Forget Danica; Move Over, Kyle Busch; Make Way for ARCA's Alli Owens

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer IJune 13, 2009

After celebrating a top ten finish at Pocono Raceway in the ARCA RE/MAX series, Alli Owens was on the move again.

But this time she was headed off to the Irish hills of Michigan International Speedway for the next race on the ARCA schedule.

Traveling en route to Michigan with her team and car in tow, Alli took a few minutes to reflect back on the race at Pocono.

"Unfortunately, Mother Nature played a big role on us in the race at Pocono," said Owens.  "Friday we didn't get to practice or qualify." 

"We started 28th in the race due to points," continued Owens.  "We had an OK car.  We definitely knew we didn't have a winning car in practice, so we knew we would have to work on it."

"As soon as the green flag flew, I kind of had a little bit of a Kyle Busch attitude," said Owens. "I said alright, let me just get to the front."

"I passed a bunch of cars on the front straightaway," continued Owens. "We had a good car and we made some good adjustments on the car throughout the race."

"We made it up to fifth at one point and finished 10th," said Owens. "But we had about an eighth place car, so I'm happy with a top ten finish."

While this was one of Alli's better finishes to date, it was by no means her best.  She had a sixth-place finish at the ARCA race in Talladega, a feat in which she takes great pride.

Owens is currently running a limited schedule in the ARCA RE/MAX series. "We're currently running 11 races in the series this year," advised Owens.

"We are primarily focused on ARCA", shared the young racer. "The series is really nice because it really is like the minor leagues of NASCAR."

Owens continued, "We get a lot of the crew and the teams from the Cup series.  There is a lot of NASCAR influence in the ARCA series."

"I like it because I know that in a couple of years the people that I race with in the ARCA series will be the ones that I will be racing with in the Nationwide or even the Cup series eventually," said Owens.

Owens knows that there have already been some of her ARCA colleagues that have graduated up to Nationwide and Cup, including Scott Speed and Justin Allgaier.  "When I see them, I say "hi" and I can go to them for advice," said Owens.

Owens said that she enjoyed the drivers who had graduated coming back to race.  She also welcomed racing against Cup driver Joey Logano, who participated in the Pocono race to gain a little more seat time for the Pocono 500.

"We all wanted to beat Joey," Owens said. "Anytime we have one of those drivers come down from the Cup or Nationwide series, it's one of those things where we want to beat them."

Owens continued, "It boosts our confidence to know that we can run with the drivers from the other series."

Alli's top ten finish at Pocono was also a confidence booster for the 20-year-old driver.  She and her team are taking the same car from Pocono to Michigan International Speedway for the race weekend.

"That car was one of my favorite cars," said Owens. "Unfortunately, under the last caution at Pocono, I got into another car and kind of did some body damage."

Owens continued, "But my team worked round the clock from the time we got it home until we had to load up for Michigan to get it back into shape."

As she and the team continued the drive to Michigan, Owens had a moment to reflect back on how she got into this business of stock car racing.

"We're just an average family," said Owens. "No one in my family has ever raced." 

Alli's mother and father own a small commercial cleaning business in Daytona Beach, where she grew up.  She has a younger brother, who she credits with developing her competitive juices and spirit.

Owen's first race was an Indy big wheel race when she was five years old.  She was the only girl "out of fifty something kids" to participate in that race. 

She won it but, according to Alli, the mayor was not happy a girl won and tried to "shoo" her off the stage.  She said that one little boy even stuck his tongue out at her.

From then on, all Alli Owens wanted to do was to "beat the boys."

Owens graduated from big wheels to compete as a BMX driver.  She trained and won the President's Cup when she was 12 years old. 

Shortly after her win, Owens decided to give BMX up and bought a quarter midget instead.  Her stock car career had begun and as Owens says, "the rest is history."

When asked what attacts her most to racing, she admits that it is not the speed as most expect.  For Owens, it is all about the competition.

"BMX racing is like football on wheels," said Owens. "It is a very aggressive sport and I guess that has gotten translated over to the cars."

Owens is indeed aggressive.  When asked about her goals for the ARCA RE/MAX series this year, she says simply, "We want a win."

Owens feels that she is now with a top team, D'Hondt Motorsports.  Under the tutelage of Eddie D'Hondt, the team founder, she feels she is in the enviable position of having great equipment as well as great team support.

