Hello, everyone. This is Melinda Russell with Women's Motorsports Network and Racing Girls Rock Podcast. My guest today is Mercedes Lilienthal. Mercedes and I met through someone else that I had connected to, and they said that I should talk to Mercedes and learn about her and her motorsports journey. And so that's what we're going to do today. So, Mercedes, welcome to the show. And why don't we start by you just sharing a little bit about yourself, your family, where you live, whatever you're comfortable with.
Well, thank you so much, Melinda. I appreciate being on the show. Thank you for having me.
Background for me, it's quite varied. It's very different than a lot of other people. I grew up with German parents that emigrated from Germany. My dad was born in Yugoslavia, but he emigrated to Germany. And then in the 60s, my parents came over via job opportunity. He was a welder, blacksmith, and fabricator at the time and he wanted to own his own business. Back then in Germany, you had to be an apprentice for a couple of years. And he said, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to work on automobiles and do what I need to do and do welding and everything in the land of opportunity. So, my mother and my father basically moved in the 60s to Chicago with a sponsor. At the time they didn't know word of English, but they made their way. And so fast forward, my sister was born. She's six years older than I am. I was born in 1975. We were born in the Midwest. She was in Chicago. I was in central Wisconsin. And they ended up making their own way. I mean, it was a lot of hardship, but there were some triumphs, too.
They ended up having just the two of them with a welding fabricating shop in central Wisconsin, just the two of them in a hoist. So as a kid, I was always around, just kind of a shop rat, just hanging out after school and whatnot. My dad always worked on different vehicles, whether they're HD trucks like heavy duty trucks or with snowplows or cranberry boggers because in Wisconsin at the time, and still they do, a lot of cranberry implementation, all sorts of things. So, I was always helping to just tinker on things, whether it's helping cars at home, whether it's holding a flashlight or helping to touch up the paint or just hanging out while he's working on cars. So, my background has always been in cars. I've always been in cars. And fast forward to college. I loved the lowrider scene and the import scene and met my husband in 2000 on the way down to a low rider show or import show in Chicago. And so, we've been together ever since. And he's a big gearhead as well. Though my background was mainly in imports and lowriders and now customized type of vehicles.
In 2006, we moved to Oregon, and he got a job in the off-road industry. And so, we said, all right, let's buy our first 4x4. And at that time, we didn't know what the heck we were doing. We bought a little 1995 Suzuki Sidekick, the teal color. So, if you look up the Teal Terror online, you'll be able to see everything about the build and how we learned our way. I think my husband and myself, we've kind of coined the phrase that we're all “united by horsepower.” And for me, it doesn't matter if it's lifted, lowered, customized bone stock, EV 4x4, whatever, what have you. It's all about the passion of it. And if you're an automotive enthusiast, just see where the world can take you, what that vehicle and that mode of transportation can take you.
That's a very interesting story. And the fact that your parents came here knew no English, how brave they were.
They were. And they moved in January. And back in the 60s, women wore dresses, or they wear skirts and things like that. And so, my mom learned very quickly when there's snow that equals the sides of the cars or almost up to the roofs as they were back in the day in Chicago, she learned very quickly what pants were when they first came through. They actually came through Ellis Island. They didn't know how to ask for food and they didn't know where to get food or how to say anything. And they found a hot dog street vendor on the side of the street and the hot dogs for three days straight into this day, she won't even need any more hot dogs.
They made their way.
They made their way. And they wanted to come to the land of opportunity. And we don't often think about people that see America like that because we take it for granted, don't we, right now? Yeah, in a lot of ways we do because we have all these opportunities at our fingertips and we often forget unless it's reminded of it. But in some way that we are very lucky, we do have a lot of options and to be able to be women and involved in some kind of motorsports. We're recording this on, by the way.
I just noticed that.
And I also see that today is National Women in Sports Day or something like that.
That's a kind of cool day that we could be recording a podcast.
Yeah. So, Mercedes, tell me, what are you involved in now as far as motorsports?
Oh, gosh, what am I not involved in?!
A little bit. When we moved to Oregon at that time, I had graduated from college. I put myself through college after my father died in 1998. And I went to school for interior design. And so, I was a commercial interior designer and project management manager for many years. When I decided that I needed a change in my life, I wanted to fill in ways that I wasn't feeling like I was happy and I was getting what I wanted to learn and just where I needed to be and where I wanted to be. So, pun intended, I switched gears and decided to become a full-time freelancer. And with that is a whole host of different opportunities and also challenges. Now, I'm an automotive journalist and I also do various PR marketing efforts for automotive clients. So, it's 99.9% all automotive related on the work front of it. But then I also do some major off-road rallies or on-road rallies, both with my husband or with other women. So, I've been doing that for the last couple of years. So, whether I'm competing or covering it as media, I've got my hands full in a lot of different rallies and times to be distance competitions and things like that as well.
Yeah. So that's how we got connected. Somebody told me that you were racing in a rally, and so why don't you tell me a little bit about that and what it involves? And like sometimes you do it with your husband as a co-driver, I assume, or whatever. For people who don't know anything about rally racing and I don't know a lot about it. Educate us, tell us about it.
Gosh, how much time do you have?
Not more than an hour, right.
In a nutshell, there's all different kinds of rallying. The rallying that I like to compete in isn't necessarily a rally race. It's a rally against time. So specifically, there's time speed distance rallies. So, you have to be at speed on time, go in the right directions because they have a route book. So, you don't necessarily have a map or GPS. It might be all traditional with just what your car has for an Odometer. And you have to say, all right, point 23 miles, turn left onto whatever, and then go 37 mph or what have you. So, whether it's the Alcan 5000 Rally, which has been around since the 80s, my husband and I have done that twice. We took a 1991 Mitsubishi Pajero, a right-hand-drive diesel all the way up to the Arctic Ocean in the middle of the winter, and that was over 5,000 miles. I think by the time we were said and done with the competition; it was a little over 5,100 miles in the winter. He was the driver, and I was the co-driver, so the navigator. The rally, that same Alcan 5000 rally, the summer version is coming up this August.
So even though it's not formally announced, we will be competing in that as well. Again, him as the driver and me as a co-driver, but I also drive. So, I do rallies as a driver and then as a navigator. So I've done a couple of major competitions. They're called the Rebelle Rally. I've competed in 2018 as a privateer, and then in 2021, on behalf of Volkswagen of America. The Rebelle Rally is unique in the fact that it is all women and it's traditional navigation. So, there's no GPS, no laptops, no tablets. They're all confiscated, taped up to the point where it takes you 20 minutes to untape them because you're not allowed to use them. You use a map, encompass, and then a route book. So, it's a very challenging competition because not only do you have to have a navigator that knows where she's going and how to take certain headings with the compass, and you, as yourself as a driver, too, should know that it's all off-road. So, you're in California, Nevada, and you do about 1,400 to 1,500 miles and you're in eight days together, seven days of competition with just the two of you.
So, you hope you like each other, whether it's your husband or your teammate or any sort. You're stuck in a steel box together with multiple thousands of miles. So, it could be a lot of fun. It's very rewarding, it's very enriching, but it's also very challenging.
So let me ask you this, a couple of things. So, when it's you and your husband, you're the navigator. Is he patient about if you're not sure or are you do you get a chance to see the route and everything ahead of time to kind of learn it, or they just give it to you the day that you start the race?
That's a great question, About the competition for the Alcan 5000 Rally, they have like a plastic spiral-bound book, and it literally is a book. It's about half an inch thick, and it's 5,120 miles of point by point turns and directions and how long you need to go and when you need to have your TSD: your time, speed, distance, sub rally within this competition. So, in that particular rally, you might have a morning TSD. So maybe 20 or 30 miles of you have to be timed on point, en route, certain speeds, and get to the absolute closest, most perfect time as you can. But then you might have a transit of 400 miles to get to an afternoon competition. So, it's a very different, interesting set of requirements. And my husband is awesome. He's a great listener. He's a great person to understand, okay, if I have so much in my head going on all at the same time, and if I might start getting flustered, he's great about saying, “Okay, step back, let's slow down, let's stop before we keep on going if we don't know where we're going and let's kind of reconfigure.”
There are points where sometimes it gets a little bit heated per se as to we went the wrong way and we got to go this and this and reconfigure and figure everything out. But that is with any race or any rally or any competition. I’m wearing a leather bracelet that he got me he had made for Christmas. And it says, “Remember the Pinky swear.” I love this so much because with Andy and me and I've now done it for the Rebelle Rally with my competitor Emily and myself, we pinky swear in the beginning of every day of major competition because to me it's all about good communication, compromise, staying calm, and just being cool and collected. And so, if we try to keep remembering that we do a pretty good job being a team together and we haven't killed each other yet. And I don't plan to.
No, hopefully not together. But you don't get that book of instructions until you start the race, right?
Usually it depends. I mean, with the Rebelle Rally, the navigators, they have to take a plotter and their map rulers and plot out certain checkpoints to be able to get and they get those. It could be a set of maps during that day. It could be two sets of maps for the next two days. But usually, you don't see them until you're right there. I've done some local time speed distance rallies where they will email you the route book where you could, I guess theoretically go out earlier and just run the route and see where the traps are because sometimes, they'll try to trick you and trap you into going the wrong direction. But for the major ones that I've done in my past, they've usually just said, “All right, here's a book, go.”
Exactly. So you said something about if I caught it, right, that you have to go, like it might say in the book, go half a mile at 37 mph. So is that right? It tells you how far to go, what speed to go, and then there's a certain time like 02:00 min., and you want to get as close to that time to that point as you can?
Basically, yes. So, you have a certain speed that you need to go a certain distance, you need to go before your next directional change. So, for instance, they might say turn right at Smith Road, 3 miles or kilometers. We run them in either kilometers or miles, depending on the rally. So 37 MPH, 3 miles, turn left onto Smith Road, then change your CAST, which is “change average speed to” 23 mph. And then you keep doing that and you have to keep trying to figure out, okay, you have to slow down to turn, but you got to speed back up to try to catch up because you slowed down there. And then depending on what number of car you are out, let's say if all the cars start at 08:00, a.m. 1st car is out at 08:00, maybe the second car, if they stage them every two minutes, is out at 8:02, then 8:04, then 8:06. So let's say if your car 26, you have to add on 26 minutes to each start of when that is. So, then you actually start at 8:26. So if it says you arrive at bunker number five, I don't know.
Be at this place at 10:00, well, your arrival for your exact car is 1026.
Wow. So you've got to really have somebody who's good at math, who's calm and who is not directionally challenged. My husband, he could never be the navigator. We tried yesterday to go find some trails here close to the RV park, and he thought he knew right where he was going. And I finally Googled and like Mark, we went completely in the wrong direction and it's not far from the house. And so he drives and I navigate.
Right. Yeah. That's very similar to Andy and myself. He is an excellent, excellent driver. I trust him with my life on road, off road, ice, snow, mud, whatever it is. He's an excellent driver and he always has been. And he's learned so many great off-road skills since 2006 when he got the job in the off road industry, he works for a company called Warn Industries, which Warn makes premium winches. If you know what truck winches are with a spool cable, whether it's synthetic or wire rope, hubs, aftermarket bumpers, all sorts of stuff. So that's where he learned how to do it all. He had to learn how to do it all because he's in the PR department. He's one of the marketing managers. So, yeah, you have to be out there with the media, with clients, with customers, and you got to teach Winching classes and all that type of stuff. And through that, he's got such a great base of expertise for all different types of terrain. So whether it's slick rocks of Moab or the Arctic snow, that's negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And it's really weird snow compared to Midwest or even Oregon snow.
Yeah. So he's a great driver. And I don't necessarily say I'm an awesome Navigator, I navigate, but I think it's a great pairing. And as far as the Rebel rally and some other competitions with me as a driver, I think, yes, it definitely helps to have somebody that is directionally exceptional, but it's also very important to have somebody that can get along with you very well so that can understand when you're starting to get frustrated, when you're hungry, if you're tired, if you're really happy, or just if you need to just take a chill for a second, because that is almost even more important because if you're doing a 5000 miles rally, a 1400 miles off road rally, or any of these more extensive competitions, then yeah, I mean, having somebody that you have great camaraderie with is definitely key.
Oh, yeah. Because that's just a stressful situation. On a normal day, if you're traveling and there's traffic and there's if it's not just a leisurely drive, then there's some stress involved no matter what. So that's really interesting. I knew about the Rebel or Rebelle. Do you call it Rebelle?
It's Rebelle, yeah. Some people think that it's Rebel, but I think it's the play on that. So, it's Rebel, R-E-B-E-L-L-E. So the Rebelle Rally.
Yeah. So I had heard of that before and knew it was a women's thing. I had never had a chance to talk to anyone about it. So this is pretty interesting for me. So if you're going to do a 1500 miles competition, it's through the desert, it's through woods. What kind of terrain are we talking?
It can be varied. It depends. For the Rebelle Rally, Emily Miller is the owner and the manager of the entire rally. This is her baby. She works very closely with the BLM and all sorts of local jurisdictions and offices to make sure that everything is permitted. We never know where the rally takes us, but it's typically in the Nevada and California deserts. And then we end in Glamis Sand Dunes where the old Star Wars was filmed with a crazy sand dunes scene. So typically that's where it has been. It's been going on for about six years, but we never know where it takes us. We've had some areas when I competed in 2018, I remember there was some areas that were somewhat wooded and you went all the way up, high up in these Hills and there was a guy that was on horseback that was herding several hundred sheep and he had to stop for sheep, but you just never know what you're going to see. So she always likes to make it a surprise. And Emily does a really good job and course director too. And everybody that's in tune with the route itself do a really good job of taking you past some pretty spectacular scenes if you're in the right direction, if you're going on time and on course.
So what do you do about spending the night?
So that all depends. If it's the Alcan 5000 Rally, they do have motels. The Alcan 5000 is set up kind of like the Olympics. So every two years is the winter rally, then every two years is the summer rally, et cetera, et cetera. In the winter, obviously they don't want anybody to die because we didn't see it on a screen. But one of the guys that was in a Jeep said it was negative 43 Fahrenheit on his little reader that could barely work in his Jeep. So got dang cold. But when it was to that point, they have motels that are set up, but they also require for you to bring things if you have to be sleeping in your vehicle overnight, there can be blizzards. We've driven through them in the Arctic. There could be all sorts of situations, mechanical failures. What have you lucky enough with our Pajero, a diesel that was never sold here in the States, we did a lot of extensive prep and we had no mechanical issues. We did it right. But we still had our 20 degree bags. We still had our stove that ran on diesel fuel because regular fuel would like a little Coleman thing that would freeze up.
And we had all sorts of other things just in case, God forbid, we got stuck in our vehicle for multiple hours or even overnight. So the Rebelle Rally is a little bit different. They do tents, so you're basically out there tenting it in the wind in whatever it is you do have one night that is overnight away from a big, massive base camp where everybody usually huddles. And that's called the marathon stage. So basically the teams, once they arrive at where they think it is that they're supposed to be at, then they set up basically their camp right next to their vehicle and they sleep with their vehicle or just next to the other teams that are there.
