Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Women of NASCAR: the 21st century


Natalie, Paige and Claire Decker

Below are profiles of some of the female NASCAR drivers who have tried to make their mark on the ovals, and began their careers after 2000. Earlier drivers can be found here.

Amber Balcaen - former sprintcar racer who is now working her way up the NASCAR ladder. She took part in the NASCAR Driver for Diversity in 2014 and 2016, as well as competing in Late Model racing in 2016. She was third in the Whelen All-American Series, with one win and six more podiums. She was the first Canadian female driver to win a NASCAR-sanctioned event. In 2017, she is racing in the NASCAR K&N Series, in a Toyota Camry.

Amber Cope - occasional racer in NASCAR and other stock-car series, always alongside her twin sister, Angela Cope. Between 2006 and 2008, she competed in three ARCA races in a Chevrolet. Since then, she has raced in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide series, averaging one race per season. In 2012, she finished 26th at Loudon, and got involved in a row with Kevin Harvick after he accused her of pushing him off the track. Prior to her NASCAR activities, she raced Late Model stock cars from the age of 15, and before that, karts, with some degree of success. She and Angela are also models, and use their profile to promote themselves as drivers.

Angela Cope - occasional racer in NASCAR and other stock-car series, always alongside her twin sister, Angela Cope. She has taken part in more races than Angela, due to her seven NASCAR Nationwide events in 2011 and 2012. Sadly, many of these ended in DNFs. Her best finish was in New Hampshire in 2011, where she was 25th. Prior to the Nationwide series, she did one race in the Camping World Truck series, and three ARCA events, between 2006 and 2010. Previously, she raced Late Models and karts, like her sister. She is the niece of Derrike Cope.

Sarah Cornett-Ching – Canadian driver who races in both ARCA and NASCAR junior series events. In 2015, she achieved five top-ten finishes in the ARCA Series, the best of these being two eighth places, at Talladega and Chicagoland. She was seventh in the championship. Driving the same Chevrolet, she has had less success in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, with two DNFs from three races. In 2011, she raced in the Canadian NASCAR series, and before that, in Sportsman events in Canada. In 2015, she was selected for the Race 101 team on a multi-year contract. Her 2016 season was partly spent in ARCA, where she earned a ninth place at Pocono, plus six other finishes from eight races. Again, she did not perform quite as well in the K&N Pro Series, with an eleventh at Mobile the best result from her five races.

Erin Crocker - took part in ARCA and Craftsman Truck races between 2005 and 2007. She was quite successful in ARCA in 2005, with a best finish of second and five top tens from six starts. After a couple of Busch Series outings, she moved full-time to Trucks in 2006. Unfortunately, she did not do as well, and was only 25th at the end of the year. She returned to ARCA and achieved one pole position, but could not convert it into a race result. Her NASCAR career ended badly after a series of allegations made against her team manager, who later became her husband. Prior to her stock car career, she was a multiple race winner in World of Outlaws sprintcar racing, and she made a low-key return to it in mid-2010.

Claire Decker - sister of Paige Decker, who also races in Craftsman Trucks. She took part in two races in 2016, driving for Jennifer Jo Cobb’s team, and finished one, at Martinsville. She was 27th. In June, she also attempted to qualify for the Iowa Xfinity race, but did not make the final cut. Paige was in action too, making them the second sister pairing to race against one another, after Amber and Angela Cope. Claire began, like her sister, by racing snowmobiles, and on short tracks.

Paige Decker - raced in Craftsman Trucks in 2015 and 2016. Both times, she entered the Martinsville rounds. Her best finish came in 2016, when she was 25th. That year, she also did two Xfinity Series races, at Iowa and Road America, finishing 31st both times. Previously, she raced in the Whelen All-American Series, and in short-track stock cars in 2010 and 2011. Her earliest motorsport experiences were racing snowmobiles, from the age of three. She is from a motorsport family, and has a sister, Claire, and a cousin, Natalie, who also race.

Gabi DiCarlo – began her stock car career in ARCA in 2007, driving a Ford. She did well in her first year of major competition, finishing eleventh in the championship. In 2008, she gained sponsorship from Great Clips, a hair salon chain, and raced a Chevrolet in the ARCA Series. She scored three top ten finishes, at Pocono and Kansas, the best of these being a ninth at Kansas. She was fourteenth overall. In 2009, she was approved to race in NASCAR-sanctioned events, and Stringer Motorsports contracted her for a seven-race deal in the Camping World Truck series. Unfortunately, her programme was cut to three races, early in the year. Her best finish was 19th, at California. For the rest of the year, the team ran her in selected ARCA races. Her best finish was eleventh, at Salem. After a part-season, she was 31st overall. She does not appear to have raced at all since then.

Maryeve Dufault - Canadian driver who switched to stock car racing full-time in 2011. She drove a Dodge Charger in the ARCA series, supported by Mad Croc and Dodge Motorsports. After seven top-twenty finishes, she was sixteenth overall, with a best finish of tenth at Chicagoland. She also secured entry into one NASCAR Nationwide race, at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. In 2012, she put together a budget for three ARCA races, driving a Dodge for Carter 2 Motorsports. She finished two of them, with a best result of 19th, at Kansas. In 2013, she drove in one NASCAR Nationwide Series race, finishing 31st, at Chicagoland. Previously, in 2010, she competed in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. Much earlier, she raced karts and snowmobiles, and motocross bikes. She is currently better-known as a model. In 2014, she did three Nationwide Series races for Team Stange, in a Ford. Her best finish was 17th, at Mobile. She did not race in 2015 or 2016.

