My Experience as a Woman in Motorsport

We turned to one of the most talented, passionate racers in our sport – Deana Kelley – to get her perspective about the sport, without spin.

By Deana Kelley

When I started racing karts at the age twelve, my dad told me I had to be more than a driver. I learned how to get the kart ready for the weekend; how to adjust its handling characteristics at a new track; and once I was old enough, help tow the kart as well.

Throughout my childhood, my dad was always tinkering with his drag car (a ‘66 Charger), so the thought of picking up a wrench never crossed my mind as something girls didn’t do. I’m very lucky that my upbringing empowered me to enter a typically male-dominated space and feel comfortable. I understand that my experience isn’t typical and it takes a lot of courage to step out of one’s comfort zone, show up some place where you are a very small minority, and learn a new skillset. Cheers to those who do!

For the most part, the motorsports community has been welcoming. Sure, there are a couple bad apples in every bunch, but they are easy to forget.  When I’m at the track, racing Spec Miatas, competing in autocross, or crewing for a vintage race team, my gender is never a factor. In motorsport, I get to be me, enjoy cars, hang out with people who share a common interest, and experience the thrill of racing.  It isn’t until I stop by an auto parts store or car dealership that I’m reminded of the stereotypes of my gender.

These reminders are usually just an annoyance, but they are an opportunity as well. They are a chance to teach someone that it is possible for women to have genuine interest in cars.  Yes, Mr. Salesman, actually I CAN test drive the car with the manual transmission. My hope is that these small interactions today will allow the next generation of women who love cars and motorsports to not have to deal with this. The frustration I feel in these situations is also a reminder to not fall into this pattern myself. I try my best to approach other women at the track with the assumption that she belongs here just as much as I do.

That’s what it comes down to – we all belong here.