Okay, so have you ever gotten, like, so off track that you were nowhere near where you're supposed to be or are you most of the time close to the route and haven't gotten really way off track?
All the competitions that I've done, we've been pretty good about being pretty close. There was a little bit of touch and go in 2018 as a privateer. I was with my teammate Elise at the time, and I was driving her husband's Toyota Tacoma truck. And we were along this road. I coined it the Death Canal Road. I did an interesting article via Drivingline.com for that piece. And it was this road that was undulating and it was half washed out. And there were bombing range signs that were all to the right. We all knew. I mean, a lot of times it flanks this. Is it 29 palms, 23 palms? I can't remember the name. I'm not sure. Different bombing ranges out in the middle of nowhere. And then there was a road sign that was in the middle of the road that said, “do not pass, do not go beyond.” This is active bombing range. And we're like, we were the first ones on site and we stopped. We didn't know, should we go? This could be a big issue. And people have unfortunately had been called back to get off of that range because they've turned wrong and they've accidentally gone on.
And long story, very short is there are a few other Rebelles that were then behind us and this and this. And some said, all right, screw it. I'm not going to waste any more time, clock ticking, to get to these checkpoints, because it's all about getting the points at each checkpoint and the most points wins. And we decided to stay because we didn't want to get in trouble. But it turns out that we could have kept on going and that they said we could have called on the satellite phone at that point and said, hey, we think that we're in the right route. Is this okay? This is what we're having as an issue and not have any penalty docked for it. But you live and you learn. So I think that was probably the more stressful times, was just not sure if you're ready to head into a live bombing range.
Yeah, that would be a little scary for sure.
What's been the most favorite one that you've done, where you've gone?
Oh, gosh, it's really hard to say because everyone is so different and everyone is so unique. I've got favorite parts of everyone of them. Okay. If I had to say one of them right off the top of my head, the Alcan 5000 with my husband, with a crazy old diesel Pajero that was never sold in the United States, saying, yes, okay, we're going to be able to do this and we're going to do it. We're going to go all the way up to the tippy top of Tuktoyaktuk (Tuk for short) and the Arctic Ocean and see it and finish this rally, which was almost 6,000 miles. It was like 5,100 miles or so and succeed in it. And we were the tribute vehicle for the legendary Rod Hall racer. The Rod Hall had competed in a Dodge Raider, which is very similar. It's like a cousin of the Pajero back in 1986 I believe. And the rally owner, Jerry Hines said, “Hey, this is coming up, it's a winter rally. He did all of the extremes with his Dodge Raider that Dodge put them in. And we want you to be a tribute vehicle.” We said for sure. Yes.
I never had a chance to meet Rod Hall in person, nor did my husband, Andy. But Emily Miller, the owner of the Rebelle Rally and another dear friend of mine, Sue Mead, who was also just legendary racer, legendary journalist, she's been doing it for over 35 years. They both were taught by him. So when we accepted that it was an extra challenge because we're like, okay, we really can't break down now. But it was such an honor to be a tribute vehicle and to do all that we did successfully, all of the alternate extremes or the optional extremes. We drove all the way up to Coldfoot, Alaska when everybody else went to the hot Springs, I think it was near Fairbanks. We went all the way up to Coldfoot because that's where they said to go. And we drove. It was crazy, very treacherous driving conditions. We went all the way up there, did that extreme, came all the way back down and did everything else and we succeeded.
What great memories you have from all of that. Right. The scenery and everything has to be just amazing. It is.
Yeah. For that trip we saw my gosh, my first caribou saw I can't remember the name of the birds. These crazy Arctic birds. We saw Moose. We almost hit a Moose. We saw all sorts of different things. We literally almost hit a Wolf, the biggest Wolf I've ever seen in my life. I was in the middle of the road playing and one of the guys radio down saying, “hey, just FYI, wherever mileage marker that's in our route book. there was a Wolf.” It was right in the middle of the road at the blind corner when Andy and I, we don't have ABS. So he was trying to steer clear of it and locked it up and we're just kind of skidding sideways towards it and it just went and just jumped right off into the distance. But yeah, the scenery just seeing encrusted snow filled trees and driving past the middle of nowhere, 300 miles with nobody else around, and then seeing one of those construction machines, those diggers, just sitting there, Idling with its lights on in the middle of the side of the road, just sitting there on because they can't shut it off.
Because if they shut it off, they can't turn it back on again, right. Or the Rebelle Rally, we saw some really amazing scenery too. A lot of desertcapes that are just forever singed in my brain. And especially with partnering with VW, we have a chance to drive their all-wheel-drive brand new ID.4, which is an all-electric vehicle. So it was really interesting to combine such beautiful scenery with an all-electric car. So for me, I think that's forever burned in my memory because we were basically made history as the first all-electric crossover to complete the competition. But to just not hear any sound and then see everything and just hear the crunching of the dirt underneath and the wind that's kind of whipping across your windscreen if your windows roll down and the crunch of just everything, the rocks. And it was a really interesting dynamic. And I hope that I can compete again in an EV because I found out after doing a lot of research and everything, I'm one of the first few that really have done EV off-roading. The Rivian team has done it for two years now with the prototype Rivian R1T truck.
The first year in 2020. They competed with the very first R1T that came off the line, the very first prototype this year. They had a near production ready, late stage prototype and they've done great. Emme Hall is a seasoned racer and rally too, and she's won the competition a few times before. So other than that, in the ID.4 EV with NORRA Rally, with that rally, that was a rear-wheel-drive variant and then the all-wheel-drive variant with us in the Rebelle, there hasn't been very many other people. I mean, you've got other, more extreme competitions. So of course, like with Audi and Dakar and stuff like that. But that's like way beyond what we're running here with either stock or somewhat modified vehicles.
But it's coming.
So the whole EV offroading, combined with the scenery just takes it to a whole another dimension.
It reminds me of riding a motorcycle versus a car. So my husband has been a motorcyclist since he was a kid. And so when you ride on a motorcycle out through the country, you can smell the corn and you can oh, right. I can hear all the things that you don't notice when you're in a car necessarily. And so when it's quiet and you're not distracted by the sound of your vehicle, you do hear the crunching of the snow and the wind and everything. And I would think that's just an amazing experience.
Yeah, my husband and myself, Andy and I talk a lot about travel and a lot about who you meet on the road and the experiences. And we're fortunate that we're able to work in the industry that can afford us those types of experiences. And he just said it best the other day that he has a lot to thank his mother that said, “You know what? We're going to take road trips, because if you fly, you don't see any of it. You don't see how people live. You don't see the geography or the different house styles or food that you taste or any of that type of stuff.” So we constantly try to push our limits. And where you go backwards or sideways or fail miserably, it's all part of it. And I think for me, I really appreciate being able to write about that. And I write for a whole host of different publications, whether it's The New York Times or Forbes, Wheels or Tread Magazine, AutoWise, etc. I mean, there's a bunch of different outlets that I write for, but a lot of it is hopefully experiential and inspirational, especially talking about women within the industry and people that are making a difference.
And so I'm hoping that any of these experiences that I have with Andy or Rebelle or just myself or some of the challenges that I've faced, hopefully that can give positivity to somebody and make them think about, “Hey, maybe I could do something,” no matter what it may be.
Well, that's the point. A lot of times of what I want to do is I want to share things that you're doing that women may not know about or may not have heard of or after they hear your story, they may think, oh, this is something I would like to try or I think I did that even if you're the Navigator, you're on the team or whatever it might be. So that's why I love interviewing women who are doing something different to encourage other women to check it out, see what you could do.
And I love that, Melinda. I think that that's so important. And I feed off of so many other people's energy and their experiences because I didn't know, hey, oh, my gosh. So and so doing X. And I need to be involved in that, whether I'm volunteering or on some sort of a crew or covering it for an article or something, that's I think how a lot of my life morphs into what it is now and hopefully what it does for the future. And I think just having enough humility to say, “You know what, I might fail along the way and I have a lot of trouble and a lot of long hours and this and this. But let me just try to keep pulling myself up by the bootstraps.” If that's the right phrase. I always say all the phrases wrong because of course, first generation American, but kind of pulling yourself up and finding those people that are willing to support you no matter what. Maybe on road or off road racing, drifting, motorcycling, wrenching, any of that type of stuff. I've got a really interesting article with The New York Times that's going to drop in a couple of days.
And I'm excited to share it because I can't really talk about it yet. It hasn’t been published yet. But keep watching on my social media. It talks about two women, very different walks of life, same passion. And it's just a really dynamic article and it inspires me and those types of things and the people I meet inspire me. And I think that's such a neat thing. And it's just good Karma. It's just good energy. And to me, if I can help make somebody's life a little bit different, a little bit better, and maybe unexpected in a good way, then I'm doing my job.
Yeah, absolutely. So, Mercedes, tell me now about your writing. Is there somewhere that we could follow, like, after you publish an article, let's say that you were kind how would I know that you did that? Is there someplace I can go to follow you?
Yeah. So my name is a little bit challenging to spell, but one of the best ways to find me is via LinkedIn is a good way. But Instagram, I have what is called a link in Bio that is a little active link that's on the top of my Instagram page. And that basically takes me to I link every story to every photo in that area.
So my Instagram is my name. So, it's Mercedes, and then underscore and my last name, which is L-I-L-I-E-N-T-H-A-L. So Mercedes Lilienthal and a link in my bio will take you to my linkin.bio, which you can see anything that I do share out. I don’t share every article. A lot of the times, it's The New York Times or Auto Conduct or AutoWise or Forbes, Tread Magazine, or even Car and Driver.
Sounds good, because I want to start following and reading your articles. I think that's going to be fun and hopefully being able to share those, too.
I appreciate it. Thank you.
That's going to be interesting because I love to write. Excuse me. And so reading other people's is just as interesting and fun to me as anything. So tell me, do you prefer to navigate or drive?
Oh, gosh, that's a hard one, nobody's ever asked me that. That's a hard question. I guess it depends on what it is. If it's traditional navigation mapping, compass, I would definitely say I'm not the best. I'm slow at taking compass readings and learning how to plot and all of that type of stuff. It really takes good eyeballs and the know-how, and I just am not there yet. I don't feel like I'm there yet. I have enough to be able to get the job done, but it takes me a long while. And the name of speed, as far as efficiency is very important for the Rebelle Rally. So with the Rebelle, I've driven it twice. I've covered it as media twice. I've done onsite in 2019 and 2020 was remote due to Covid. I've been writing and participating in that rally since 2018. Essentially, when it comes to the Alcan 5000 rally, I mean, if I'm with my husband, he's such an awesome driver that it works best when he drives and I navigate. And to me, it's a good team. He doesn't do well when he reads in the cars. He's one of those that just gets sick pretty easily.
So it's a good fit and it works well. And I think whatever works well. And however you feel the most dialed in is what's important. So that's what works for me.
Yeah. So I'm going to ask you maybe an odd question, but do you have to have, like, you either have to self-fund or you have sponsors? Is there money that you win a certain like, if you place or whatever? Is it a trophy? Is it just the pride that you can say, I did this? How does that work?
Right? Yeah. The prices of rallies wildly varies, depending on if you're doing a multi-day endeavor, like the Alcan 5000, which is ten days. Again.
I don't know if you can hear me, but I lost you. You're froze up.
Are you there?
Mercedes, did I lose you? You're froze up and I don't hear anything. There. You're back.
Sorry about that. I think my Internet just dropped. Okay.
It happens. No worries.
We can if you like.
Yeah. Let's go back and I'll fix this. I'll edit this.
What did I ask you? I can't remember.
You asked me about if there's any trophies or money or things like that, so I don't know. It might be best if you re ask that.
Okay, yeah, I'll re ask the question.
So, Mercedes, tell me about the rewards at the end of the race. Is it money? Is it trophies? Is it notoriety? Is it the pride of saying, I did this and I won tell me about that?
So for the Rebelle Rally, they do hand out trophies for 1st, second and third place, whether it's X-Cross class, which is a crossover class, or the 4x4 class. They also do have like a bone stock award or International Cup or things like that, where those are auxiliary segments, but they do also have awards for those. There are charity opportunities and don't quote me, but I think it's only certain if it's a spirit award or something like that. There are certain segments that if you do get an award, that X amount of money goes to a certain charity that you allocate I don't know exactly about that. I'm sure you can find more information on www.rebellerally.com, but it is bragging rights, so there isn't a cash purchase, so to speak. As far as the teams, I think the top teams do get entry into the following rally, the next year's rally, or most of it paid for the next year's rally. Regarding the Alcan 5000 Rally, we took second out of two people in the historical class. But hey, 2nd, is 2nd that's right. We got the Arctic Finisher award. We also got the Go Father award, which is a coveted one. That and the Arctic award because we did all of the additional optional extreme challenges for driving.
So whether that was driving all the way up to Tuk, come back down from a Inuvik or another one was I thinking was 146 miles of legitimate ice road driving and back from Aklavik, and that was just a world on its own. I could talk about that for an hour, just that one experience. So they have plaques. They have really awesome plaques. They had a big polar bear and it said 2020 Alcan 5000 Rally on it. But yeah, for us, we got those awards, which we're very humbled and appreciative to receive. I think the rest of it is pretty much bragging rights. To say if you're able to even compete and complete the thing is major bragging rights.
So is there a rally that's on your bucket list?
There are a few of them. Sometimes it's a challenge. I'd love to compete in them, but I'd also love to cover them as media. So I've yet to get to Mexico to see anything like NOORA or the Sonora Rally or the Baja 1000, not necessarily to drive or to compete, because that's serious racing down there, but maybe to run in a chase team or to be on somebody's media team or somebody's team as their media personnel to be able to help cover them in the event. I'd love to do that. And same with Dakar Rally overseas in Saudi Arabia. I mean, we had friends of ours, Sue Mead, the gal I was just telling you about, she was team manager of Amy Lerner and Sara Bossaert. I'm going to butcher how to pronounce her last name. That’s her teammate from overseas. Amy Lerner also actually was taught by Rod Hall. This is all coming back to like one central point, and that's Rod Hall. Amy Lerner's got a movie about Rod Hall that literally, I believe last week or two just got released. And it's called One More Win.
Yeah. Sue Mead, I believe, is who mentioned you to me.
Yes, it is. One More Win. Amy Lerner's documentary that she made about Rod Hall. And again, he's touched so many people's lives and so many women's lives that are now racers and are doing some awesome things. And so I have not seen the movie yet myself. But I think as far as Amy Lerner, she's so talented. She did the second Dakar Rally now. She did great. My article in Forbes Wheels about the team should be coming out here any day. It’ll talk a little bit more about her placements and how she and Sara did even that much better in her Porsche. She's got a vintage Porsche that she was rallying. Oh, gosh. I'd have to pull up my notes. I think it was like an 80s something Porsche that she ran. It was a 1982. Okay, gosh talk about dedication and guts to do something like that. They ran the Classic Class. I should have had that article right up here.
Okay. It'll give us a reason to read it.