Owens advises that Toyota has also been a significant supporter of her and her team.  "It's just on me now," said Owens.

Alli has a "master plan" for her career as well.  She intends to dabble in a few Nationwide races at the end of this season. In 2010, she hopes to run in fifteen to twenty Nationwide races, in addition to the ARCA racing.

In 2011, Owens hopes to be full-time in Nationwide at least, if not further. 

But Owens is cautious.  "I don't want to move up too fast or until I'm ready," said Owens. 

She is aware, however, that NASCAR is most interested in a female race car driver, a stock car version of Danica Patrick if you will.  Alli definitely wants to position herself to take advantage of any opportunity that might pass her way in that regard.

Owens has one of the most interesting sponsors in the sport,  The website was developed by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to get young people interested in careers in the electrical industry.

When Alli was 17 years old, her parents sat her down and told her that her racing career would have to end. They simply did not have the money to continue to back her in her racing pursuits.

"It was a big hit for me," said Owens. "So, I went to school, got all my teachers together, and we created a budget and proposal to funding my racing."

"I knew of a local electrical contractor in Daytona," said Owens. "I went to talk with him about sponsorship opportunities."

Owens continued, "I think he just wanted to get me out of his office. But he did pick up my tire bill."

"So, I started learning about his electrical apprenticeship program," said Owens. "I analyzed what they were spending to advertise the program and how they were marketing it".

"I took a hard look at they way they were recruiting," said Owens.  "I knew I had a much better way to offer them through racing."

Owens continued, "I made a call to the IBEW headquarters in Washington, D.C. and said that I needed twenty minutes of their time to share my great idea for their apprenticeship program."

Owen's father flew up to Washington, DC with her to make the sponsorship pitch. "I couldn't tell you what I said in there," said Owens.  "I just laid it all out on the line."

"I told them their marketing program was horrible," said Owens. "And I told them I was their solution."

Apparently, NECA and IBEW bought into Alli's candor and confidence.  They offered her the sponsorship funding she needed to continue racing.

On Owen's eighteenth birthday she gave herself a gift.  She incorporated Alli Owens Racing, secured the sponsorship, and moved to North Carolina.

Her racing career was back on track and in full throttle.

It has not always been easy for Alli Owens in the male-dominated world of stock car racing.  She describes many times when other drivers wrecked her on purpose and then proceeded to tell her about it.

"It made me stronger as a driver and as a person," said Owens.

This female ARCA driver admits though that she also struggles with the "female part" of her racing career.  Owens, who is more comfortable in a pair of jeans, a T shirt and a hat, just returned from New York City, where she met with a hair stylist, make up artist, and had her photo shoot.

"I like to dress up and go out and have fun but I'm just one of the guys," said Owens.

When asked who she looks up to as her role model in racing, it was not a current female racer, not even Danica Patrick.  Instead, Owens shared that she most admires Lyn St. James, who continues to work on developing the women's movement in motorsports.

Owens admits that she looks more to her male counterparts rather than any female racers as her role models.  She particularly admires Kyle Busch for his restarts and his aggressive passing.

"I will study him every race," said Owens. " He is awesome."

Owens also admired Dale Earnhardt, Sr., relating to him coming from a blue collar environment as she has.  She also looks up to Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon for the ways they handle themselves off the track.

But she is most passionate about Mark Martin.  "Hard core racers are my real role models," said Owens. Of Mark Martin, she says, "that guy is a machine."

Owens follows the example of Mark Martin by trying to work out regularly.  She works with a trainer as often as she can, as well as going to the YMCA in Mooresville, North Carolina when she is home.

Alli admits that she loves homemade tacos and chicken caeser salad.  She really enjoys shopping for shoes.

But what Owens likes about herself most is her ability to laugh at herself.  "I couldn't stand to be stuck up," said Owens. "I'm the biggest dork and nerd.  I can entertain myself."

While she may enjoy laughing at herself, there is no doubt that Alli Owens will be entertaining race fans for many years to come on whatever tracks are before her next.

This smart, fun-loving, talented race car driver could just be the one that finally breaks into the brotherhood of NASCAR stock car racing.

Owen's next stop in her journey to do just that will be this weekend in Michigan. She and her team hope that this weekend will be their weekend to reach their goal and get the win they so desire.

For more information about Alli Owens, please also read Bleacher Reporter Jen Preston's story at this link:


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