Women in Motorsports: Shoptalk with Racing's Leading Females (Part Two)

Rob TiongsonSenior Analyst IMarch 22, 2010

Previously in Part One of the Women in Motorsports Round Table recap, our panelists discussed various aspects of their careers in racing. From the opportunities for females in stock cars to their experiences on the track, these five talented drivers had a lot to say about their situations and the current complexion of the sport.

Alli Owens, Alison Macleod, Leilani Munter, Jen Jo Cobb, and Tiff Daniels certainly know their way around the track as well with the cars. They've studied the mechanics and nuances of these machines, understanding what it takes to make their car transform from an ill-handling beast to a steel chariot on a mission.

Their backgrounds range from the USAC open wheel circuits to working at the shop as an essential member of a high-caliber NASCAR Sprint Cup team. To say the least, when they've got something to say, it's worth considering and learning to appreciate motorsports as a whole, being a true team sport. No individual is higher than another when it comes to achieving success, short-term or down the road.

The panelists were not shy to speak out on the truth of the current climate of women in racing, mostly agreeing that it's truly about making the most of your opportunities.

Consider the following:

Leilani Munter mentioned how she decided to race in a Late Models race than compete with a struggling NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team at Texas in 2006. As it turned out, her decision paid off when she placed fourth, garnering praises and respect from her fellow competitors and watchful eyes around the racing world.

With experiences in a stock car and open wheel Indycar, Munter has one of the most versatile backgrounds and skills of any of the top racers in stock cars.

Owens made it clear how she truly enjoyed the high banked and fast tracks of the ARCA Re/Max Series, reflecting on the season opener and what she could've done to win that event. Certainly, there's absolutely no fear with the 21-year-old, who's looking forward to the next event in her series. Having knocked on the winner's circle door several times, the checkered flag is within her reach.

Macleod's been mired in a sponsor search, essential for her racing effort to continue and progress in 2010. As the winningest female in USAC history, the Ford Racing prospect hopes that a company will be willing to back her racing career fully, looking to race in ARCA and NASCAR races as the season progresses.

With the talent to succeed in any division, the Canadian sensation certainly packs a punch when it comes to making it into Victory Lane.

Jennifer Jo Cobb's had quite the year, purchasing Rick Crawford's Circle Bar Racing No. 10 Ford ride in January, just a month before the start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season.

Wisely investing with her time and money, Cobb was able to recruit some of the finest in the sport to kick start her rookie campaign in one of the most competitive series of stock car racing. Her perseverance paid off, once bouncing from mediocre opportunities to a golden ticket with promises and potential.

Tiff Daniels's story has its unique factors in that she discovered racing relatively late. Reminiscent to Johnny Benson, Jr., who embarked in his driving career in his teenage years, Daniels decided that the hot seat and steering wheel was where she belonged.

Now working as an engineer with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, her experiences with one of the top Cup teams certainly pays dividends from what she can apply to the cockpit in a stock car, looking to compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series later this year.

Part Two will now look at some of the lighter side to their lives at the track and away from it, as well as their thoughts on a particular hot topic that generated attention and headlines across the sporting world.

Various readers from Bleacher Report and Rob Is Racin' fielded some interesting questions to the panelists, which will leave you thinking, laughing, and pondering about whether to follow their careers, wherever the racing gods and goddesses decide to take them.

During the round table discussion, keep an eye on a young female talent who'll make a surprise appearance.  Her name may not be a household one, but with her poise and abilities, she's certainly bound to make her presence known in stock car racing sometime soon.

 

Cody Higginbotham : I have a tough question for Tiffany. What do you enjoy doing more: working at Earnhardt-Ganassi or driving a race car?

Tiff Daniels : Cody, that's an easy question! While I truly appreciate the opportunities I've had as an engineer at EGR (especially with the win by Jamie this year in the 500), my passion is driving.

CH : Yeah, I figured you'd say you liked driving better! Are you gonna be racing in the East Series this year, Tiff?

TD : I am going to try to put something together for the East races at Loudon and Dover.



Mary Lou Briggs : Did any of you all have anyone discourage you from driving a race car? I mean, when you were just thinking about when you were getting started?

Alison Macleod : When I started racing, I was too young to have people tell me I couldn't do it and I was just seven-years-old! It started as just being fun, and by the time I was old enough to have people tell me that I couldn't do it, I was already doing it!