Right. It's the Classic Class. And that was just formed last year per Dakar. It is a regularity type rally where it is kind of like a TSD versus going fast, hard, as crazy as you can go for the finish line. So it's very much more like a TSD type of a situation. So again, I would love to be able to get together with some team or something like that and go over to Dakar and be able to shoot that per photography and also cover that as media. There are at least two rallies I've got in the works, something I can't announce yet, but there's something happening in June that I am very excited about. That is also something major. But I just can't talk about it quite yet.
Well, you'll have to send me a note. Let me promote it and announce it and stuff when you get it going because we'll do what you're doing.
Yeah, we'll do for sure. I can definitely link up on all the different social media and all that good stuff I'll be announcing here hopefully in the next couple of weeks on that sounds good.
Well, Mercedes, this has been so interesting. You've taught me so much about rally rallies, rally racing, whatever we want to call it rally time, speed, and distance.
It's really interesting, and I think it's something that women should learn more about. And if they have some interest in, I love that you end up in Glamis. One thing I wanted to ask you was, so when you race.
Like, if you did the Rebelle and do you know where you're going to end up or you don't you don't you never know where you're going to end up or where base camp is until your navigator plots it out on the map and says, okay, I think we're going this way. And usually the green checkpoints and base camp are noted to help you along to make sure because they don't want anybody to deviate too far off the intended path. But when you're down in Glamis, I mean, everything is pretty much secret. So the course, once you get the maps and the Navigator starts plotting those points is when you figure out where you are. And I still don't know where I am.
I have a funny story for you about Glamis. So my husband, we have a Dune buggy back at home in Michigan. And so my husband, we went to California on a trip, and he said, I want to go to Glamis on the way back to Arizona. So we did our little jog, and he wanted to go to the Glamis store, which took us a little bit to find. And it is out in the middle of nowhere, and it's run on generators. And it was really interesting. But as we were traveling through the sand dunes of Glamis on that little two Lane road.
Yes, the highway.
There's nobody around us anywhere, as far as you can see. We were driving my daughter's van, and we're driving down the road, and all of a sudden there was this, like, boom. And we literally thought the car had exploded.
And out the front window, we see a jet.
And they were literally right over the top of us. I mean, wow. It was so, like, scary and then exciting. And they went over us, and then they kind of tipped their wings at us. And I said, I bet they thought that was a family in that van, and they were going to scare them or show them or whatever, but we have to laugh about going to Glamis. We did find a store. We got the concert, and then we had the crap scared out of us by the airplane. But now we're in Surprise, Arizona for the winter, and we are close to Luke Air Force Base. So I'm not sure if they're F 20 twos or what they are, but they're the ones that come to the racetrack in the formation.
And then they right.
Oh, my gosh. Amazing. And we love being here. And hearing those planes go over in practice. It's just awesome.
I've been to Glamis, but what I wondered was if I knew that the Rebelle was going to end in Glamis or somewhere where I could come, I would be there at the end and then I could see all the women and that would be fun for me to be able to do that. Check into that.
Yeah, you bring up a couple of good points. So for the Rebelle Rally, especially due to COVID, they used to finish in San Diego, and we'd be right on the waterfront where they would have all the vehicles on display and the public could come and see and all of that. I mean, this isn't really a public event, so the public can't really follow, other than being online. They have trackers on each car, so you can see how the different cars go, and you can kind of see where they're at, where the checkpoints are, too. So as a person at home, you could definitely see online now because of COVID, they kept the base camp and the finish in Glamis, but they've basically said it's only I don't even know if, like, direct family went. I mean, I think direct family, some went this year, but last year it was pretty much just the teammates and some of the sponsors and the crew. And so it was very close knit because of Covid. So those types of things have changed. But, yeah, we used to have it in San Diego. So in 2018, it was pretty cool.
You're rolling in mud from head to toe and like dirt and just you're disgusting because you haven't showered in like eight days. I might not have ever showered on there and you're just like encrusted and crazy, but you're there. And then all of these people just come and check them all out. And whether you've got duct tape on your rear facial or you've got a broken axle that's welded with whatever you have or something like that, I mean, it's carnage and all. It used to be right there.
Well, that's cool. I'm going to have to check that out more and check with the owner and everything for the future and see if there's a way to cover that somehow, because that would be really cool to do that, right?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, you can check out Rebel Rally.com, that's Rebelle.com or both Robelrally.com.
And the owner is Emily Miller. You can either do that or go on social media and you can reach out to them via direct messages. I know that they're pretty good about getting back to anybody and everybody. You always just reach out and say who you are and say that you want to try to cover this event and what's it all about. And they're great about talking to everybody, I'm sure.
Yeah, exactly. Well, Mercedes, is there anything I know there's a lot you could talk about, but is there anything really obvious that I've missed today asking you about. And maybe we should schedule another podcast to cover something else at some point.
Yeah, for sure. Not anything at all that you've missed. But I think there's something that I'd like to say. I don't know if anybody knows what their path is or even what their true path is or even intended. There are so many people that are my champions, that are people I admire and that I get so much inspiration from, whether it's my mom, my husband, friends and family and people that are total strangers that I follow their path. Without that, nobody's got anything. And without the desire to have persistence, perseverance, and just, I guess, guts or stupidity, one or both to try something new and put yourself out of your comfort zone. And I still am afraid of failure to some degree. But for me, it's like, you know what? I've learned so much through my failures and through challenges to keep pushing on. And I learned that much more. And it makes me stronger. And to figure out what works, what doesn't work. And your path that you're trying to take to get to Z might take you backwards, sideways, the loop, de loops, and all over the place. But eventually you might make it to Z or you might make it to X spot.
But you might think that, oh, my God, X is like where you really want to be in life, but you just never knew because you were trying to have your trajectory to Z. So I don't know why I've got all of this, like, algebra stuff going on in my brain.
I know, you're so right. And it's funny. My son in law is a baseball trainer. He trains baseball pitchers. He was a baseball pitcher. And we just had a conversation last night about finding our passion. And he works long days. He works six, seven days a week. He owns his own business, which is not always easy. And yet last night I was at their house. I'm going to be babysitting the next couple of days. My daughter's birthday is coming up. So he's taking her to Disneyland.
She is a Disney travel expert. She does all kinds of travel agent things, but Disney is her expertise and her passion. Oh, fine. So he took some days off to take her there. But we were talking last night. He got home at 11:00. I don't know what time you went to work, but it was in the morning. And I said, John, are you tired? He said, no. He said, I love what I do.
And he said, I haven't hit that yet. And so I love seeing that we're talking about I have that for motorsports, especially for women in motor sports. You have that for what you do. And if you'd have asked me ten years ago if this is what I'd be doing, I would have shaken my head and said, Are you crazy?
Same with me.
So we never know where our path is going to lead. But then when I look back and I look at different things that I've done and I owned a weekly newspaper for ten years that prepared me for my digital magazine and for my interviewing for the podcast, and just the different things that I like to do or that I've done in the past have given me the experience and things to do what I'm doing now. But I would have never dreamed that that's what I'd be doing.
That's so well said, Melinda. I hold that type of truth to my heart because for me, little old me little small town girl, I grew up in an unincorporated town in central Wisconsin. Never in a million years would have thought that I'd be doing what I'm doing now. But it took me a near 20-year career in commercial interior design and project management for me to realize, oh, wait a second, I have a lot of creativity, but I'm also very analytical, which I both hate and love that about me. I'm detailed and analytical, but I never realized I could be creative with interior spaces and be holistic in that manner, but then transfer a lot of those skills to words and cars and be creative with my writing. I'm 46 right now, and it took me until actually very recently to realize that, yeah, I can still feed the insatiable need of wanting to learn and wanting to be creative, but still try to make a difference in however I can and organically have that happen in a manner I never would have expected.
And sometimes it might. It might hit somebody at age 15. It might hit somebody at age 82. We just don't know. It's just the, I guess, the openness of allowing yourself to try something different. And you can always go back. I sound like a broken record, but you can always go back to what it was if you don't like whatever you're trying to do. If anything, it teaches you something. It teaches you, maybe I don't want to go down that path, or maybe I don't want to be an architect, or I don't want to do this or that, or maybe you do, or maybe you just go, oh, whoops, that happened? But then, oh, wow, there's a whole new thing that I didn't know about. So I guess for me is if I can help anybody to say, oh, hey, well, maybe I could try something different if I'm stuck in a dead end job or I hate where I live or this. I've never tried a certain food. Try it, try it. You might love it. And I never used to be that way. Whatever it took, maybe it's a cross country move and then starting to get off-roading where we put ourselves way out there because we didn't really know how to work on 4x4 cars.
Andy is an awesome mechanic. Now. He does almost all of our work on our vehicles, and he's learned so much. And I think through a lot of that is like, wow. Yeah, there's still a lot to learn.
There's still a lot to do.
It's just how you want to go about it, which is what the key is.
Exactly. And it's to always be willing to learn. Yeah, I love learning. I've got so many things. I'm 66. I just turned 66 in December. I taught myself Canva, which wasn't hard because I have a design background. I'm teaching myself about StreamYard. I'm teaching myself some things about SEO. I took a course on how to write a course. I've just written a course and haven't launched it yet for race track owners, actually, it's for entertainment venues, but geared towards racetrack owners. It's called the Inside Track Partnership. Promotions and Profitability for entertainment venues. Wow. Fantasies racetrack. And I'd love to learn. And so if you can always be open at any age to learn something new, you just never know where life is going to take you.
I think you nailed it right on the head. Is be open to learn anything new. That literally is the quintessential bit of this whole discussion is just it is, you know, be open, don't be afraid to fail, and just you never know where the world will take you if you just be humble and open up to let it right.
Well, I can't say it any better than that, Mercedes. So thank you so much for being on the show with me. I really appreciate it. And I definitely want you to stay in touch because I want to know where you are, what you're doing, and how can I come and cover you about what you're doing?
I would love nothing more. Melinda, it was a pleasure being on your show. There's a lot coming down the pipeline for people that are interested in following along with my husband and myself. We do have aside from our work jobs, or he also is a talented journalist on his off hours. But aside from all of that, we cover our own outlet called Crankshaft Culture. So it's either www.crankshaftculture.com, we've got a very active Facebook community where it's a group where you can come in anybody's accepted because every vehicle to us is an adventure and we're all united by horsepower. But we also are on Instagram a bit on YouTube and also Facebook, but you can find me via my name and then on Twitter. I'm @writerwithgrit, so you can follow along, or if anybody else wants to follow along and you'll see all my crazy roads or wherever I end up heading, that's awesome.
I'm going to be following you. So that's great. Well, Mercedes, thank you again so much, and we'll talk again soon.
Awesome. Thanks so much for having me on the show. It was a great pleasure.
Welcome to Racing Girls Rock Podcast, presented by Women’s Motorsports Network. I’m Melinda Russell, the founder and CEO. I also founded the International Women’s Motorsports Association and the Women’s Motorsports Network News online magazine.
Today’s episode is brought to you by our official travel planner, Brittany Huizinga. Brittany specializes in Disney trips, but can book any trip, anywhere you want to go from Hawaii to Houston, Alaska to Australia, or anywhere in between.
Last year she helped over 100 families plan magical vacations to Universal Studios, Disneyland and Disneyworld, Mt Rushmore, Las Vegas, Cabo, Hawaii, Aruba and Iceland to name a few. In just her first year since joining the Smart Mom’s Travel Group, she won the Rising Star Award, Top Paid Agent Award, won a rewards trip, hit her sales goal, joined team Fantasyland at her agency, became a WDW passholder and magic key holder and make lifelong friends.
You can connect with her on Instagram @travelingwithzing or give her a call at 602-291-5144. Check out the show notes for more information, and tell her Melinda sent you!
And now, it’s time for this week’s show!
This is Melinda Russell with Racing Girls Rock podcast. And I have a very special guest today, which all my guests are special, but some are more special because we’ve kind of been trying to get together here for awhile, haven’t we, Hannah?
Our schedules didn’t work, but we finally got to meet today. And we’re going to have a great conversation. We’re going to learn a lot about Hannah Newhouse and what she’s doing and how she got interested in motorsports. So why don’t you start, Hannah, please, first by telling us a little bit about yourself, where you live, your family, whatever you’re comfortable with.
Yeah. So I currently live in the Charlotte area, which, of course, if you’re familiar with the world of motorsports, that is a Metro for all things motorsports. Relocated here from Idaho in 2016 and actually was still trying to be a driver at the time. I used to race pavement, super late models, moved out here on a deal with Toyota, thought that was going to be my path. And lo and behold, what is six, seven years later now has been a complete snowball in a different direction, which I’m so thankful for because I love my job. But now I like to say I’m kind of a Jack of all trades in the motorsports reporting industry. I’ve worked with everyone from Motor Racing Network on pit road for NASCAR, NBC, with IMSA. Right now, I’m kind of currently pretty full force involved in the world of outlaws on the late model side of things in DirtVision. I mean, I’ve done pavement late model racing as a motorsports reporter now, so it keeps me busy. The contractor life is a crazy life to live. If you’d asked me six years ago if I’d have been in front of the camera, I had told you you’re crazy, but it’s been so much fun.
My fiance also works as a motorsports reporter. He’s a reporter for NBC doing IMSA, IndyCar and NASCAR. So he’s actually at the Rolex right now. And the one tough thing about it, we joke that we are used to not seeing each other, but we have a three-year-old Aussie Australian Shepherd, and she’s the hardest part about leaving home every week. But no, it’s exciting. My goal is to eventually be able to take her. Eventually, yes, for sure.
Because you can’t leave your child at home. And even if it’s a four-legged child, it’s still your child.
Are you comfortable sharing who your boyfriend is?
Yeah, my fiance. Yeah. He’s Dylan Welch.
Dylan Welch. So that people will be watching for him. Now, I know this weekend is the Rolex, and then next weekend is the Clash. We’re not sure if it’s going to be a Clash or a Crash in the Coliseum. And I actually have tickets to go to that. So I’m so excited about going to that race. I think that’s going to be so fun. I’m in the Phoenix area right now for the winter, and I was just at the test, the NextGen test on Tuesday, and there was quite a good crowd of people there. It was free to get in, and it was interesting. I said to my husband as we were walking up, you could hear the cars. And I said, well, so far, I don’t hear anything different… “because they don’t sound as good. They don’t go as fast. They don’t look as good.” I disagree with all of that. I thought they sounded great. I think they look great, and they looked pretty fast to me. So I was excited to go to the test, and now I’m going to get to go watch them race. So that’s going to be fun. But you’ve done so many different things.
I think when I first saw you or saw your name, you were doing some things for NASCAR, maybe on pit road. And I like to follow women in motorsports to see what they’re up to. What’s the best thing about your job or even being a woman in motorsports? What do you enjoy about it the most?
