Prix in 2011 which brought me a fair amount of exposure and the hopes of advancing my career. But nothing happened on the sponsorship front and I was more determined than ever to make something happen with my career. At the end of 2011 I received (what I thought was a butt-dial at the time) a call from TrueCar that changed my life forever. It was the opportunity I was longing for –a chance to prove myself with a fully funded program and the opportunity for me to complete my first full season as a professional racing driver!
Racing is a very results-driven industry. People like winners, but sometimes we need to identify what being a winner really is. If we’re solely focused on the champagne shower at the end of a race, then we really need to reevaluate things! Looking back at my 2012 season I learned many things, some of which were, acknowledging strengths and weakness’ within the team and how to improve upon them, the importance of teamwork, and how I could be the best driver I could on any given day by focusing on my performance rather than the results. To me, those are a few of the most crucial aspects in motorsports and they’re simple things we tend to forget. With the empowerment that TrueCar gave me and the support of my other partners I was able to concentrate on what was important and drive the heck out of a car.
In my opinion, TrueCar and their Women Empowered initiative made more of an immediate impact on the industry and for women in the industry than ever before. Sponsoring six female drivers in different realms of racing was not only a mechanism for maximizing their exposure but it would also help women and their longevity in racing. I can count on one hand other female drivers that are fully funded and racing a full season in the United States… TrueCar gave female drivers an opportunity they never had before and nearly doubling the female imprint in the industry. Having more women in racing will benefit the growth of the sport, empower young girls to achieve things that may not be the norm for women, and understanding that anyone could rally behind a female driver… because everyone has a mother, sister, daughter or niece. And for TrueCar as a brand, supporting women in racing was a perfect match. Did you know that 80% of car buyers are women or of a female influence? The purpose of the initiative is to empower women in motorsports to compete at the best of their ability which ties-in nicely with the TrueCar.com objective of empowering the customer with the knowledge needed to make a smart, simple, haggle-free, experience when buying a new or used car or truck.
So, you probably want to know what was it like being on an all-female racing Team. In all honestly, I didn’t know what to expect at first. I knew three of the girls coming into it and even raced against one in 2008! We all met in Santa Monica, California at the TrueCar headquarters and after a day of hanging out we seemed to mesh really well. That didn’t come as a surprise to me though. Many think that women in racing don’t like each other. At least in my case, that’s not true at all. After spending a year with these girls I found a sisterhood with them that I hadn’t found anywhere else that I sincerely value. We spent a week in NYC which really strengthened our friendship and then another ten days in Indianapolis for the Indy 500. I speak to a few of the girls on a weekly, sometimes even daily basis. The truth, is I love these girls. TrueCar not only gave me an opportunity to race but they also gave me a new family of racing sisters (we all know that we’re in the minority -- so it’s great to have a few girlfriends that like racing!).
Along with this sisterhood, TrueCar gave us the tools we needed to succeed. I, like most women in a male-dominated sport, had experienced many obstacles in my journey to become a professional race car driver, but this past year has been, by far the most rewarding, exciting and humbling racing season of my career … so far! It may sound silly but, this year was the best year of my life! The only low was performing a little off from where we wanted to be. For the first time, I went testing more than I went racing to further develop my race craft and I thoroughly analyzed data with two of the best coaches in the country. They became more than just a racing coach, but a life coach, and a lifelong friend. Having a coach or mentor in this industry I’ve found is extremely critical because we all experience our own highs and lows and having a confidant to turn to within the industry is comforting. These two individuals gave their all and I have the utmost respect for them.
The pivotal point in my season was at Mosport. Known as one of the fastest North American road courses, this track can demolish cars and even hurt drivers if you’re not 100% focused. If ever you’re going to “grow a pair” in racing, as they say, its here. Everyone was talking about our performance after we qualified P2 and then finished on podium twice that weekend. Remember the pro driver I was telling you about earlier? That weekend he came over to congratulate us and told me that we earned it and we deserved it. I haven’t told anyone this before but, when I went back into the rig I lost it. I knew he sincerely meant what he said and the fact that he remembered what he said a few years back floored me. We had been working so hard to deliver the results the crew truly deserved and it was extremely empowering. This sport is unique in that it goes from a team sport, to an individual sport, and back to a team sport and there’s nothing better than a celebratory finish with your team.
The championship weekend at Sonoma was a bit of an emotional one. The entire TrueCar Racing team was there showing their support and the pressure was on to perform. One of my coaches instilled two things in me that will forever stay with me for as long as I’m in a racecar; one, that when I get out of the car I can say no one can drive that car better than me and two, that when we walk away from a race weekend that everyone is talking about our performance on track. With this in mind I’m always focused on the right thing, the performance and how to maximize my greatest potential within a racecar. That weekend I was a solid fourth place finisher, three times in a row as it was a triple-header weekend and we finished 4th place in the championship. Needless to say, I know hate the number four!
I wanted more in the end, I wanted to finish in the Top-3 in the championship. I got out of the car to hug my parents, my coach, the crew and to look up in the stands and see a girl named Jessy, one of my biggest supporters jumping up and down. It was then that I realized what this is all really about. It’s about sharing moments like these with your loved ones, it’s about surrounding yourself with passionate people, it’s about the will to drive and the determination to succeed, it’s about the fantastic competition and setting goals and it’s about taking nothing for granted and giving it your 100% under all circumstances. Of course, we wanted to win, but this year as a whole I really feel like we did win. We accomplished what we wanted to as a team, worked through the blood sweat and tears together, we even agreed to disagree many times. We walked away knowing we made the right choices. And for me, I grew as a person and a racing driver.
So I told you that story in the beginning about PRI because looking back now I see that my parents wanted to make sure I was completely invested in my dream of becoming a champion racing driver and for them they needed the confirmation because they were willing to put everything on the line to make our dreams a reality. Well, I am completely invested and I’m proof that just because you weren’t born into racing, male or female, it doesn’t mean you can’t make it – you may be in the gravel trap for a bit but keep being persistent because an opportunity could be right around the corner.
I hope that I’m fortunate enough to drive racecars until I’m too old, I hope that I’ll make my family, partners and fans proud, and I hope that I can help others along the way. So, I leave you with a quote that my dad and I came up with the first year we raced and I hope you can find value in it as much as I do – it’s short and sweet…
“Fear is a state of mind, Will is an action taken.”
Ps – be kind to one another!