Females in the Fast Lane
Gracie Trotter, Isabella Robusto and Jadyn Daniels are in the midst of fighting for historic championships in the Bojangles' Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway. With a small cast of female drivers annually competing in the Shootout, Trotter, Robusto and Daniels represent a minority on the track, but they don't let that slow down their pursuit of success.
Daniels, a 14-year-old Concord, North Carolina, native, grew up surrounded by racing. She got her start in go-karts and transitioned to a Bandolero last year.
"I grew up going to the races and watching them on TV," recalled Daniels, a longtime Jeff Gordon fan. "We went to Mooresville, to GoPro Motorplex, and I started racing go-karts there. That's what got me into racing."
Daniels is fifth in the nation in her division and hopes to finish the Bojangles' Summer Shootout with a championship in the Charter Schools USA Bandolero Outlaw ranks. Even with her high national ranking, Daniels finds it nerve-wracking to race in a predominately male sport.
"You feel like since you're a girl, the boys will kind of push you around," Daniels said. "But, you know, I think they've gotten used to me and I enjoy racing the guys a lot. I think they don't think I'm as aggressive or as competitive."
When asked how she proves them wrong, Daniels confidently replied, "I pass them."
In the season's first two weeks, Trotter, 16, achieved two top-three finishes in the VP Racing Fuels Semi-Pro division. She believes that if she continues to finish where she's finishing, a win will come. Growing up only 25 minutes away from Charlotte Motor Speedway, Trotter attributes her proximity to the track, as well as her father's background in racing, to her interest and success in the motorsports industry.
"This is my third year running the Shootout," Trotter said. "The Charlotte track is a difficult track to learn how to drive. You're racing against a lot of cars and some of the best (drivers) in the country."
Robusto, a 13-year-old competitor in the K1 Speed Young Lions division, is a part of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program - which engages women and individuals of diverse backgrounds in the NASCAR industry. She accredits the program, as well as the Bojangles' Summer Shootout, with helping her to learn more about the next steps in her career and aiding her fan base growth.
"This is where you have the most competition and being able to race the best people gives me so much learning experience," Robusto said. "I learn the car more throughout the Summer Shootout than any of the other tracks."
Trotter, Daniels and Robusto all have the same goal: to race in the highest levels of NASCAR. Gaining experience against some of the best competition in the country is a great way to start.
Running its 25th year, the Bojangles' Summer Shootout continues to be a starting point for many major names in racing, developing drivers such as Joey Logano, Bubba Wallace and Austin Dillon. Trotter, Robusto, and Daniels are just a few of the female drivers with hopes to one day say that they got their start at the Bojangles' Summer Shootout.
"When I get out on track I am just another driver," Robusto said. "It doesn't matter that I'm a girl. But, as soon as I get out of the car more people recognize me because I'm a girl and I'm racing against all of the boys."