I mean, there’s a lot of things that I would say are all kind of tied together. Originally, when I kind of got pulled into this job, it was purely accidental in the sense that I had moved out here and I wanted to be a race car driver. That’s what I wanted to be. And when it kind of wasn’t panning out, I wasn’t really sure what my next steps in life were going to be. And I was out here by myself at 16-17 years old, and I was in a lease, and I needed a job. And I’d already skipped out on that semester of college because I was in college at the time because I graduated early to be able to go drive race cars and didn’t really know what I was doing and took a job with a small motorsports media company for a couple of months just doing marketing, so I could still maybe go race if the opportunity came up. And MRN actually called me, kind of knowing who I was through having had been a driver. I had actually been a guest on a couple of their shows, and they found out that I was doing some on air stuff.
And they were like, what do you think about auditioning? And I was like, there’s no way they’re going to have me audition. Like, I’m 18 years old, no radio, no TV background. I mean, I am not suited for this job. And they were like, well, we’ll teach you. So I went and auditioned, and there’s a lot that goes into it. They eventually gave me not only the in-studio job, but they let me audition for a pit road position, which was crazy. I mean, again, crazy to me. There’s people that go to broadcasting school and, you know, all this stuff. And they pulled 18-year-old Hannah and said, let’s give her a shot. And what I think I love the most about it is the thing that I love the most about driving. Race cars, obviously, was the racing aspect. But a close second was getting to travel the country with my friends and my family and almost the social aspect of it. Right. Like interacting with each other at the racetrack, outside of the race track, like being around fans, being around the team. And I’m still doing that. I’m still getting to do that.
I’m traveling with these teams, I’m cultivating these relationships, I’m learning these stories. And the fun thing is now I get to be that person that projects those stories for the drivers. And I’ve created great relationships with teams, drivers, manufacturers, series now, I mean, almost across the world. And to have those relationships is amazing. Like, there are teams from IMSA or even some of the drivers that race in USAC that are from the UK that we’ve created relationships with. Like, hey, if you ever want to come to the UK, let us know our guest house is open. And I’m like, how did we even get here? The relationships are probably the best. I figured I’ve met fans that have become great friends of mine that, you know, I would have never met had I not, fortunately been given the platform of becoming a face of motorsports.
Right. Well, they must have seen something about you, Hannah. And one thing you know, you say, oh, I wasn’t fitted for the job. Well, you do have a motorsports background and you can talk the talk and you understand– you’ve been a driver. There’s a lot of gals who want to be a reporter who don’t have that background. And like I said, they can teach you the on-air things. That’s broadcasting school. They can’t teach you how it feels to be in a race car unless you’ve done it. So you were prepared for it. You just didn’t know it at the time. And now you look back and you really were prepared for where you’re headed now.
Yeah, I definitely needed a little polishing. I think that was what my producer always said. You can always polish it. I can teach you how to toss the commercial and end an interview correctly. And I think one of the things that was nice and set me apart, maybe from other people that were being pulled into the industry and even as I change industries, is the fact that I have been a driver. So that respect aspect from the drivers and the Crew Chiefs and the crew guys is when I go in and ask a question, especially a technical question, they’re aware that that question wasn’t fed to me. They’re aware that the question that I’m asking is because I made an observation or I know. And that’s kind of also something that I’ve taken pride in in the sense that since I do have a technical background and I’ve worked on these cars, I’ve helped build these cars when I’ve had to transfer into different disciplines of racing. Like, sports car racing was pretty foreign to me. At the end of the day, it’s still a stock car, but there’s a lot of different moving parts all the way into, like, dirt and open wheel racing.
That’s a whole new ball game. So I always really took pride in, like, prior to or maybe in the midst of working with that division, I would make sure that I got over to someone’s shop or I got there a day beforehand and found the right person to be like, okay, what can you help me absorb in 2 hours, or are you okay with just me standing here and asking questions and answering? Unfortunately, absolutely. Everyone that I’ve come across has been so inviting and so willing to help me learn. But I think that’s a big part of being in this discipline of the industry Is you can’t just ask questions about how they’re racing. I feel like there’s a whole another level that sets you apart from maybe other people on air.
Well, so true, because so many times I’ve said, I wish fans could experience the behind the scenes, because so many times they love racing. They buy their tickets, they go to the race, they sit in the grandstand, they go home. They don’t understand what it takes to get the car there, to get it ready to go, how much money it costs the crew, how long hours they work, all those things. And that’s from short track, local racing all the way up to F1, NASCAR, whatever you want to say, because there’s just so many moving parts that have to work together, and that’s the part I love about it. I love that it takes you and me and Joe the mechanic and the tire girl and the whoever, and if we didn’t all have the same goal, we’re not going to get that car on the track, and even if we do, it’s not going to do very well. And so that’s what I love about even talking to gals like you, talk about the behind the scenes, because that’s what people don’t see typically and don’t understand. And the fact that you’ve worked on cars, you do know the questions to ask, s o you have a lot of credibility with the drivers, for sure.
Yeah. One thing I would always tell people is, if you ever get the opportunity to go to the area where you’re, you know, the racing that you enjoy is kind of based. So, for example, NASCAR in North Carolina in Mooresville, the area, if you ever get the chance to come here, if the opportunity is available, do a shop tour. Find a shop and do a shop tour, because they get to see these polished teams on pit road like you said at the races. But the shops and the teams and the process that they have is incredible. I mean, it is a well-oiled machine, like Penske shop is state of the art. Everything that they’re doing, it’s incredible. But at the end of the day, the flashiness can only tell so much of the story. These guys are putting in hours like no one knows. I mean, this year has been more trying probably than previous years because of these Next-Gen tests. There was no offseason. The offseason ended in November or the season ended in November. They were testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. They tested in Phoenix this week. There was supposed to be a test maybe back in Daytona in January, or there was a test.
They went to Atlanta and tested on the new track.
That’s right, yeah, Atlanta. And so it’s like, most of these people have families, they have kids. So there’s so much that goes into this. The commitment is incredible. And even in the short period of time that I’ve been in the NASCAR side of things, the engineering is absolutely insane. I mean, to watch someone have a laptop or an iPad, for that matter, and I’m standing on pit road with them, and they’re watching their car go by and they’re getting, like, data fed back to them on shock, rebound and rpm and how the motor is running and travel. And I’m sitting here going, this is insane because obviously this technology has not hit the short track racing world. And honestly, I hope it never does because we can’t afford it. So leave it at the top levels. But the behind the scenes is incredible. And also on the same notion, if you ever get the opportunity to go to a racetrack and get a hot pass or do a garage tour, do it. It may sound crazy, but what you kind of see behind the scenes is very eye opening to the product that you see on the racetrack.
Oh, absolutely. I can remember the first time that I was able to go through the garage. A gal that I made friends with through this. And I had interviewed her and she was a tire specialist. And she said, why don’t you come? I’ll give you a garage tour. And she took us through Chris Buscher’s hauler. That’s who she was a tire specialist for. She took us through the hauler and she took us to the garage. And the tool chest. I mean, most people don’t get excited about a tool chest, right, right.
But that tool chest was the most amazing tool chest I’d ever seen, not to mention how big it was, but it had all these little buttons and it flipped up and it did this and it did that. It was just crazy. And the things that she explained and told me about the sponsorship, I learned more from her that day than I’ve learned about NASCAR in months. And years of watching it just because I was behind the curtain, if you will, where I could see what really happens. And wow, it was just fascinating, and it just makes you love the sport even more when you see what it takes to get those cars on the track.
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been fortunate to make friends in all the different roles within motorsports. And actually, a couple of weeks ago it was funny at Chili Bowl, myself and Dylan, and then a couple of our other friends, we all got an AirBNB together for Chili Bowl and we’re all involved in motorsports and different degrees. And one of my friends is actually the marketing and client rep for Chevrolet. My other friend is in public relations for Hendrick on the 24 car. And then you’ve got Dylan and I who are on the media side of things. And then our other friend is kind of like one of the head engineers and just the conversations and conference calls and emails and everything that was being done in that household. I mean, you stopped for a second and you were listening to the other person’s conference call and you’re like, I didn’t even think that that would be a part of your job. And here it is. She’s setting up hospitality events for Martinsville in the fall, you know what I mean? To get sponsorship activation so that the company that they work with can run a promotion at their job.
So it’s all set up for October, and the Chevrolet people are making sure that they can have manufacturer exposure at A, B and C. And I was just like, Holy cow, there’s just so much that goes into it besides showing up with a race car.
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And hopefully now this year, with all the fans being there and all the sponsors and everybody coming back, it’ll be way more involved than those people really got taken out of their job the last couple of years because of COVID. They couldn’t schedule all those events and do that. Now we’re going to all go back, hopefully to that. That’s the fun part, too, is all the people you meet, the friendships you make. And when you go to the track, it’s like old home week. It’s like, oh, my gosh, I haven’t seen you forever. And that’s the fun part, too. I absolutely love motorsports, as I know you do as well. So now tell me a little bit about what your year coming up looks like. What are you going to be doing? Where are you going to be going? Where can we find you and watch what you’re doing?
So this year is probably the most collective year that I’ve had yet in the sense that I’m really dedicated and really committed to kind of just one series, which is great because I’ve never had that opportunity to deep dive into one series. So World Racing Group, which owns World Of Outlaws actually approached me after I filled in for some races for them last year and offered me the full time World of Outlaws late model job. So I’m the pit reporter for them. It’s 59 races is what we’re scheduled for, and that’s not even that crazy. The sprint car folks, I think, has 81 races or something.
So 59 races, plus there’s a couple of others that are sprinkled in there with some combination events with big races like the World and the Dream Eldora and stuff. So I’ll do everything on that. That’s all on Dirt Vision. And I actually also took on the role of digital content coordinator for World Racing Group for the late models. So that way, not only I can do the on-air stuff, but I can create pieces that are those behind-the-scenes videos that are documenting everything. Last week, we had a driver who was a long-tenured driver with the Tour, who battled cancer over the offseason, beat cancer, and his first race back, came back and won. And so we’re going to do a sit down piece with him, and I get to orchestrate that and tell that story. So I’m really excited for the opportunity to put these pieces out there, give short track racing fans an inside look at things that they might not be able to see otherwise, but also be the feet on the ground at the race track. Follow this Tour, so it’s going to be busy. I’m hoping that I also have a couple of other things in the works as far as some network stuff, potentially.
I’ve dabbled a little bit in Motocross in the last year or two. I think there might be some opportunities there that I could jump in and fill in for some of my friends, but it only boils down to like 28 weekends, which sounds like a lot to most people, but out of a 52 weeks here, that’s really not that many considering how many times I’m usually on the road. Right. I say it won’t be terrible, but I seem to be a workaholic. Every time I get a phone call, I just can’t turn it down.
So do you typically drive from one to the other? You fly, what do you how do you get to where you need to go?
So depends on our race weekends. I’d say about half of the race weekends, we usually race Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and about half of them, if not a little less than half, are at the same racetrack. So we have a Thursday night race, Friday night race, Saturday night race, three in a row, same race track. So we’ll usually fly in and stay for that. The other half of the races, we’re at three different race tracks on three different days. So in those scenarios, we’ll usually fly in the day before that, Wednesday, go to racetrack number one, work all day, pack everything up, drive overnight, and the nice thing about dirt racing is everything is a little bit later in the day, so we don’t have to usually get there until two or three in the afternoon. So you get to your hotel at 03:00 in the morning, sleep till noon, get up, go to the race track, do the same thing. And most of our overnights are three to five hour drive overnight to the next race track. So there’s a couple of weekends that are pretty brutal. And then I’ll usually fly home, or depending on where we are, I can drive home.
We have some Carolina-based races, some Virginia-based races. We go to Bristol again this year. So it’s definitely travel intensive. It’s different than the NASCAR side of things, where we fly with the team planes, we land at the FBO’s near the racetracks. It’s definitely a little bit more down to Earth reality check traveling, which is fine. I don’t mind. I think some of the best stories and some of the best memories that I’ve even had so far in my racing like tenure have been with this group at 02:00 in the morning at a gas station in Louisiana.
Or a late night meal at Waffle House or whatever it might be, right?
Oh, yeah. We have visited our fair share of Waffle House.
I’m sure you have. I’m sure you have. For sure. It’s interesting that again, people think that it’s glamorous, right? People that don’t know that you work all day, it could be 100 degrees, it’s dirty, it’s dusty, you love it. But the reality of it is those things are all true. Then you pack up somebody’s driving all night, somebody might be sleeping. When it’s your turn to drive, you’re not sleeping. And people look at Hannah new house and think, oh, she’s got a glamorous life. And in some ways you do. But there’s some reality to it, isn’t there?
Oh, absolutely. If people only knew how many days I would go with the red dirt absolutely caked in my hair because I truly didn’t have time to stop between racetrack one and racetrack two to shower and clean up before I went back on air the next day. Even the NASCAR side of it, you know what I mean? The dirt track racing thing is definitely a different atmosphere. But I know there was a lot of conversation at the tail end of last year when NASCAR announced the 2022 schedule and it announced their off weekends, I think there was usually two to three that we would usually get are gone. We get Easter weekend, I think, off. And that’s it the entire year. And a lot of people chimed in and they were like, well, if you don’t like it, get a new job. There are a ton of people that would kill for your job. At the end of the day, it’s still a job, and it’s a job that we’ve worked really hard for. But that doesn’t mean that we should have to work Monday through Friday, and the nine to five is not a real thing.
These guys are getting to the shop at 05:00 in the morning.
And they’ll work until 05:00 the next morning. If that’s what needs to be done on these cars to get them ready, then to travel and leave their families. So I think NASCAR is going to recognize that. And I think there’ll be some given some breaks. I think we’ll start to see either shorter seasons or more off weekends.
Double headers, maybe double headers.
Something to alleviate that schedule, because they’re seeing a very big turnover right now in the industry. A lot of the guys that have been in the industry for 35, 40 years, they’re leaving. And you’re getting this younger group that’s coming in. And the technology that we have, it doesn’t take ten days to fabricate a car anymore. Everything is factory-made, and it can be repaired in a truly a matter of hours. What seems like anymore. So I think there’s going to be a big change in the industry on how that schedule is built, the expectations on the teams and the crew guys, because it is it is a very tough it is very demanding. It’s hard on families, it’s hard on relationships. We love our jobs. But at the end of the day, it is a job.
Right. And it’s just like Aric Almirola, he’s going to step.
Is that right or is it Almandinger stepping down at the end of this year?
Yeah. And people like, oh, he’s not that old. Blah, blah.
But he has young kids. And at some point, you have to say what’s going to be the lasting thing in my life, my family and he’s raced long enough. He probably doesn’t have to race, and he’s got a lot of other talents and things that I’m sure he can do outside of racing. But people that are casual fans, and I call them the “crazy keyboarders” who like to type and have all the opinions in the world, but they’ve never lived that life. And unless you’ve walked in somebody’s shoes, you probably need to just back off and not be so critical, because I haven’t had to travel weekend after weekend. But I’ve been to some races on a weekend where the temperatures were in the hundreds. It was concrete, it was miserable. And I had the opportunity to go into the media center where it was air-conditioned. My friend Liz, that was the tire specialist, was working out in the sun that whole time. So let’s not be so critical of the people that are bringing us the sport that we love.
