From left are aspiring racers...
From left are aspiring racers Lindsay Trausch, Ginny Quinones, Stephanie Stevens, and Stephanie Mockler. Courtesy Mike Campbell Photos
The USAC Focus Midget Series, which uses full-up Midget race cars and stock Ford Focus engines, provides an excellent learning environment for young racers. Drivers age 16 and up have learned to drive a full-sized race car with reduced power in this series, which is run nationwide. There are a number of female drivers doing well, and four of the best are as follows:
The daughter of former USAC racer Warren Mockler, Stephanie excelled in Quarter Midgets and Micro Sprints earlier in her career. She has continued her excellence in Focus Midgets, where she finished Second in the Midwest Series points and was Third in the Focus Nationals event. She'd like to give stock cars a try in the future, starting with a series like USAR Hooters Pro Cup.
Phillipsburg, New Jersey
This 21-year-old driver won five Kart titles. She was also a strong Micro Sprint driver, finishing Third and Fourth in points at Lake Moc-A-Tek Speedway. A college senior majoring in chemical engineering, Stephanie wants to make racing her career. "I want to use the Focus Midgets as a stepping stone to the next level," she says. "Stock cars are a goal of mine. I have tested in a stock car at South Boston Speedway." She also attended both the Race Ridz NASCAR Late Model Driving School and the Dave Blaney Sprint Car Experience.
Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania
Ginny has excellent racing credentials, having had success in Karts and Quarter Midgets. Later, she moved to the 270cc Micro Sprints where she also ran up front. More recently, she ran the Focus Midget Series on the East Coast. She also had a strong showing in the Ford Focus Nationals, where she finished Eighth out of 41 drivers competing.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Lindsay Trausch has a passion for racing on the track, and it's even evident in her job. She works for National Speed Sport News, a leading racing weekly. Her racing career started in 1995 when she drove a Competition Eliminator Dragster. She has also driven ThunderCar-style stock cars and has three Second-Place finishes to show for the effort. She has competed during the '04 and '05 seasons in the Focus Midgets. "I'd love to give the stock cars a shot," she says. "Heck, living here in Charlotte, is there a better place to give it a try?"
- Bill Holder
This much can be learned from the Danica Patrick phenomenon of last year: The motorsports world is ripe for the acceptance of a successful female driver.
Patrick's performance-she led 19 laps and finished Fourth in the Indianapolis 500-set in motion a bona fide media frenzy in the weeks subsequent to the historic open-wheel race. From the cover of Sports Illustrated to network talk shows, Danica became all the rage.
A similar run in the Daytona 500 by a female would generate the same reaction, according to Richard Childress, who has drivers Allison Duncan and Sarah Fisher as members of his NASCAR development program.
"I think it could open a whole new avenue for people, and I think there are some ladies out there who have the potential of doing it," says Childress. "Right now, the biggest thing any of them need-even Danica if she came down here to race-is seat time. That's what we're trying to get for Sarah and for Allison. It just takes a lot of seat time in a stock car. You learn something every time they go out, and they just keep getting better.
"I think it would be huge if a lady would come down here [and excel]. Just our demographics, which show us with [a fan base of] 44 percent women, is huge, as are the sponsoring opportunities and the media opportunities. But at the end of the day, they still have to be successful to bring sponsors."
Judging from the marketing success of Patrick, the corporate world appears ready to support a female at the top of the sport, as sponsorship dollars are almost certain to flow to the female driver who can consistently and successfully compete with stock car racing's top names. Several companies would likely jump at the chance to support a winning female driver in the top levels of NASCAR.
"We've had a couple of companies talk to us about that, but what we do is basically say that we don't have anybody ready to move to that level," says Childress. "And the worst thing you could do with either of the ladies we work with is move them up even to Busch too soon. It's a whole different world when you get into Busch racing, and the water really gets deep when you step into Nextel Cup racing. We don't want to rush them. I want to see them be successful and be able to stand up to the guys."
Ultimately, the trait that marks most successful drivers-dogged determination-may determine just how far a female driver will go in the sport someday.
"I think both these girls who drive for us want it, and they want to be winners and be successful," says Childress. "They don't want it just because they can say, Hey, I'm a lady, I need a break. They'll go out there and race hard with the guys, and that's what you've got to have."
- Larry Cothren