Jennifer Jo Cobb : Mary Lou, I was told many times that what I was trying to do was impossible. Mostly because of finances! That is why my favorite quote is, "It's kind of fun to do the impossible," which was said by Walt Disney.

TD : I've definitely been told making it as a driver was impossible. In fact, just recently a co-worker told me that people were going to get tired of the "whole girl driver thing." (laughs) But I just use it as motivation.

Rob Tiongson : Really? Someone said that to you, Tiff?

TD
: (Laughs) Yep, sure did!

RT
: That's really lame! What year are we in anyways?

Leilani Munter
: Yes, I've had the same experience as Tiff. Some people will never accept us simply because we are female and we will never win them over. The best thing we can do is use it for fuel to push ourselves to the next level!

TD
: Rob, you just have to shake your head and laugh about that stuff! As you keep your head down and keep pushing, like Leilani said!

RT : I would not be surprised if any of you in the panel board win, be it ARCA or NASCAR. I see tremendous talent and poise from all of you; no fear behind the wheel.

LM : Thanks Rob! I think so too!

RT : Alison, has the trend been choosing slim pickings for the top ranks or a top ride in a lesser series lasted for some time, even before the economic recession? And is it important to not only have the talent, but the sponsorship package as well? Seems to be a problem in racing right now.

AM : I think that will always be the way, no matter of the economy. The big difference is seen that instead of ARCA teams having one full season sponsor, they have to break it up and go almost race by race. The amount of full season deals are more limited in this economy, which makes it harder for anyone to compete full season.

LM : Yes Alison, I agree. I had seven companies on my car for the Daytona ARCA race.

Carol Dahlberg : For all the ladies, how do you handle the bullies on the race track? The ones who demand you give way to them because they have been there longer...or who are plain bullies to everyone?

LM : As far as the bullies, if they push you, you have to push back! Let them know that it can go both ways so they realize they can't push you around. If they dish it out, they have to be able to take it as well.

AM : My experience with bullies is very limited. From day one, I made sure everyone that I raced against knew that I was just another driver and just "one of the guys."

I have always helped out with my car, interacted with the other drivers and made sure that we all respected each other. I had one problem last year and I made sure that after it happened, we all knew that I wasn't going to be pushed around.

Other than that one incident, I have never had a problem with guys, so we get along, race hard, play hard, and have a great time.

Alli Owens : Bullies, well...I don't really have many. I made sure when I walked in the garage area for the first time at a professional level, I picked up a wrench and was hands on with the best of them.

They showed me respect because they knew why I was there. In 2008, I got pushed around a little bit until I developed a three strike rule. Hit me once, shame on you. Hit me twice, shame on me. A third time, I will return the favor.

From 2009 til' now, I am just one of the guys and they know we can run up front. Frank Kimmel taught me that and how to build respect and hey, it worked!

RT
: I respect that about you with your style. It's very much the true way to hold your own out there on the track, especially given how competitive and tenacious the racing's become all across the board.

CH : How is Bill Venturini doing? I know he had several surgeries in the offseason. I have him as a friend on Facebook, but haven't talked to him, so I was just wondering how he's doing?

AO : "Big Bill" is doing great! He's back to his normal self, roaming the shop, telling people what to do, and how to do it! (laughs) Love it!

RT : Alli, what is it about super speedway racing that racers love? Is it the bliss of knowing you're flat out on the throttle or the chess game factor of having to draft in order to win?

AO
: For me, it's the fact that you have to stay focused for so long and be able to physically and mentally keep up with the pace of the race. No mistakes. Ego is not an option. It's all about patience.

RT : Very true. I have to say that short track and super speedway racing truly bring out and test the abilities of a racer. No pretenders allowed.

Justine Jackson : Hey everyone! Alli and Tiffany, you may remember me from the Lyn St. James Driver Development program a few years ago. It's awesome to hear that you guys are all going to have great 2010 seasons!

AO
: Hey Justine!

TD
: Hi Justine! Of course I remember! What are your plans for this season?

JJ : Hey Tiffany! I'm racing in the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Series this season. I can't wait! It's going to be great!

TD : That's great Justine, good luck! Now that you mentioned that, I think I remember seeing your press release.

JJ : Thanks Tiffany! It's going to be my first time in race cars after almost seven years in go-karts.

AM : Hey Justine, how are things going for you? I think we have spoke a few times before.

JJ : Hey Alison, yes we have! Things are shaping up realy well for this season!

CH : Jennifer, how are you doing?

femaledriverfan4life : Jen, are you ready to take on Martinsville?