Yeah. It makes you giggle sometimes. Some of those weekends are brutal. Like, Texas always seems to kick our butt, and it’s always so hot in Texas. You almost like, do the nose goes of, okay, who’s going to go to Texas? Yeah. Not that we don’t love Texas, but who I know it is usually brutal there. True.
Very true. So do you have a favorite race track? If you could go to any racetrack, what’s your favorite one?
That’s really tough. This is going to sound crazy, but a lot of the racetracks start to blend together because you start to go to so many of them.
Sure. I know.
Especially, like on the NASCAR circuit, I’ll be walking down the road and I’m like, wait a second, am I in Texas or where am I? Like, where am I for a second. They actually really, truly started to blend together. Martinsville is always a great environment. Same with Bristol. Phenomenal environment from a fan aspect. If you’ve never been to Talladega get there, you’ve got to experience it’s. Been off the last couple of years with Covid and everything, but Talladega is an insane fan experience, as is Daytona, my choice is probably racing has changed a little bit again after the last couple of years, just because what I have gotten to experience Irwindale Speedway out in California, the place that I got to race, loved it. Loved the racetrack, the racing it put on the people around there. My home track in Madera Speedway that will always have a place in my heart because I love racing there. I love the promoter. The race fans are incredible. But I’m now in competition with dirt races, which I never thought would even be something that would come out of my mouth. So, like, Prairie Dirt Classic is also another race that is at Fairbury Speedway in Fairbury, Illinois.
And it is this itty bitty tiny little town in Illinois. And they shut it down. They shut the entire town down. The week of Prairie Dirt Classic, you get around on golf carts, they shut the high school down. You can camp in your tents, on the baseball diamond, there are campers on the soccer field. And the joke is that it’s a party and a race breaks out. But it’s a great because there are families there. There’s a golf tournament because the golf course backs up to the racetrack. Like, that probably was one of the most eye-opening events where I wanted to be like NASCAR…Look, take a look at this. And this is how you put together a weekend. Because Prairie Dirt Classic was so much fun as a broadcaster, the drivers enjoy it. Fans come from all over the country for that race. The whole community, they plan their yard sales around the Classic and there’s yard sales. I stole a golf cart last year and drove around and went yard sailing in the morning. The Classic, it was great.
And it’s really the grassroots of racing.
Yeah, it is.
Yeah. And that’s not that far from me. So I’m going to put that on my bucket list.
Yes, you definitely should. I think it’s usually August.
I’ve heard of it, but I didn’t know about all what you just said. I just knew that was there, but definitely sounds like something that I need to be a part of. There’s nothing better than those little towns in the Midwest that have their summer celebration. It just happens that Fairbury uses the race for theirs. And so, yeah, such fun. I can’t wait for the summer to get here so we can get started racing and hitting the tracks. Now you’ll be in Knoxville, I assume?
Yes. For the Late Model Nationals, not for the Sprint Car Nationals.
Okay. All right. So I’ll be in Knoxville for the Sprint Car Nationals because we’re going to be doing another woman’s event there this year. Lori Cutter and I did one last year all about women in motorsports, and they’ve asked us to come back and do that again. So I’ll be there for the sprint cars this year. But another great track and facility and great fans. Yeah, that’s one that’s already on my list. So, Hannah, I know you also, I was going to mention this earlier when you were telling me all the things you’ve done. Haven’t you also filled in on Door Bumper Clear?
Yes, I have. That was another funny instance where I don’t even remember how I got connected with them, but it wasn’t like, hey, we found a host to fill in here. These guys, I’m pretty sure I met Freddie and Brett through a night out at a bar one night with some mutual friends. And then the conversation became, well, if we ever need z fill in, you want to fill-in? And I was like, yeah, sure. Haha. And didn’t think anything about it. And that has also snowballed. Those guys are the annoying big brothers that I didn’t think I needed, and they are so great. I love them to pieces. Brett is one of the people that I call for all sorts of information, advice, whatever. Freddie and I have had one too many beers together. Freddie and my fiance, they’re super close buddies now and it is a good time. That podcast. Sometimes I need to take Aleve before I walk into that building, prepare myself to deal with them. But they are good folks.
Or maybe a Xanex. I’m not sure.
But yeah, I try tequila sometimes.
I have two favorite podcasts and mine is not one of them. Door Bumper Clear is one of them. And the Dale Jr. Download, I think they are the top two podcasts in motorsports hands down. And I laugh out loud at the Door Bumper Clear guys. They just are such a hoot and yet they can really get on a tangent and go crazy on a subject here or there or whatever. And so you never know what they’re going to say. They get off track so quickly and the train going who knows where. But I did know that you had been on there a few times because I don’t miss it when it’s on. I don’t miss it. So it had to be a fun time to hang out with those guys.
Oh, yeah. Like you said, we get off track very quickly. And Jason is usually throwing stuff at me from the producers saying, like, on track. And I’m like, but I want to be a part of this conversation, right? Yeah. They’re very educated. They’re very educated not only as spotters, but Brett has got a marketing company that deals with marketing and driver representation in NASCAR. Tj has been around forever. Freddy’s part of a new integral team. And so it’s like they’ve just got all the different views.
Yeah. And when they’re serious and they’re really talking about some serious stuff and they’re not off track, you can learn a lot from what they have to say because they also bring another perspective that you can’t get just anywhere. So I haven’t met them in person, but I would love to because I just want them to know how much I enjoy their show and I listen to it religiously. So, Hannah, this year is going to be fun. You’re going to be going lots of different places. Is there any one thing you’re looking forward to the most about 2022?
I get to cross a lot of new race tracks off my track list. I have a running track list. The prerequisite is I have to have had watched racing action on that track for it to have counted on my track list. And I think I hit like 105 or 110. This year is how many race tracks I’ve been to. And I think I’m supposed to push close to 130 by the end of this year. So there’s going to be a lot of cool places, a lot of cool race fans meet a bunch of new people, which I’m looking forward to. I have never been to I 55. I think it’s like Federated Auto Sports something Raceway that Ken Trader owns. That’s a great time. I’m looking forward to going there. I also get to go to the Dream later this year. I’ve never been to the Dream before. I’ve been to Eldora, but I’ve only been to Eldora for NASCAR races when the trucks used to go there. So now I get like a true Eldora experience.
I went to Eldora for the Kings Royal a few years ago. That’s definitely a true Eldora experience.
Absolutely. Sprint cars there. So just a couple of racetracks that I’m looking forward to. And then honestly off track I’m looking forward to, but also stressing trying to plan a wedding while I’m on the road.
I was going to ask you about that. So when is that going to happen?
So we picked a date. It’s January 21, 2023. So it would have been a year last weekend. That is literally the only weekend between Dylan and I schedule that we pretty much know probably nothing will be scheduled on like our only two options was January 7, which is the weekend between the Tulsa Shootout and the Chili Bowl. And then January 21 is the weekend between the Chili Bowl and the Rolex. And I was like, that’s it because after that, we both roll into Rolex and Speed weeks and the NASCAR season starts. So Dylan’s gone. And then I got my dirt season that starts up. And then my dirt season goes well past November. Right. Then we got indoor season between the Rumble and Gateway. Then it’s Christmas. And you’re like, I know here.
Yes. Trying to plan a wedding is going to be that’ll be interesting.
You’ll get it done.
The nice thing is nowadays you can do so many things online that it makes it a lot easier than my first marriage. I got married in 1974. So it tells you I’m quite much older than you and I could be your grandma. And there was no such thing as Internet or any of that. And you had to go to the places. So nowadays at least you can do a lot online, which is good for where you are because you’re all over the country.
It’s been so nice, even with our catering and our DJ and all that kind of stuff. Eventually we plan to sit down in person with them. But honestly, everything so far has been via Zoom. We met our DJ on Zoom meetings, and I’ve had two or three conference calls with catering to make sure everything was good to go. And the only thing that I did in person, which is crazy, is like our venue when we went toward our venue, that was the only in person thing that we’ve done thus far. And so, yes, it will be nice to be able to do that while on the road. I’ll have that availability. But some of the race tracks that we go to cell service is asking a lot.
Oh, I know for sure. Yeah.
So there’s a couple of times I’m like, I’m just going to be out of commission for the week. You’re going to have to wait till the next week.
You said yes to the dress yet?
I am doing that next weekend. My mom flies in on Tuesday, and so we’re going to go dress shopping on Tuesday. I’m like that’s about the only weekend also that I have before I hit the road.
Well, that’s exciting. You’ve got a lot to look forward to over the next 365 days or so. I’m really happy for you. And I know who Dylan is. I’ve seen him. I haven’t met him in person, but I will one of these days. I’m happy for the two of you. I think you will have a long and very happy life together. So Congratulations on your engagement and your upcoming wedding for sure.
Thank you. I appreciate it.
So, Hannah, is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you’d like to share with my Listeners.
I don’t think so. I’m pretty good at going on tangent, so I always feel like you ask me one question and I answer three on accidents.
That’s okay. That makes my part easy. I can just let you talk and I’m happy about that. So that’s awesome. Well, hopefully now that we’ve met on Zoom, the next step is to meet in person and we will one of these days see each other at a race track somewhere. And I’m looking forward to that because now I’ve added you to my friends list and I love the people that I’ve met not just through Zoom calls and recordings, but at the racetracks. And as you said, we’re family once we get to know each other. So hopefully you’ll get started here soon and you’ll be traveling and you’ll be enjoying your year and just hope that all the racing goes well this year. For every series. Why don’t you tell people just real quick a little bit about DirtVision and how they can find you?
Yeah. So DirtVision is the broadcasting partner for the World of Outlaws sprint cars, World of Outlaws late models, super dirt car, big block series, big block modified up in the northeast. And then they also actually house a lot of local track races, including, like, Houston, Jacksonville,Volusia, Williams Grove, Port Royal. And I think there’s a couple of others that are like weekly divisions that they run. So it’s a streaming platform, essentially similar to, like, Peacock and that kind of stuff where there’s a bunch of different content plus live stuff. So that is where I am each and every week. Some of our stuff does end up on CBS as well. So on occasion you accidentally walk into an airport bar and there I am on the CBS screen. It’s great. Always a good surprise. Yeah, but yeah, it keeps us busy on a regular weekend. We’ve got a bunch of tracks in Australia, actually also. So on any given weekend, there can be about seven to twelve live races going on, on DIRTVision.com. It’s busy, but it’s a one-stop shop for dirt Racing.
It is. And it’s a great platform. It’s a great streaming service. So I’ve watched many races on there and it’s worth investigating and adding to your list of streaming services, if you haven’t already. So well. Hannah, I really appreciate your time today. I know you’re a busy girl. I appreciate that you were willing to be on the podcast with me and I just want to wish you the best this year. Hope you have safe travels and lots of fun at the racetrack.
Awesome. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Good morning, everyone. This is Melinda Russell with Racing Girls Rock podcast brought to you by Women’s Motorsports Network. That’s our parent company. And I’m so excited today to have Elana Scherr with me. She has a very interesting career, one that we probably wouldn’t think of most often for women. And isn’t that what I’m all about? I love sharing women who’ve stepped outside of the norm and are doing amazing things. And so, Elena, welcome to the show. And first, I’d like you, if you would, to just tell my listeners a little bit about yourself, your family, where you live, whatever you’re comfortable sharing, and then we’ll get started with your story.
Absolutely. Well, I’ve got no secrets. I’m not interesting enough to have any good secrets. So I live in Los Angeles, California. I grew up in L. A. My husband runs a drum store with his brothers, a music store. But when I met him, he was working as an engine Machinist. So we kind of met around cars. And we currently own we just counted17 different vehicles between us. So neither one of us is stopping the other from getting more cars. We were just talking about what we need next. So it’s a problem. And then we also have three dogs. We’re not going to get any more dogs yet. Maybe a cat, I don’t know. So that’s sort of the base from where I operate. And then I travel a lot to write stories and talk to people about cars, which is similar to what you’re doing.
Absolutely. We both have that in common, don’t we? And so tell me, how did you get interested then in cars? Usually when I talk to women, it’s the dad who got the daughters interested in cars, but not always. Sometimes it’s the mom. So how did you get interested in cars?
I hear that a lot, too. Got interested in cars through a car family is probably the most common way to do it. Kind of gets passed down. I did not grow up in a car family. In fact, currently every single member of my family drives a Prius, and only when they have to. There are no hot Rodders in my family. And I didn’t actually learn how to drive at all until I was 21 because nobody at home wanted to drive. And so they were really reluctant to teach and not excited about it. So I sort of was a little bit afraid of it myself. And when I was at College, I had some friends who are interested in cars, classic cars. And I was like, that’s so cool. They look so cool. They smell good. You’re so neat when you’re driving one. And so I bought a 1973 Plymouth Duster with the help of my neighbor because I couldn’t even test drive them. Not only did I not have a license, I literally did not know how to drive. I’d never done go carts or mini bikes or anything like that. So he helped me buy a car.
And then my roommate would help me move it on street cleaning day because I didn’t know how to park. So between the two of them, they helped me learn how to drive. And then I went and got my license and kind of just took off from there like one of those late bloomer this is what I’ve been missing. Things.
That’s interesting. It’s funny how things go in cycles. So when you were young and you’re younger than I, but when you were young, you were not interested in getting your driver’s license. And then when I was 16, that’s the only thing you could think about was getting your driver’s license. Okay. I lived in the country, though. I grew up in west central Illinois. So if you wanted to go anywhere you about had to drive. But nowadays kids are not as quick to get their driver’s licenses again. So that’s kind of gone full circle where I think kids can Uber and they can do all these different things that we didn’t have the opportunity for. And so a lot of the younger kids that I know talk about, they might even race, but they might not have their driver’s license.
Really? That’s wild.
So expensive for their parents and everything. And I think it’s just something that has come full circle. So it’s interesting that you were older when you got your driver’s license.
Yeah. What you were saying about insurance, for sure. I mean, the cost of everything associated with driving is so much more than even when I was learning how to drive. But it’s interesting that you say that you talk to people who are racing but not driving on the street, because I have heard theories of automotive that sort of say as we move towards an autonomous electric future kind of cars for fun are going to be more like horses. People keep them on car ranches and they do motor sports with them, but they don’t drive them on the street. So maybe that’s the generation that’s going to make that change and be less upset about it. I’d be sad. I love driving.
I would be sad because for me, if I decide I want to get up and go, I just go in the car. And so I don’t want to be limited. But it’s interesting. It’s going to be interesting to see where that goes. And also, of course, NASCAR is talking down the road about maybe having some electric cars. And while that’s really raised a lot of controversy because people say, well, then we won’t be able to hear the sound of the Motors and all this. Well, it’d be interesting to see where that goes. So tell me a little bit about what you do now and how did you get to the role that you’re in?
