Danica's Not Alone: Three Other Women to Watch in NASCAR-Part 2

Posted by imelda sovzky on Thursday, February 9, 2012

Leilani Munter
from Project Green Search
photo - The Daily Green
Anyone who thinks Danica is the first female model or spokesperson within NASCAR will soon find out she has female competitors who are her equal in this regard - although what and why they promote may vary. 


Leilani Munter is a familiar name to some NASCAR fans who recall seeing her in a media role not so long ago. But what some fans may not know, is that Munter is also a biology graduate from University of San Diego, specializing in Biology, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution. She has certainly made her mark in the world as an accomplished environmental advocate. And through her passion for environmental concerns, Leilani is a recognized leader within the environmental community. 


Leilani Munter's drive for her environmental causes also finds her on numerous magazine covers and the pages of leading news groups such as, USA Today, New York Times, Italian Vogue, Esquire, ESPN, Men's Journal, Newsweek, Glamour, Reader's Digest, Vanity Fair, Washington Post. Leilani was also a stunt driver and photo double for Catherine Zeta-Jones.   


And as if that's not enough, Leilani is also an accomplished public speaker and published writer, delivering more than 45 keynote speeches on the topic of her passion for environmental awareness. And as one busy lady she currently writes for Discovery's Treehugger.com and the green section of Huffington Post, which is rated most influential blog in the world by the Guardian and tops Time Magazine's blog index. 


There is more than racing behind this female driver's accomplishments. On Leilani Munter's website, her motto is...
"Never underestimate a vegetarian hippie chick with a race car."
Fans have seen her on the race track in several racing series, including: Indy Pro Series, development league of IndyCar, NASCAR's Southwest and Southeast Series, ROMCO Super Late Model Series and USRA Super Late Model Series, NASCAR's Weekly Racing Series, ASA Series and Allison Legacy Series.


Leilani started her racing career in 2001 and her on-the-track accomplishments over the last ten years include, her 2004 qualifying effort by setting the record for a female stock car driver at Texas Motor Speedway when she qualified 4th in the ARCA series. In the June 2006 ARCA race, again at TMS, she set another record for the highest finishing position of a female driver finishing in 4th place. In September of the same year, Leilani became the first woman to qualify in the 45-year history of Bettenhausen Classic at Illiana Speedway in Indiana. 


In her 2007 debut for the Indy Pro Series at Kentucky Speedway in August, she qualified 5th with a speed of 192.399 mph, but had trouble on a restart and dropped back to 13th.  She went on to amaze fans by racing her way back to the front of the field, but when she was about to pass for 4th place, she was collected in a multi-car accident ending her day. Afterward, four-time Indy 500 champion Rick Mears, IndyCar driver Jaques Lazier and many others in the IndyCar community spoke highly of Munter's debut performance. 


In February 2010 she had the fastest lap of the ARCA race at Daytona being 2/10ths of second faster than the leaders before "The Big One" took her out of the race. On that day, Leilani was one of three women qualifying for the race on speed alongside Danica Patrick and Alli Owens. In 42 starts, Leilani has 9 top-five's, and 19 top-ten's.  


Fans will see Leilani Munter in the ARCA race at Daytona on February 18th.  Munter's #12 TMR Dodge will feature the Academy Award winning documentary "The Cove" which exposes the annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins in a small cove in Taiji, Japan. Munter made three trips to Japan to document the dolphin slaughter first hand and keep the issue in the public's mind.  Leilani comments...
"Racing a "The Cove" themed race car at Daytona is an incredible opportunity to reach a new audience about this important issue and since the race is broadcast live on SPEED, it will be seen in the United States and also overseas."
It appears Leilani Munter has dual passions and will continue her mission to achieve both on and off the track in 2012. 


Maryeve Dufault is another driver getting her passion for racing from an early age watching her father and brother race motorcycles in Canada. With her family so involved in the sport, it was natural for Maryeve to start riding a motorcycle when she was just 4 years old in motocross. At eight she moved on to go-karts and by the time she reached the age of nine she had already broken both arms while racing.


Dufault has raced several series including Skip Barber, Formula BMW, Formula Renault, Pro Star Mazda, NASCAR Canadian Tire series, ARCA Racing series and Nationwide series; as well as precision driving for Honda, Polais and Honda and extensively testing Formula cars in China and Britain. Her accomplishments show several podium finishes and victories across a variety of these series.


After moving to California in 2000, it occurred to Maryeve that she might be able to fund her racing efforts by entering a Miss Tropicana contest. She not only won the local contest, she went on to win the Miss Tropicana International title over 35,000 other contestants. She also won over $100,000 in prizes with a jet ski, car and motorcycle. She says, her primary reason for entering the contest was to get the money she needed to keep racing.  


Maryeve started her stock car experience in the NASCAR Canadian Tire series in 2010, racing in two events, while also signing in a driver development program with another team. Dufault was also the first female race driver selected as a development driver with the Dodge Motorsports program in the US and Canada. 


For the 2011 season she raced in 14 ARCA races with one top-ten and six top-13 finishes and ended the season 16th in points standings, even though she missed five additional races, due to a lack of funds from sponsorship. Dufault also made her NASCAR Nationwide debut at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in August 2011 becoming the first Canadian woman to race in the series. 


Dufault was named by Fox Sports as one of the "Top female drivers in racing today" and by Bleacher Report as "Top 12 Up-and-Coming Female Drivers in Motorsports." And if you happen to pick up the Press Pass trading cards for 2012, you'll find Maryeve Dufault as one of the featured drivers. 


Posted on her website are selected comments of - What they say about Maryeve:
New York Post: "She's got the face of an angel and the foot of a speed demon" - 
The Gazette: "Quebecer Dufault takes fast track to race goals" 
ESPN News: "Maryeve Dufault not just another Pretty face"
Numerous television, movies and modeling appearances are also part of Maryeve's notariety. She was a Barker Beauty on the Price is Right, stunt driver for the movie Fast Girl and also appeared in Driven, Entourage and Relative Strangers. She also modeled for Maxim in their magazine's August 2011 issue. Dufault was also invited to be on The Insider and on E! News to discuss women in racing and difficulties competing in a male-dominated sport. And she was featured by Sports Illustrated as their "Lovely Lady of the Day."


Talking with the New York Post, Dufault says that she models to earn money to be a race car driver. 
"I wasn't buying myself clothes. I was buying tires," Dufault said. "I'm a racer who uses modeling jobs to pay my bills." 
 In another interview with Toledo Blade in May, 2011, Maryeve says, 
"Sure, some people think it is crazy, but I know where my heart is. I'm a race car driver, and I want to be known first for what I accomplish on the track. We all took different routes to get here, but every driver wants the same thing. You want to compete, and you want to win. My passion is here at the track."
Fans will see Maryeve Dufault racing the full season in the Nationwide series this year in the Quebecois Dodge Challenger.


With these four women racing in NASCAR this season, fans may get the treat of perhaps one or more of them continuing to make history.  All four women will be competing on the high banks of Daytona as the 2012 season kicks off - Let the racing begin!

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