JJC : Hey Cody, I'm doing really great! Living the dream! Femaledriverfan4life, I can't wait to get to Martinsville for my first short track race in over seven years! We tested at Caraway and I loved it! 177 laps on Tuesday.

CH : Jen, how involved is Mike Harmon with your race team? I met him at Talladega last October when I was a guest with Mario Gosselin and he is a very nice guy. So I'm just curious, how much of an involvement does he have with your team?

JJC : "MH" is considered the JJCR General Manager. He knows my driving style, strengths, and limitations. He makes all of the final decisions on things. Rudy Prickler, Jr. is our crew chief but all the decisions, set-ups, and spending goes through Mike. So he is very involved. He's like a bro to me.

CH : Ladies, if you had to choose one race track that you could race at all the time, what would it be?

TD : My favorite tracks so far are probably Bristol and Dover.

AO : Texas! You must have some serious guts. It's a no fear track for sure!

RT : Two words about Texas: Turn two. That to me is about the most treacherous corner in all of racing. There's so much speed and momentum from the front stretch and turn one, and a narrow exit off turn two.

AO : Let's just say Texas is so insane that all three of us, Mikey, Steve, and I, came back to the shop. The first thing we asked for was more padding on our head rest because after five laps, we couldn't hold our heads up anymore.

LM : Yeah, I agree with Alli. I have two runs at Texas with one top five and one top 10. I'd say that's one of my favorite tracks! I also love Daytona and Indianapolis, just because of the history of those places.

RT : If you ever decide to race in the Indy 500, I'd definitely watch it for sure! For some reason, I imagine you competing in it just because of how seamlessly you are able to transition from open wheel to stock cars.

By the way Alli, what makes Texas so intense besides the speed?

LM:  I definitely will Rob, that would be a dream. Nothing like going into a corner at 230 mph I imagine. Man, those IndyCars are so fun to drive!

AO : You have to go into turn one knowing you can't lift when your mind is tellin' you to do so. Then coming out of turn two, the car unloads and twitches but you have to keep your foot in it to keep the pitch in the car.

Coming out of four, there is a little hump right by the wall and it unloads the car and slings you around. The key is "who has the heaviest foot."

RT : Sounds like that hump at Texas never left...it's the one that caused its inaugural race weekend in '97 to be memorable for the carnage....but it's become a respectable, great track now.

AO : (Commenting on Leilani's favorite tracks) Daytona! It's the coolest place ever. There's three wide, bouncing around, and fighting the bumps is a real challenge. Besides that, it's home and like Dorothy once said, "There's no place like home!"

RT : I bet if 'Tona and 'Dega were the only races on a season, you'd jump at it! You absolutely love plate racing.

AO : Yeah, you're right! (laughs) Don't know what it is about plate racing that i have a special place in my heart for. Hm, maybe after I win a plate race, I can tell you!

RT : Definitely pulled for you at the end at Daytona. That was incredible stuff.

AO : Thanks! I seriously relive those last eight laps every time I walk by that car in the shop...so frustrating!

RT : Gonna shoot to the final question: With fan interaction, has it helped you as a racer, as far as not only getting exposure, but understanding what's happening in motorsports in general?

TD : I think fan interaction is fun! It's definitely interesting to hear lots of different opinions and check the pulse of the sport. I've been using Facebook and Twitter a lot more in the past few months, and it has been really neat to see everyone's comments!

LM : The best thing about the fan interaction is knowing through all the good days and the bad, that you have people out there pulling for you, hoping for you to do well. It means a lot.

RT : That's what makes things so incredible. Just as little as three years ago, we didn't have these chances to do these interactions. Now it's truly at the tips of our fingers.

TD : You're right that the sport has come a long way in terms of fan interaction. Thanks for having me Rob, and it was a blast chatting with everyone!

AM : Ok guys, sorry, but me and Alli have to run. It's been great! Hope we can do this again sometime.

LM : It was great talking with all of you and look forward to doing it again sometime. Thanks Rob for putting this all together!

RT : It was my pleasure. I hope we can do this again sometime soon!

TD : Thanks everyone for participating, and great job organizing it Rob...good idea!

LM : See you at the track. Remember, life is short. Race hard. Live green.

RT : I want to thank all of you for coming by...panelists: Jen Jo Cobb, Tiff Daniels, Alli Owens, Alison Macleod, and Leilani Munter...thank you very much for taking the time to talk racing with me and the readers from B/R, Rob is Racin', and Twitter!