Oh, it’s such a long and twisty story. I am a senior features editor at Car and Driver magazine now, which is a lot of fun. I’ve been writing about cars now for just about ten years. Before that, I was doing automotive PR. So I guess I’ve been writing about cars for maybe 15 years. And I always wanted to write for the magazines. Like, as soon as I got interested in cars, before I’d even bought a car, I was reading Car Craft I really liked because it was kind of very accessible and it was a lot about fixing a car. And I thought that was so interesting. That was kind of the thing that I was excited about. First I even considered, oh, maybe I’d be interested in being a mechanic. And as I started to learn more and do more, I realized, well, I like working on cars, but what I really like is talking to people who are working on cars about things that are just way beyond the skill set that I have. It’s one thing to be able to change a starter. It’s another thing to be able to build a racing engine or do bodywork to make a custom car, paint, that kind of thing.
So I just thought that was fascinating. So I started reading like Hot Rod magazine, all these magazines about custom cars and collector cars. And I just thought, oh, this is the best job they get to be around all these cars and car culture every day is something different, and they’re sort of welcomed in. Everybody’s. always happy to see you when you’re writing a story about their art. Right, right. It’s not like investigative journalism where you’re trying to do a gotcha. You’re just helping people celebrate something that they want to share anyway. I loved that. And I loved getting to talk to race car drivers. I was getting to meet my heroes. I remember getting to talk to Shirley Muldowney pretty early on in writing about cars and just being like, I just watched this movie. I can’t believe I’m talking to you. But it took a while to get there. There were probably ten years between when I thought I would like to write about cars and when I actually got offered the job at Hot Rod, and that was all David Freiburger, who was the editor in chief at the time, he does a video show now called Roadkill.
But. He really gave me a chance when nobody else would even answer my emails. So I will never not be grateful to him for that. And then since then, of course, I’ve had wonderful opportunities with a lot of other Editors, including now getting to be at Car and Driver.
Exactly. So tell me some of the people that you’ve interviewed that people would know. I mean, I know there’s tons of them, but maybe give me your top five or so.
My gosh, the top five. All right. Well, I did a lot of work with the drag racer Don Prudhomme. We wrote a book together, a book about his life, which was really exciting to be able to do that. And I got to go to England to go drag racing with Roland Leong. I wrote a feature about Shirley Muldowney. I went fishing with Bobby Allison. He’s very good at fishing. I’m very bad at fishing. I’m so bad at fishing that he gave up trying to teach me. And we’re at four now. Gosh, it’s so hard. I should pick a modern one. Right. I did a story where I got to visit Rhianon Gellsomino, who is a rally co-driver. And she and her husband, they’re both rally co-drivers. They’re the only married professional codriver couple, I think, in the world. And they do a school to teach people to be rally co drivers. And I got to visit her, and that was really fun. She’s wonderful. And I very much recommend checking out what she does. It’s just an incredible thing the codriving.
Yeah. So she’s somebody I’m going to have to check out and get on my podcast. And then it’s one thing to obviously live with your spouse, but we know that sometimes when we travel and we get on the wrong road or take the wrong turn, it’s not always pretty to not only live with your spouse, but also to work and then race and co-drive. That could get a little interesting, I’m sure. So I’m definitely going to have to check her out. That sounds fun.
You’ll have to ask her. I never ask them who gives directions when they’re just driving to the store.
So that’ll be good. I’m going to have you connect the two of us. That would be awesome. Do you typically go to, I would assume go to the person you live in LA so the magazine says we want you to do a story on so and so, and they set up everything and they fly you there. How does that work?
Yeah, the last few years, obviously, travel and face to face interviews have been a little bit different. But in general, I go to a lot of events, a lot of races, and I’ll get to talk to people there. If I’m doing a special feature, maybe we’ll set up a time to meet, spend some time together and then with Car and Driver. A lot of it now is sort of new car related. So it’s a lot of designers and engineers and things. So that’s often on a press trip where we’re driving a new car or I’ll go to Detroit, meet people there.
It’s all over the place. And obviously just tons of phone calls and emails and Zoom calls.
Right. I was going to say, I’m assuming you do a lot of Zoom calls probably too, for interviews nowadays, because isn’t that what we all do for sure. And interesting that you come to Detroit. I’m just 2 hours from there. So I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan, part of the year, most of the year. And then, of course, I’m in Surprise for the winter. Surprise, Arizona. But that would be awesome. Next time you come to Detroit, maybe we can get together and meet face to face because I love meeting the women that I interview face to face, and that makes it even more special.
I would love that.
That would be great. So now when you write the story, do they typically say to you, we want you to do a story on, let’s say, let’s just say a certain driver, and then do you do a lot of research so that you know about the driver so that when you get there, you ask the right questions? Because isn’t that part of being a good interviewer, knowing your person and asking the right questions?
Absolutely. In fact, the one thing kind of across the board that I’ve realized from talking to people, especially someone who’s done thousands of interviews, someone like Don Prudhomme or Richard Petty or Shirley, there’s nothing kind of worse for them than someone coming in without any knowledge of what it is that they do and asking questions that are completely irrelevant or questions that they’ve answered millions of times. You can’t always ask a question that in fact, very rarely can you ask a question that no one’s asked before. But sometimes you can give people a chance to expand on an angle, maybe that they hadn’t talked about before, or you can ask about something that they have talked about a lot, but another detail of it. And for sure, doing the research on that, reading other interviews, having some idea of the high and low points of their careers and maybe even their personal lives is very important. Sometimes you just don’t have the time to do as much research as you like. Sometimes you just meet somebody. And in those cases, it’s just helpful to have read a lot already. So at least I feel like what I try to do is have at least one fact about as many people and cars as I can in my head, just one fact.
Because at least then you could ask about one thing and then hopefully their answer gives you something to build on.
Right. Exactly. And just being knowledgeable about what you’re doing. I’m in the motorsports field, but if I was only reading HGTV or watching HGTV and reading design magazines, then I wouldn’t have the background or the knowledge to talk to somebody in motor sports because I’m not immersing myself in it. Whereas because we’re passionate about what we do, it doesn’t feel like work to read Car and Driver magazine. That’s entertainment and enjoyment. And then the things that you learn through reading, watching documentaries, going to races gives you the background so that you really just can talk to someone and feel comfortable because you feel like you really do know enough to do the interview.
Yeah. I mean, that’s certainly the goal. There have been times where I’ve ended up in a surprise interview or I didn’t have any prep. And then you just muddle your way through. I mean, everyone’s a person. Right. So you can always ask people, where did you start? Where do you want to go?
Exactly. When I set up interviews with people, especially younger girls, they’re nervous because even, like over the weekend when I was at Cocopah Speedway in Yuma, I interviewed a couple of gals, just a little Facebook or I recorded it on my phone. And two of them that were actually older of the group that I interviewed had never done an interview before. They were like, oh, I don’t know if I can excuse me. And I said, we’re just going to have a conversation, and it’s your story. I’m not going to ask you anything you’re not going to know because it’s about you. So you have to make people feel comfortable. And like you said, if you don’t know the person, you can always start with kind of like, I started with you, even though I do know some things about you.
We’ve been chatting tell me who you are, where you started, and why do you love cars? And then you just have a conversation. And so I think having some knowledge is obviously beneficial, but you can probably have a conversation with anyone and come out with a good story.
Yeah. I would say if I was forced to choose, I mean, hopefully I don’t have to, but if I was forced to choose, which makes a better interviewer, being a curious people person or being a hardcore research person, I would actually say that you had to just do one. Just going in as a natural person with a desire to know about other people would take you farther than being just hardcore research.
Oh, I absolutely agree. Because being an interviewer, you have to be a people person. To me, that’s to be a good one and to be authentic come across that you’re really interested in the person, because if you’re not, it’s going to show in the story.
So tell me the process then. Let’s say that I’m a famous race car driver and we meet and you interview me. And so you probably have a set of questions that you’re going to ask, and then what do you do after that? Take me from there to publishing the story.
All right, well, so I’ll have my questions, and I would say that in general, my personal interest in anyone who’s successful is sort of what tried to stop you. And how did you get around it? Because there’s so many reasons to not do what you want to do. When you meet somebody who’s doing really well at something that is difficult to do well at, it’s really important, I think, as a lesson to learn how they manage to get there. So that’s usually something that I try to get in my interviews is what obstacles have you overcome to get here. And sometimes if they’re very young, maybe they don’t have any yet. And that’s interesting, too. But then I’d get home. I usually record my interviews and take notes because you never know when the recording is not going to work, right. I usually take notes. I usually try to put a little like a note of the I’ll keep track of the time on the interviewer because it’ll click through the minutes. And if there’s like a really good quote or really good section, I’ll usually mark the time on that one just in case I’m in a hurry and I have to find it again.
And then I’ll either transcribe it myself or these days I usually use a transcription service because the interviews are long, too long time to transcribe. And then you look through the interview, you look through your research, you think about how you’re going to lay it out. Sometimes it’s a big feature where you’ve done something together and it’s more storytelling with quotes in it. And then other times it’s like a straight interview. Most recently, I interviewed Henrik Fisker, the car designer, about his new electric vehicle. And so that’s just a straight Q and A. So something like that. I would write up a small introduction for people who don’t know anything about the person, and then you can just trim the questions up, sort of clean them up and organize them a little, because sometimes you have an interview that just jumps all over the place and it’s hard for people to read it that way. And it’s okay to move things around as long as you’re not changing what people are saying.
Right. So you’ve done lots of different kinds of interviews. What’s your favorite? Is it more of a Q and A, or is it more go do an experience with someone and then write the story
Oh experience for sure.It can be challenging because you don’t know with a Q amp A, you almost always are going to have something usable. I think the hardest Q and A I ever had was Bob Glidden before he passed because he doesn’t like to answer any questions. So that was the hardest interview, probably just because you got a lot of yeses and nos and there’s not a lot in there. But even he got excited when he was talking about some other things. He was very into parrots, by the way. So Q and A is simpler to do. But when you get to spend time with somebody, really shadowing them while they do what they care about, that’s just amazing. You learn so much about them. You get to see how they interact with people around them. You see the effect they have on people, which is really interesting. A lot of these folks have just an amazing energy, and that could be it could be somebody very young. I did a rally with Shelby Hall, Rod Hall’s granddaughter, and she has a real commanding energy. She’s got leadership in the way that she presents herself.
And it’s really interesting to see her in a group because people really respond to that in a positive way or somebody maybe a little bit more famous. Richard Petty I was once in a group with Richard Petty, and the man just exudes calm. It’s incredible. It’s like any tension just fades away, and you’re like, oh, no wonder they called him the King, right? That is the feeling around him. So you don’t really get to experience that in just a Q and A. But if you get to spend time with somebody doing things, then it’s really neat.
And, you know, I’ve been at places where Richard Petty’s been. I haven’t ever had a chance to interview him, but even on television, he just has that very laid back. He’s not going to get his feathers ruffled about anything. And I do notice that. And yet his son, to me, Kyle, is totally the opposite. He’s just, like, all over the place. And I love listening to him on they do some podcasts and things, but they’re so different, really. Their demeanor is so different. But I can see where being around him, you would just be relaxed. And that’s really cool for someone who really is so well known in the motorsports field and could have some outward portrayal of feelings that is not warm and fuzzy, but he is kind of that way. I’ve been places where he signed autographs, and it’s like he has all the time in the world for those people.
He is one of the best with his fans. And I talked to him about it once because we were just kept getting interrupted by fans. And he’s like, look, this is who I work for, right? I don’t work for the car companies. I don’t work for NASCAR. I work for the fans. So if I don’t take the time to appreciate them, then I don’t deserve what they give me. So I thought that was amazing. He also has the most useful tip if you do need to get away from, like, if you need to go on to do another task, and there are a lot of people around, which is people will be talking to him, and he’ll say, let’s walk and talk. And then he’ll start walking, and people kind of patter along for a little while, and then they kind of, like, drift away because they don’t really want to, like, walk the whole way. So I thought that was amazing because it was so polite and it was so effective.
You know, there’s a lot of things he could teach some of these younger drivers, right?
I think he would say, too. Any of them would probably agree that the whole scene has changed a lot. I mean, there are things that are a lot easier for the drivers now. But there are also things that are a lot harder. The legacy drivers, they didn’t have to deal with social media and constant cameras and kind of constant feedback on their performances. I did an interview with Bubba Wallace a few years ago, and it was so interesting because here’s this guy who’s sort of been thrust into a position, a very important and needed position of kind of representing racial equality and civil rights, and he’s just a guy who wants to race like the rest of them. And that was sort of something that I think that the drivers in the past mostly didn’t deal with. Willy T Ribbs did, obviously.
But even Jeff Gordon and even Jimmy Johnson, really, they’re more recent drivers than some. But even at that, the social media and those things really weren’t as much a part of their lives as now. Every tweet, everything that happens, the keyboard crazies have something to say about it. And it’s so frustrating for me when I see it’s like they’re complaining about the design scheme of the car or whatever. And I’m thinking, can you find anything good to say? Why do you have to always nitpick? And it’s so frustrating. And of course, now a lot of the big controversy in NASCAR is Brandon Brown, and it’s so frustrating for me. I feel so bad for the kid. Yeah, he didn’t ask for any of this
And he started doing the best he can with it.
And I feel it’s probably come up when you’ve interviewed some of the younger women who are racing, too. I know that it’s especially difficult for women because not only do they get all of the same kind of negative inputs that the male racers get, but they also get very sexualized and sort of attacked based off of that. If they’re very pretty, they get comments that they shouldn’t be so pretty. If the normal lovely looking people, they get comments that they should be prettier. And I can’t imagine trying to keep your head together, focus on winning races and doing these incredible tasks while you’re also just a teenager being told you’re either too pretty or not pretty enough. I talked to Erica Enders about it once before a little bit,because she’s obviously somebody who is incredibly skilled at what she does and has had some challenges getting sponsorship because of not meeting certain expectations.
Right. And that’s so unfair because so many times those women, if you interview them and you ask them anything about being a woman in motorsports, a lot of times what they’re going to say is the car doesn’t know the difference, the motorcycle doesn’t know the difference. When I get in, I’m just another race car driver. And as a person that really promotes women in motorsports, something that I’m finding even to find sponsors, advertisers, et cetera, for the things that I do. The companies that are missing the boat are the companies that gear towards women because they look at motorsports and they think, oh, Clairol, why would Clairol want to be part of motorsports? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because 50% or more of the fans in the stands are women. And the buying power in the home tends to be around 90% woman driven. So there are lots of reasons why Erica and Haley Deegan and all these other women shouldn’t have any trouble finding sponsors. And yet it’s such a struggle. And it seems so unfair to me because they’re some of the best drivers.
Yeah, I do feel optimistic, though. I mean, there are so many more women who are racing now, especially like younger women. And also there are so many more women who are talking about being fans. I don’t know if you follow F1 a whole lot, but the conversation in F1 went from being something where I knew five women who cared about F1. They were all fellow car people. And all of a sudden you go on Twitter and you can see people who have no connection to automotive in any other way talking about the recent F1 race, who they like, who won, why they like it. And I love that. I think that’s so great because I think that it benefits everyone and it will benefit the car companies, too, because as you said, not only are women watching motorsports and making buying decisions, they’re also buying cars. Like you said, it’s an equal split. I think women buy possibly more new cars than men do. They do household stuff because they’re a lot of times responsible for the family car.
