Women Racers Changing the Face of Summer Shootout
But no where does that spotlight shine brighter on the next generation of female racers than at Charlotte Motor Speedway where 13 women drivers are participating in the Hardee's Summer Shootout, a 10-week racing series that runs each Tuesday night through Aug. 16.
"This is the 12th year of the Hardee's Summer Shootout and it is extremely exciting to have a record number of women competing," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. "It says a great deal about how the face of our sport is changing, and what we can expect for the future. Don't be surprised if you see some of these young ladies moving up through the NASCAR ranks in the very near future."
"It's really cool to see Danica Patrick and the other women in racing, and to see that women can advance in a guys' sport," said 17-year-old Kara Clarke of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Clarke was introduced to racing by watching telecasts of the Hardee's Summer Shootout on SPEED Channel. She began competing two years ago in the Bandolero Young Guns division and is now a weekly contender in the Bandolero Outlaws.
"Racing is a growing sport for women and there is definitely more diversity than there used to be," said 17-year-old Chrissy Wallace, daughter of NASCAR veteran Mike Wallace. "I think women can do the same things men can do."
Wallace does double duty each Tuesday night, competing in the Cabarrus Family Medicine Legends Car Semi-Pro division and the Duragloss Thunder Roadsters. The Concord, N.C., resident is also an accomplished basketball and softball player, but says auto racing is her favorite sport and the career she would like to pursue.
Fifteen-year-old Bailey Freeman, whose father and brother have won Hardee's Summer Shootout championships, races in the Lucas Oil Bandolero Young Guns division. The Huntersville, N.C., driver recently had to make a decision about her activities and she chose racing. "I gave up soccer and basketball to pursue racing," she said.
"Racing is something anyone can enjoy," said Tiffany Daniels, a 20-year-old from Smithfield, Va., who attends the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Daniels was introduced to the sport by her father and started racing in the Hardee's Summer Shootout at age 16. She has worked through the ranks and now competes in the Centex Homes Legends Car Pro division, which features the series' best drivers.
Like many of the female drivers, Daniels is very active in a variety of sports. She plays field hockey and virtually "every intramural sport you can think of" at UNC Charlotte.
"Guys think it's their sport and they think that we can't get out there and do what they can," said 16-year-old Ashleigh Wilkins of Petersburg, Va.
Wilkins, a six-year Hardee's Summer Shootout veteran, was introduced to racing at age 9 while watching the Coca-Cola 600 with her parents. She started in the Bandolero Bandits and now does double duty in the Duragloss Thunder Roadsters and the Lucas Oil Bandolero Outlaws.
The list of women racers competing in the 12th annual Hardee's Summer Shootout also includes: Amanda Harrell, Belmont, N.C.; Tina Johnson, Senoia, Ga.; Jennifer Spain, Graham, N.C.; Dawn Eagens, Corlandt Manor, N.Y.; Meghan Dillner, Concord, N.C.; Tonya Cordrey, Concord, N.C.; Megan Reitenour, Miamisburg, Ohio; and Sloan Henderson, Franklin, Ohio.
The Hardee's Summer Shootout, which runs each Tuesday night through Aug. 16 on the frontstretch quarter-mile oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway, features three divisions of Legends Cars, three classes of Bandoleros and the popular Thunder Roadsters.
Admission is just $5 for adults. Children 6 to 12 are admitted for $3 with kids under 6 free. Tickets are available in advance at the speedway ticket office and at Gates 4 and 5 the night of the event. Parking is free. Contact the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com for information.
Spectator gates open at 5 p.m. with preliminary action at 5:30 p.m. Feature racing begins at 7:30 p.m. and is scheduled to conclude by 10:15 p.m.