Allison Duncan (Bormann) - has been working her way through the NASCAR ranks since 2003. Although she has shown considerable pace, and achieved top-five finishes, her big break has yet to come. Her early racing experiences were in sportscars, where she won SCCA championships in a Mazda RX7 and drove in the WGGTS. She was Daytona’s youngest female driver at the 2000 24-Hour race, aged eighteen, and she and her Chamberlain team-mates were sixth overall in their Dodge Viper. After that, she was co-opted into a NASCAR driver development programme, and subsequently, she has driven Craftsman Trucks and Late Model stock cars. Her best result in NASCAR is probably her fifth place in the NASCAR Late Model Division cahmpionship, which came in 2004. In 2005, she recorded two wins in this championship. She has not raced since 2006, and now works as a precision driving instructor.

Cassie Gannis – active in NASCAR-sanctioned events in the USA. Her first NASCAR outings were in the ACDelco Super Late Models series; at sixteen, she was the youngest driver to hold a full NASCAR competition license. After a break, she moved up to the K&N Pro Series in 2011, for three races. The best of these were at Colorado and Spokane, where she was sixteenth. In 2012, she did five races in her Ford, and was fifteenth in one, at Havasu. Although she was not able to mount any championship challenge, she was voted the “Most Popular Driver” in the series. Prior to this, she had been part of NASCAR’s much-vaunted “Drive For Diversity” programme. Another break from competition followed. Cassie entered the PEAK Stock Car Dream Challenge, attempting to win a race seat with Michael Waltrip’s team. She was a finalist, but did not win. In 2015, she tried to get her career going again, signing up for the Camping World Truck series with Mike Harmon Racing. Sadly, her one race with the team led to a non-qualification, at Phoenix. She picked up another ride in ARCA, with the Carter 2 team, but the same thing happened, at Daytona. She was linked to another Truck drive for 2016, but this appears to have fallen through.

Johanna Long - drove in the NASCAR Camping World Truck series in 2011. Her best finish was eleventh, at Texas Motor Speedway. In addition to this, she was raced in other Truck races at her home tracks of Five Flags and Mobile, with five top-ten finishes to her name: two fifths and three ninths. She made her NASCAR Truck debut in 2010 and earned three top-twenty positions, alongside a string of excellent results in regional series, in a truck and in a Late Model car. Previously, she raced Late Models, since the age of fifteen, and is the only woman to have won a Late Model race in her local series. She also won the 2010 Snowflake Derby off-season race. In 2012, she raced a Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. She managed a large proportion of the championship - 21 races - and had a best finish of twelfth. She was 20th in the championship. She continued with the ML Chevrolet in 2013, with another best finish of twelfth, plus a few more top-twenty positions. She was 23rd overall. At the end of the season, the team folded, and Johanna did not have enough sponsorship to continue in top-level stock car competition, despite a win in the Snowball Derby. She returned to Late Model competition locally, and was the points leader of her championship for much of the year. In 2015, she made a small comeback, taking part in one NASCAR Xfinity Series race, at Iowa. She was 27th. She also entered the Richmond race, but did not qualify.

Leilani Münter - has raced in NASCAR and the Indy Pro Series. She decided against a run in ARCA stock cars in favour of a part-season of the Pro Series in 2007. She only did two races, finishing thirteenth in Chicago and retiring at Kentucky, despite qualifying fifth. Previously, she had driven in the NASCAR local and development formulae since 2001. Out of 39 races, she finished in the top ten 19 times, and the top five, nine times. Her highest finish was fourth, at Texas Motor Speedway in 2004. Since 2007, she has been trying to put a programme together for the Indy Pro Series or ARCA. She is currently involved in an environmentally-friendly racing team effort, and returned to ARCA in September 2010. After taking a break and concentrating on environmental campaigning, she intended to compete for the whole ARCA series in 2012, in a Dodge Charger. Unfortunately, she only managed the first round, and was 36th. In 2014, she made a limited return to ARCA, beginning with a 28th place, at Daytona. She was driving an alternative-fuel car, and survived a crash early on. Later in the season, she managed two twelfth places, at Talladega and Kansas, driving a car promoting the orca protest film, Blackfish. In 2015, she did one race, the Daytona ARCA round. She qualified tenth, but crashed out.

Kenzie Ruston - raced in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East between 2013 and 2015. During this time, she did three full seasons, and scored top-five finishes on seven occasions. The best of these was a third at Greenville, in 2013. It was one of four top-five places, and Kenzie was sixth in the championship, in her Chevrolet. In 2014, she was ninth, and she did not do quite as well in 2015, in a Toyota. She did get into the top ten four times, the best of these being a sixth place at Smithton. In 2016, she returned to short-oval competition.

Kristi Schmitt - raced in NASCAR’s regional and entry-level series between 2001 and 2005. She raced in both the Southwest and Northwest series in 2001, starting three races overall, with a best finish of 18th, at Irwindale. She was fourteenth at Evergreen in 2002, driving a Chevrolet, but it was the only race she qualified for. 2004 was the last time she qualified, in the K&N West Series this time. She was fourteenth again, at Mesa Marin. She attempted to qualify for the same race in 2005, but did not make it.

(Image copyright espn.com)

No comments:

Post a Comment