Exactly. I’m sorry. My husband’s phones going off in the background, but I can’t do anything about it. He’s not here. And I can’t believe he didn’t take his phone with me. So I apologize for that.
Sounds like there’s a cow walking by.
We’ll pretend there’s a cow walking by instead of a phone. I should have checked that. I’m sorry about that. As far as, like, F1and Indy car, any of those kind of motorsports that the women are really coming out of the woodwork and following those now. So last year, believe it or not, I went to my first Indy car race. Now I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and I used to live in Illinois and I was really close to Indy, like within a few hours have never been to the Indy 500, but I’m going this year. I already have my tickets. But last year my husband and I went to Nashville to the Indy race. And wow, what an experience. That was so cool. And of course, love Nashville anyway. And then you’re like, oh, I know some of these racers. And now this one, I bought a T shirt from this guy because I really liked how he raced. And there were a lot of women in the grandstands at that race. And so I think every kind of racing is growing as far as the women participating and not just drivers. I interview a lot of people who are engineers or PR or social media or whatever it might be.
Women are involved in all aspects of motor sports, and it’s growing and growing. And I’m with you. I’m very optimistic about the future and where it’s going.
Oh, good. Me too. And yes, the women engineers I’m loving seeing every time I see a ponytail in a pit crew, I’m like, yes.
Absolutely. One of my good friends is a tire specialist for a NASCAR team, and she’s been with a couple of different teams, but just love. And she’s a little tiny thing and she just throws those tires around. A few years ago we were in Chicago and it was in the hundreds every day on concrete, which makes it worse. And she was working twelve-hour days right alongside the guys. And, you know, that’s the part that a lot of people who come to the races don’t see. They don’t see the behind-the-scenes, how many hours they work, long hours in the heat and all this. And so I try and I hope in the future I’m even better at showing the backside that people don’t always see when they come. They buy a ticket, they sit in the grandstand, they watch the race, they go home. They’re missing a lot of what it takes to put that race on.
Yeah, well, that’s the job for us then, right. Not just interviewing drivers but interviewing engineers and mechanics and truck drivers. There’s a lot of people who put a lot of hours in.
Absolutely. So what’s your favorite thing about what you do?
Oh, that’s easy. So my favorite thing about what I do now is that it’s always different. Every day is different. I remember when I first started working, I mean, really like high school, and I would look at the calendar and I’d be like, I know what I’m doing all of these days. Flip those pages, and I would quit. Whatever I was doing, like the next week, I couldn’t stand having everything just fit into those little squares already locked down. And what I get to do now is different every day. I mean, I’m talking to you later today I’m talking to somebody about the creation of the race car bed. You know, the plastic race car bed that looked like a McLaren from the 70’s. There’s a lot of copies now that look more like cars. Well, I mean, it’s a fascinating story. One guy invented that. And so I’m going to talk about that. And then later I’m going to write up a review of a Supra that I drove yesterday. I was up in the Hills near Ojai, California, which is beautiful. And I was driving new cars. I was driving an Elantra and just cruising around for photos.
And then tomorrow something different altogether. So I think that is just amazing. And then, of course, just what I’m able to do, the people who invite me into their shops, into their studios, the cars I’m allowed to drive. Astonishing.
Absolutely. Yeah. I can’t even imagine you think, you know what next week looks like, and then all of a sudden something exciting comes up and you’re off to do whatever. And that would be so fun. And you have to be a very spontaneous person. I think in some ways to be able to handle all of that.
It’s good to be able to sort of roll with the punches because you never quite know how it’s going to work out.
So always interesting.
So what’s your goal for the future? Maybe this is your dream job or what’s your goal down the road? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
Well, as you may have guessed from the previous answer, I don’t really do a whole lot of planning for very far ahead. I’m hoping that I am still doing something very similar to what I’m doing now. I really love it. I think there’s a lot more to be done. I enjoy when I have a chance to help other people get started in this. People sometimes ask me, well, how do I do what you do? Well, read a lot and start writing. I enjoy doing video stuff as well. And that’s a medium that I think is really growing for a lot of us journalists to be able to start telling our stories via video. So I’d like to be doing a little bit more of that down the road. But more cars, more people maybe write another book. I don’t know.
Interesting. You have a lot of possibilities at your fingertips, right. The cars aren’t going away. Motorsports is here to stay. Regardless of what everybody says or people, the negative Nellies, the car manufacturers are going to keep creating new and interesting cars with new and better features. You know, I have a Dodge Rebel truck. It’s my truck. People look at it and they say to my husband, oh, I like your truck. And he’ll be the first one to say, oh, this is my wife’s truck. The features on it and the things it does, and it’s so comfortable to drive. And I love my truck. They just keep making things better and nicer. The car companies, I can’t imagine working there and trying to think, what’s the next new thing? Because it seems like they’ve got them all on there. But fun things.
Yeah. Well, they always come up with something new. And the stuff moves from luxury cars down to more affordable cars and things like heated seats. You can get in almost anything now. Oh, they’re really nice.
I drove classics for so long that when I first started writing about new cars, I was just impressed by anything. I’d be like, oh, my God, the defroster works. Have you seen the defroster. It works. It’s great.
I had a Lincoln, which was an amazing car, and it had heated and cooled seats. Now, the cooling part, I didn’t use as much. And of course, I lived in Michigan at the time, so I did use the heated seats all the time. But I have an older Honda CRV that we pull behind our motorhome when we come to Arizona. And it’s a great car. I love my Honda, but it’s older and it does not have the heated seats. And I said to my husband, we were on a trip recently because I like to have that heat on my back even when it’s warm out. I said, is there a way I could plug a heating pad or something into this car because I missed my heated seats. And he just laughed. But, yeah, it’s a good industry to be in. It’s always developing and changing, and to be a part of it is pretty exciting, isn’t it?
Absolutely. I feel lucky every day. I really do.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, is there anything that I haven’t asked you about that you’d like to share about yourself, what you do, anything at all?
I mean, you are clearly a very experienced interviewer, because I don’t think that you’ve missed anything.
Well, I owned a weekly newspaper for ten years, quite some years ago. And my most favorite thing was writing human interest stories. And it was a little weekly newspaper called The Eagle News because I lived right along the Mississippi River and it was the winter nesting ground of the American Bald Eagle. So it was called The Eagle News. And the tagline was “The Good News Paper” we didn’t print the court reports and all the negative. It was a weekly newspaper, and we focused on the good in our community, and I loved that part of it. And I’ve kind of transitioned that into my online magazine that I do about women in motorsports and the podcast. I want to know the good.
Yeah, I think that’s wonderful. And again, it’s all right there when you’re covering motorsports and cars and especially when you’re covering women coming into car stuff, because it’s all good news. If there’s more women, then that’s good news.
Absolutely. Well, Elena, I’ve really enjoyed talking with you. I know we’ve tried to do this for a while, and I’m glad we finally were able to connect today and share your story. And hopefully more women are going to be reading Car and Driver now because they know you and they know what you write about. And so I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you today. And hopefully when you get to Detroit or somewhere else close that we could get together, I would love to meet you in person.
Well, likewise. Thank you so much. I am honored to be amongst the group that you have previously interviewed. It’s good company, and I hope I’ll get to see you in person.
Alright thank you so much.
Welcome to Racing Girls Rock Podcast, presented by Women’s Motorsports Network. I’m Melinda Russell, the founder and CEO. I also founded the International Women’s Motorsports Association and the Women’s Motorsports Network News online magazine.
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And now, it’s time for this week’s show!
Hello, everyone. This is Melinda Russell with Women’s Motorsports Network and the Racing Girls Rock Podcast. And I have a very special guest today. And we’re going to learn a lot about women in motorsport and the possibilities and the things that they’re able to do down the road and the exciting education they can have. And so my guest today is Miranda Prieur. She’s a student at Northwood University. And we’re going to hear more about Miranda, how she got interested in motor sports. But first, Miranda, would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Yeah. So I am a freshman at Northwood University. As you said, I grew up in Novi, Michigan. So for you Michigan racers, that’s about an hour away from Milan Dragway. So I grew up just racing. I was a gymnast for over ten years. Quit that back when I was twelve, became a diver for about six years. Just quit recently. And now I coach diving. So besides, just racing, I do a little bit of coaching and diving, and it’s kind of my hobby there. I have a dog named Winston, a little spoiled garage dog.
Okay. Awesome. So let’s just start. Who got you interested in motorsports? Where did you get the bug for it?
So I’m a third generation racer. So my grandfather was a racer, my dad, my uncle. So I just grew up being around it and now all of my dad’s best friends race. And so when I was little girl, that was what we did on our weekends as we went drag racing at Milan and down to Summit Motor Sports Park, which at the time was Norwalk Dragway when I was growing up. But, yeah, I just grew up with that as a third generation and absolutely loved it. And then became a gymnast for a little while and kind of stepped away from racing.
And my dad sold his race car so I could be a gymnast. And after I quit that, he was like, well, I’m buying a car again. And at that time, my uncle had started getting back into it. And everybody kind of had started getting back into it after kind of taken a little bit of a hiatus. And now we are, like, full swing into it. Absolutely love it.
That’s very cool. And sometimes you have to take a break from something to realize how much you love it.
Yeah. And that was kind of it was I wanted to be a gymnast and they’re both very expensive sports. So you couldn’t do both. And so we kind of gave up on that. And to be a gymnast for a while, it’s a full time job pretty much. And so then became a racer. And then when I quit, my dad was like, It’s time to get a car again. It’s time to just get back into the car. So he bought our 73 Dodge Charger. And now it’s our street cruiser that we take on the racetrack and have so much fun with that.
And then my uncle, he owns a performance park company called Skunk Racing. And he’s a huge racer. We all race in the NMCA. And so we started getting into that about two years ago. We started into that. But he’s been racing in that for quite a while. So it’s something we all do together. And my uncle is my biggest role model and inspiration in that industry. He’s worked really, really hard. And he has taken a lot of breaks from financial setbacks and different stuff like that. But he always finds a way to come back to it. And that kind of has always been my thing. So I always find a way back to it.
Yeah. I hear that story quite often because, as you said, racing is a very expensive sport, and I hate to even call it a hobby, because most hobbies don’t cost quite as much as racing does.
It’s like another full time job. Almost in a way. Except you don’t make money off of it. You spend money on it.
Right. Exactly. There’s such a small group of people that actually can earn a living racing.
Yeah. Very much. So. It’s a very much like the Olympics, right. So I was a gym. There are five people that get to be in the Olympics. It’s like, kind of those are your odds for you going to be making to make money in that world.
Yeah. It’s very similar to that, for sure.
So you grew up in Nova, which I’m very familiar with. My sister was there for a long time. I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan. So we’re both Michiganders. So tell me now about Northwood and what you’re doing there. And how did you learn about it? What are you learning there? Just tell me that part of your story.
So I wanted to be a Drag racer. You asked Miranda, what do you want to grow up? I want to be a drag racer. Well, okay. That’s expensive. You can’t just be a drag racer. So what are you going to do to afford drag racing? I was actually committed to Central Michigan University. I was going to be a physical therapist. And due to some injuries, that wasn’t a possible thing anymore. So now it’s April of last year. I’m graduating, and I’m like, what the heck am I going to do?
And my dad said, I heard of this school, so I started looking at it. You know what? If this is my sign that I’m no longer going to be a physical therapist, this is my opportunity to jump into racing this is it. This is my sign to follow my dream. And so I applied to University of Northwestern, Ohio in Lima and was going to join their mortorsports marketing degree. Got in there was going to go there. And my dad said, Well, I heard of this school.
It’s in Michigan, and I don’t know the name of it. Super small and he starts Googling schools, and he comes up and he’s like, oh, it’s Northwood. He’s like, they have some automotive stuff, and they’re well known automotive industry. Why don’t you look into them? So I look into them and they immediately call me. And they were like, we want you up here now, like, get up here. So I get up there. And I actually ended up meeting Michael Kenney, who’s the chair of the program for the aftermarket.
And he tells me about it, and I was, like, sold. I’m in. So the aftermarket program is very individual. It’s the only program in the country. And what it is is it studies the aftermarket parts industry. So you got heavy duty, performance, OEM aftermarket. Like, we study directly in the aftermarket industry. Our professors are adjunct professors. So they are working actively in this industry while teaching us. So a lot of our experience is hands on one on one. It’s a very small school. So a lot of your teachings are very small one on one.
You know, your professor, you know, your classmates, and it’s just a great program for people like me, who I want to be a racer. I want to be in the racing industry, but I can’t make money by just being a racer. So what else can I do? So this is me being in the aftermarket, and there’s so many industries within that. So I’m going to be heading into the performance side is where I want to go. And hopefully that’s where I want to end up. And there’s going to be specific classes for me to take on the performance side of the aftermarket, learning from people directly in the performance side of the aftermarket.
So it’s just a great program that allows people to be in the aftermarket industry, in the performance side. But on the business side, so you can go marketing, you can go sales, you can go ops there’s so much finance wherever you want to go in that industry, you can go in there in any of those parts. We are trained to do all of them. We are trained to go out and do sales, and we are trained to go out and be marketers and finance people. And that is what is so cool about Northwood is you’re getting a full round of business degree, but specifically in one area.
Yeah. I had not heard of this program, and I met a couple of the ladies at the PRI show, which is how I got connected to you. I’m right there in Michigan. So I’m in the motor sports field. So it was interesting that I had not been aware of this. I mean, obviously, I’m not looking to go to College, but I do have my hand in a lot of areas. And so I really wanted to share about Northwood and what they’re doing, because I think this is an amazing program. And is it a four year degree that you’re going to be going for.
Yeah. So I am going for Northwood is so cool. As you said, I had never heard of it either. It’s so small that you had never heard of it. And the aftermarket kind of took a dip just with some stuff that had gone on at the University level. And so now Professor Kinney is now in charge. And so our big plan is we want to bring the aftermarket back, which was why Northwood was started. So that is the big thing right now. But, yeah, I had never heard of it either. And it was crazy how I came across it.
So it’s a four year degree.
So it’s really cool. We offer something called a BBA MBA, so I am currently enrolled in that program, and that means you get your bachelor’s degree in three years and you get your master’s in one. Well, currently, I am a freshman in that program, but I’m kind of like it’s weird because it’s like you’re not technically a senior, but you are a senior. You’re not technically a freshman, but you’re a freshman. And so the big thing is, what’s cool is you kind of do skip your freshman year per se of taking those freshman year math, science, law.
You’re jumping right into this year. I took an auto my first semester, I was taking automotive history with Professor Kinney. So you’re really kind of skipping those freshman year basics in your jumping and almost as a sophomore in your level of getting right into your degree. So I will be getting my Bachelor in three years and then my master’s in one. But we do offer a four year, and then there’s also a two year associates degree that we offer within that.
Depending what you’re looking for.
