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. Leilani Munter now has her own post.

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 raced in the NASCAR K&N Series, in a Toyota Camry. She was 20th at New Smyrna in her only major outing. She took part in one race in the CARS Super Late Model Tour series in 2018, at Hickory. However, she crashed out early on. In 2019, she made another guest appearance in the same series, finishing fourteenth at Radford.

Toni Breidinger - made her ARCA debut in 2018, driving a Toyota for Venturini Motorsports. Her first race was at Madison and she finished tenth. She was then twelfth at Gateway and 18th at Chicago. Her team-mate was Natalie Decker, and they were joined by Leilani Munter at Chicago, making up the first three-woman team in the series. She made one appearance in the CARS Super Late Model Tour in 2019, finishing 15th at Radford. Away from ARCA, Toni races in the USAC Silver Crown championship for dirt cars and in Late Models. She previously raced in sprintcars against her twin sister, Annie.

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.

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. She had to sit out the last part of the season due to suffering a concussion in September, picked up in a crash at Kentucky. In 2017, she returned in March and did some local-level Late Model racing. She did one major Late Model race in 2018, the CARS Super Late Model Tour event at Carteret County Speedway. Her final classification was tenth, although she crashed 25 laps from the end. In 2019, she entered the Hickory and Rougemont races, with a best finish of 15th in the latter.

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. In 2018, she made a small comeback, entering three K&N Pro Series races and finishing one at Tucson. She was 16th. At the start of 2019, she tried out for the all-female W Series but was eliminated after the first driver selection.

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.

Molly Rhoads - raced in a number of US series on and off in the 2000s and 2010s. She began competing seriously at Raceway Park in Minnesota in 2004 and was Late Model Rookie of the Year. Two years later, she was fourth in the Raceway Late Model points and ninth in the Minnesota Late Model Challenge, leading to a spot in NASCAR’s Drive For Diversity programme. In 2007, she raced on the ASA Midwest Tour, alongside her brother. She competed on and off in this category until 2011. As well as driving, Molly has worked as a crew chief for Bryan Roach, who raced on the ASA Midwest Tour. She now devotes most of her time to animal care.

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.

Chrissy Wallace - raced in the second-tier Nationwide NASCAR series in 2010. She competed in the Daytona 500 and Talladega Superspeedway rounds, with a best finish of 24th at Talladega. This followed part-seasons in Craftsman Trucks in 2008 and 2009. She was usually driving for the Germain Racing team in a Toyota and managed three top-twenty finishes in 2008 at Martinsville, Milwaukee and Gateway. The following year, she improved this record with a thirteenth place at Talladega, driving a Rick Ware-run Chevrolet. She also made occasional ARCA appearances in 2008 and 2011, earning a ninth place at Talladega in 2008, driving a Germain Toyota. Early in her career, she raced at her local Hickory Speedway in North Carolina and won her first race in 2007. She is a member of the noted Wallace NASCAR clan.

Dominique van Wieringen - Canadian driver who has mostly competed in Late Model stock cars. In 2012 and 2013, she won both races and championships in Late Models. In 2014, she set her sights on NASCAR. In preparation, she did some ARCA races, achieving one second place at the Lucas Oil I10 Speedway, and another fifth, in 2015. In 2016, she took part in the NASCAR K&N Series East, for Rette Jones Racing. Towards the end of the season, she recorded two third places, at Greenville and Dover, and was ninth in the championship. She also made a guest appearance in the Camping World Truck series at Phoenix, but she did not finish. She raced in Trucks again in 2017, but only made one major appearance. She was third at Langley.

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