It may be mainly men who sit behind the wheel of NASCAR, but women are gaining speed in the sport.
With its deep ties to North Carolina and modest beginnings 61 years ago, NASCAR has turned into an international spectacle, thanks in part to the deft, unobtrusive touch of women.
The dynamic has changed a lot, with the opportunities and the travel. You can kind of have your own life outside of racing, says Krissie Newman, wife of driver Ryan Newman and vice president of Ryan Newman Motorsports. To make it work, you have to be there. You have to be willing to be part of what he does.
From helping style and outfit drivers to making high-powered decisions, women are seeing their role on pit row shift from well-dressed accessory to calling the shots.
It's definitely changing, there (are) more opportunities, says DeLana Harvick, wife of driver Kevin Harvick and co-owner of Kevin Harvick Inc. But I don't look at it that way. It's just someone is doing what they love. There are more men than the average job. That's OK, you just learn how to flow maybe I cuss a little too much don't think they listen unless I yell and throw a cuss word. I have a strong personality. I know what I want and how I'd like things to be.
As the Charlotte area prepares for the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday at Lowe's Motor Speedway, meet women who are driving NASCAR into the future: Harvick, Newman and Sherry Pollex, owner of Lavendar Boutique in Mooresville, who has been in a relationship with driver Martin Truex Jr. for four years.
Co-owner of Kevin Harvick Inc., oversees three motorsports teams and 70 employees. Wife of Sprint Cup driver Kevin Harvick since 2001.
Hometown: Kernersville, N.C.
Describe a typical day: It depends on the week, and where we're going. Monday through Wednesday, I'm in the office, working towards next week. Thursday is for traveling, Friday is a catch-up day. Tuesday is check day — the day I pay the bills.… The thing I like about this is there's never a constant. It varies from week to week and track to track, but that's what I like about it.
What is something that fans would be surprised to know about you? I'm not such a hard-ass. I think people think I've got this reputation that I'm harsh and abrasive, which I can be. But there's another side of me, too.
What's getting the most play on your iPod? We just drove to Bristol, Tenn. And we played the iPod game where you have to name the artist or the song. Kevin sucks at that, he gets frustrated. I listen to hip-hop or rap constantly – old school like A Tribe Called Quest.
Guilty pleasure? Sweet tea. I've cut it out, I'm trying to be healthier. For the first week, it wasn't pretty. I was snappy and angry.
Favorite footwear for race day? About five years ago, I started to wear a fire suit and (safety shoes) on pit row.… There are 43 cars on pit row, doing 12-13-second pit stops. I'm the only (significant other) who does that. I'd like to see everyone on pit row do it. Now I would feel unsafe if I didn't have my suit on.
How do you relax? Honestly, relax with my animals – a Chihuahua, Little One (Lo), German shepherds Endy and Bebe, a boxer, Mills, and cats Sebastian and Liza. Best thing I could do. They don't care if we've had a bad day at the racetrack.
Owner of Lavendar Boutique in Mooresville. Executive board member of the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation. She and driver Martin Truex Jr. have been in a relationship for four years.
Hometown: Brighton, Mich.
Details: www.lavendarboutique.com; www.martintruexjr.com
Describe a typical day: Monday is my catch-up day with e-mails and phone calls. When I'm at the track, I turn my phone off.… My business carries over to what I do on the weekend, too. I pull clothes for some of the drivers, and you'll find me hemming jeans in (the motor home) for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Kahne, meeting with them to make sure they fit.… I'll pin their clothes, take them to the seamstress and return them the next weekend.
What is something fans would be surprised to know about you? Deep down inside, I'm really a tomboy. I love to fish and I shoot a bow with Martin.… I love to do a lot of boy things, to get dirty and have fun.
What's getting the most play on your iPod? Little bit of everything: For working out, Britney Spears, and lots of country from Dierks Bentley and Gary Allan.
Guilty pleasure? Sweets, anything with chocolate. I don't go a day without eating chocolate.
Favorite shoes for race day? Anything from Aldo, always 3-inch or higher. I don't buy designer shoes to wear at the track, and ruin them in the garage. I just wear whatever I can find that is comfortable.
How do you relax? My newest form of relaxation is a hot stone massage at SpaDels in Mooresville. I also get a facial once a month, and it's when I turn the BlackBerry off and wind down. I am a big reader, too. I read every night before I go to bed.
Vice president of Ryan Newman Motorsports, managing 12 employees. Wife of driver Ryan Newman since 2004.
Hometown: Vernon, N.J.
Describe a typical day: I wish I had a typical day. I have a lot of different projects. I'm learning to fly a helicopter, working on Tony Stewart's house (the driver fell in love with the Newmans' log home and asked Krissie to help coordinate the building of his log home). It's a little bit bigger project than I expected. I am with Ryan every weekend, and I am helping coordinate photo shoots for our new “Pit Road Pets” book. I just have a really big calendar and keep everything on one so I can figure out. I don't like keeping a calendar in my BlackBerry. I need something I can flip through – it goes everywhere with me.
What would fans be surprised to know about you? I'm a down- to-earth person. Try not to get my head in the clouds. I think I'm an open book. I can be kind of shy or uncomfortable around people I don't know.
What's getting the most play on your iPod? Beyonce. Her music gets my feet going. You need that motivation (when you're working out).
Guilty pleasure: Desserts, especially Rice Krispies Treats. Sometimes when Ryan's gone, I eat them for dinner. Brownies, cupcakes all that stuff. Snickers bars are trouble.
Favorite shoes for race day? I prefer comfortable, and I find that Aldo shoes are reasonably priced. There's nasty water in the garage, and I've ruined a couple pairs of really good shoes.
How do you relax? I like when it gets cold at night, start a fire and just chill in our living room. It may not be relaxing at the time you do it, but you feel better afterwards.