Right. And then once you graduate, what I heard you say is you’ll have a lot of opportunities open to you because they’ve done such a good job of training you in so many areas it’s aftermarket. But yet it could be all different kinds of jobs. And so that opens up a lot of doors. Plus, I think the fact that your professors probably have a lot of networking and know a lot of people in that industry, which is going to help you find a job as well.
Absolutely. So we go to a lot of trade shows. So obviously, this is our first year at PRI, and I love Autumn Swabi. She’s also a drag racer. Her and I were both like, we need to get Northwood at PRI. They need to be there. This is a huge opportunity we’re missing, not even networking for recruitment, but networking for ourselves.
These are companies that personally for me I would like to work for. And I know Northwood doesn’t have a lot of connections here. So we need to get Northwood here. So her and I really pushed to get Northwood as a prime, and it was absolutely amazing. But we do a lot of other shows as well. We go to Apex SEMA, and we’re on both sides there. We do heavy Duty after-market Week, so I will be in Dallas in January, headed to Heavy Duty After Market Week. As I said, that’s not even something I’m per se interested in. But I still am going to go spend a week at this show at the heavy duty site, learning about the heavy duty side at the heavy duty conference of the country.
You get such a well rounded education because you are hands on doing these different trade shows and these different things, different connections as to the professors. And then Northwood does something called the Northwood University International Auto Show. It is the largest outdoor auto show, and it is 100% student run. So our students are working 100% with the companies. We have companies like Ferrari, we have Kia, Dodge, Ford Performance. We have several divisions. We have an Asian division, America, so the domestic division specialty exotic. And then we have the aftermarket division.
So we have a full division on aftermarket and in the aftermarket division, there are a bunch of different aftermarket companies, and our student captains and co captains are the ones who are reaching out to these companies and working with them about the products they’re bringing. What are these products will talk to us about the products, teach us about our products. And then at the auto show, our students are the ones who are presenting the public. So they are getting those relationships with companies. And I was a captain this year as a freshman. So my freshman year, I jumped in and I actually worked with Mala Pistons. And so within three weeks of being at school, I was working with the marketing team at Mala. So you get those direct connections as soon as you get there. This year, I am the vice chair for the auto show. So I’m kind of taking a different role, and I’m kind of more in charge of all of the captains and helping them with those connections. And then my chairwoman, Elise Richardson. She is the chair.
So she handles a lot of other stuff, too. But we work together side by side, doing all these things. And it’s the first time that the chair and the vice chair are completely run by women. So it’s a completely run by women division, which is just absolutely amazing. And we’re really excited to showcase that.
Absolutely. Because when you think about aftermarket parts and things that people are buying and whatever, it really feels like a guy thing, doesn’t it more so because they’re doing stuff to their cars and whatever. And it just amazes me when I talk to young gals like you. And I just learned so much about the opportunities that are out there that I wasn’t aware of that I don’t think a lot of people are aware of and that women are leading. They’re stepping up and they’re being the leaders.
I always say I focus on the women. I love the men, but I focus on the women, right, because we have to all work together. Obviously, motor sports is for everybody. And one of the things I try to do is let women know of any age that motor sports is not just for your husband or your boyfriend or your son. It’s for everybody. And what you just shared with me about that show. Now tell me, when does that show occur?
We have the show. It’s normally the 1st week of October. Our tentative dates as of right now are gosh. They keep changing. We keep having issues with them. But as of right now, our tentative dates are September 16, 17th that weekend. So the show will be September 16 and 17th is what it’s looking like as of right now.
And is it at the College or where do you have it?
It’s right on University, which is really cool because it brings a lot of people to our University. We often try to do it on a football weekend. So there’s often a football game. Sometimes it’s on our homecoming weekend this year didn’t work out for that way. But a lot of times it will be a football game. So that brings people to the show. They go to the football game, they come to the show before and after. But it’s completely on our campus. We actually have the aftermarket lot in the parking lot of the Sloan family aftermarket building of studies. So there’s an entire building at North University that is dedicated to aftermarket studies.
Wow. That’s amazing. So about how many professors are there that teach in that unit?
You know, I’m not quite sure on that, but it’s a small group, you know, all of them. Honestly, I don’t have a number.
Yeah. It’s super small. I already know the chair of my program. I actually went to PRI with Michael CKinney, so it’s really cool for me as I’m a freshman and here I already have a great relationship with the chair of the program. That is huge. That’s something you don’t find in other stores. Yeah.
That’s unheard of. I mean, if you were at Western, which is right there in Kalamazoo, you might never meet the chair of the program. Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And he is a huge advocate for wanting to get more women involved. So me and Autumn, we do a lot of that. We’ve been helping out a lot with that, just wanting to increase the amount of women involved in the program because for me, like you were saying, it’s a men things. And a lot of people think it is men only, and it’s not. My dad actually has two girls, and he has my mom. So his whole race car crew is his wife and two girls. That’s his thing. It’s 100% a women thing. And we are just as important. And we can do just as much as they do.
Absolutely. For sure. I just love hearing what you’re doing and everything about it and the fact that a lot of people think that women don’t know anything about cars or you always hear about the woman that goes to get her car repaired and they try to mess with her and tell her, yeah. And it’s like you can’t do that anymore. Women are educated, and I just read a thing where women are, like, the highest percentage of buying power in the home.
So whether it’s green beans or a car, they’re the ones choosing what the family pretty much is going to buy or drive or eat. Excuse me. Women are so educated. They’re so smart, and they know a lot about things that used to just be for men.
Yes. Absolutely. And I have so much to learn. Still, I’m constantly learning at the racetrack. My boyfriend is actually building his race truck right now, and I am constantly learning from him, like when he built his from the ground up. So I’m learning from the ground up, like everything under the sun. You’re constantly learning. But that’s how you do it is if you take the time to learn, because that way they can’t say if you have the answers, they have to respect you because you know what you’re talking about, advocate and the education aspect of if you don’t know the answer, go find the answer that you can say, I don’t know, but say, I don’t know and go find it. And that is what we teach at Northwood is a huge thing is our morals and our standards are. One of them is personal responsibility, and it’s your personal responsibility. If you don’t know the answer, get up and go find it. And that is something that I have loved being at Northwood. The stuff I don’t know, who do I go to to figure out the answer. And that’s a huge thing that you can’t take away someone’s education. And they’re not. And so as a woman, if you want that step up per se, that’s the way to have it. If you know the answer, they can’t fight you on that well.
And part of being smart about things is knowing how to find the answer, knowing where to go and what to do. And I love what you’re saying, because I was at a women’s motorsports event back in August, and one of the ladies has a high position in Penske. And one of the things that she said was she had a position she had her eye on and how she got that position was she learned, she volunteered, she did all the things it took to get the experience and the knowledge.
And then when that position came open, they really couldn’t say no because she had the knowledge. She had everything that it took. And she got the job and forced them so that they can’t say no, because if you’re smart and you know what to do and you’ve gotten the education, you’re going to go a long way.
Absolutely. If that was for me, I am the vice chair for this year, and that’s my whole thing is I get to sit and learn how to run the auto show from the chair position. That’s my whole job this year is to pretty much learn. And I am so excited for that to learn from Elise, who’s been at the school for three years. Our previous chair, Brian, we’re working hand in hand with him right now, and learning from him, he’s just a great person, a great role model.
So that for me, is all I’m doing right now. I’m like a sponge. I can about everything that I can because I’m only a freshman here. I am getting these huge opportunities. It’s intimidating, but it’s like, okay, now it’s time to step it up and learn and figure it out. And let’s hope this year is I have a little bit of room to make some mistakes because I am just learning and then learn from them. And hopefully next year become even better.
Absolutely. So what’s your favorite thing about being involved in the motorsports industry or racing or whatever.
The family. There is nothing like your racing family. Nothing like it. And as I said, my uncle, who I’ve met so many people through him that have become close friends to me now and people that I look up to in this industry, and they support me. And I support them. I’m there when I’m at the track, and here they’re supporting me off of the track. So the family that it brings you’re at the track and someone’s car breaks, and you see six different people from six random pits helping that one person. And that’s something that you can’t find nowadays. You can’t find that give the shirt off of my back for you kind of attitude. But when you’re at the racetrack, you will always find that, oh, you need gas. Okay. I have gas. Oh, you need air for your tires. Here. Here’s some air for your tires. I mean, it’s just that community. It’s like you leave another world when you’re speaking at the track. It’s like the whole world around you just it’s a different universe. And it is with today’s world and where everything’s kind of going to chaos to have that space. That it’s like, okay, none of that matters. It’s like you’re isolated for the weekend, you’re with your people and you’re just racing, having fun. It’s a huge, just like, safe space and just, like, down, relax. Get away from reality.
I hear that, Miranda, that’s the number one answer when I ask that. And you know what I always say is, if Women’s Motorsports Network closed tomorrow, if there was never another race on a racetrack anywhere, I still have my friends; I still have the people connections I’ve made like you and nobody can take that away from me. And so for me, that’s everything. That’s everything for why I do this because of the people that I meet.
No, there’s not. So why don’t you tell us, how would somebody find out about Northwood? I know they can Google Northwood University, I’m sure. But what’s another way or how could they talk to somebody a little bit more about if they’re interested in learning more about that program?
Our social media. We are active on Facebook and Instagram. So our social media. If you reach out to either Northwood, you can reach out to the Northwood University aftermarket club. If you are specifically interested in the aftermarket club, reaching out to the aftermarket club Instagram, we will put you in touch. I currently do not run the Instagram. I’m hoping to actually be taking over. That here in January is the goal, but put you in touch with people who are currently at the school can talk to you a little bit more.
I know. I have talked to a couple of kids who are interested in coming Autumn has talked to a lot of people about who are interested in coming. And honestly, anywhere you go. We went to PRI and we met 37 different alumni from Northwood when we were there, you might just already know someone or your uncle who worked for Ford. He might know someone or he went to Northwood himself. Search out to them. But social media wise is a huge thing. And then just following, if you check out our social media, you’ll see features of me or Autumn or different people students that go there and you can 100% reach out to them. Everybody is always so kind and willing to talk to you about Northwood. So if you’re not willing to want to go really straight to admissions and you want to just get a little bit of information, reaching out to those social media is a great way to do that, because they’re often student run and the students will talk to you.
All right. Sounds good. We’ll put all that in the show notes too.
So people can reach out. Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that I should have that you haven’t been able to share yet about yourself or the program or motor sports in general.
I don’t think so.
I think we’ve covered a lot.
Yeah, we have.
Yeah, well, I was excited to meet the ladies at PRI, especially you guys are right there in Michigan, which made it even more special but definitely want to help promote what Northwood is doing, promote that program. So if there’s anything else that we can do on our end or I can do on my end, we’d love to help out. And if you’ve got other girls that would want to be on the podcast, or maybe we’ll do a story in the magazine as well, I had talked to them about doing that. I think that would be a great idea and tell more about the program and what it’s all about.
So what’s super cool about Northwood is we offer the aftermarket degree, but we also offer an automotive marketing degree. The automotive marketing is more dealership. So do you want to run your own dealership? Here’s how you run your own dealership. Here’s how you run a finance Department and dealership here’s how you run a service Department and dealership.
All other side and the automotive and the aftermarket. We work really close together. Some of my greatest friends are in automotive, and some of their greatest friends are aftermarket kids. And even in the aftermarket club, we actually have a couple of automotive majors because it is one big community right in the aftermarket. They need each other. You can’t have Ford performance without Ford. So you got to meet each other. And so we work together a lot. The auto show is completely work together. It’s a mixture of finance students make marketing aftermarket auto.
We’re all work together in the auto show, and the whole automotive degree is a whole other side to it. You also have the automotive. So if you are interested in being an automotive girl, but maybe not being on the aftermarket side, there’s a whole other side for you run by LG Bright. And that is a great program to still be involved.
A lot of opportunity automotive wise at Northwood, that is greater than just the aftermarket.
Yeah, it sounds like it. I’m glad I got a chance to meet them and to meet you and to help promote this school because I think what they’re doing is great. It’s a great program and not just for girls for guys, too. But I love seeing the young women that are taking advantage of this because these are the kinds of jobs that are going to be out there forever. And if COVID hit, the car dealerships are still going to be open and selling cars.
Yeah, I can tell you. I mean, between the automotive and the aftermarket, our women’s presence is growing, we actually did a combined automotive history class this year, and I can tell you there is over 15 women.
Both aftermarket and automotive. So that presence is definitely there on both sides and definitely getting someone from maybe the automotive side to join the podcast would be great because I’m not super familiar with that side and what they’re doing per say a little bit, but not my interest.
Yeah. We’ll have to get somebody from that side on here and share what they’re doing. So, Miranda, thank you so much. I hope you had a really good Christmas. We’re recording this just a couple of days after Christmas.
And we’ve got New Year’s coming up, and then hopefully 2022 is going to be bigger and better for everybody in the motor sports industry.
I hope so. I’m hoping hope that now that it’s, like, starting to become more regular. I’m hoping that racing really will start to pick back up. I know PRI this year was smaller than in past year. Then hopefully that picks back up because that’s such a fun show. That whole weekend is an absolute last of a weekend.
It is and it’s a great location. The hotels, the restaurants, everything about it.
It’s all connected. But I got lost, like, eight times, but it was a great look. It was absolutely just wonderful. Everybody. The networking that I did is insane.
Yeah, me too. In the past, in 2018 and 19, I had a booth there, which was good because we were still new and we were getting our name out. But this year I just went as an attendee and I can talk to so many more people by walking. And I did my 10,000 steps each day just to go.
Actually, we have our booths our first year having our booth there. We had our project car there, which is a huge thing with our aftermarket club that’s going to be completely revamped. So by the time you’re seeing it next year, at the next PRI I show it’s going to look completely different because it’s going to be different. But we were there this year with our booth. And that was one of the things that we were like, we kind of took shifts like, okay, you go off and walk around, you to go off and walk around because it took us two days to get everything and talk to everybody that we wanted to talk to.
And we were able to do some night at night. We were going to a couple of different events. Obviously, I had the NMCA banquet while I was there to be racing NMCA. So that was cool to be able to see everybody on my side of the racing world. But just even going around and talking to the different companies and you just go up and you ask them about their parts and you’ll end up in a 45 minutes conversation. So that’s what’s really cool about the whole show.
It is the people you meet and the conversations you have are totally worth going to the show. And all the walking that you do.
It gave us so much inspiration for our auto show for this upcoming year. Exciting companies that were at PRI that are going to be coming to our auto show. I don’t disclose to, but there’s going to be some really cool companies that we were able to connect with that are notwgoing to join our auto show. That’s super cool.
Very cool. Well, Miranda, thank you so much for your time today. I’m sure you’re off on break from school. Yeah, that’s kind of nice, but let’s stay in touch. And as I said, I’d love to get somebody from the other program on. Let’s do a story in the magazine.
It. Yes. I will reach out to a couple of people on there and see if anybody is interested.
All right, that sounds good. Well, thank you for sharing about Northwood and we’ll stay in touch.
Yes. Absolutely. Thank you. Bye.
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Melinda Russell 269-760-1111
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