About a week ago, Erica Ortiz e-mailed me to let me know that she picked me as one of her top 5 favorite blogs for Blog Day 2008. I was honored and thanked her for reading my blog.
My day job, I am a marketing and events coordinator for a company that manufactures broadcast equipment. I do some side consulting for the motorsports industry as well. But on the weekends and every other second of my spare time, my passion is drag racing. Drag Racing is the all out acceleration from a dead stop, as fast as you can go in a 1/4 mile or 1320ft. distance. I have been racing since 1998, and turned PRO in 2006.
Normally, people who race came about it through a family member that races, or some other mechanical aspect. My parents could hardly change a tire, so they find it very puzzling
that I ended up having this passion for racing. I can remember being little and looking out the window of our painfully practical and all-around boring sedan at all the Mustangs and other hotrods on the road, and really being in awe of them. My favorite toys when I was little were little cars, not the Barbies my Mom wanted me to play with. When I got in my teen years, that passion for cars really grew. I was a 3 sport Varsity athlete in high school- Volleyball, Basketball, and Track. I actually had a full scholarship for Volleyball, but a severe auto accident the summer before my freshman year in college sidelined me from sports. The only release I had was to compete in cars, so after I graduated high school, I bought my first car- a Mustang GT, and started taking it out to the local track for Street Night. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Shortly after that, I started hanging out at a local speed shop with local star racer, Dennis Lugo. I ended up working there with him, and he taught me how to work on my engines, and really taught me the ropes of racing. My car progressively got faster. I started competing in a racing series, and ended up finishing #2 in my class in 2003, my first full year on the tour. I decided to move up to PRO in 2006, and finished #2 for the season in my rookie year there as well.
Though more women are out there today than when I started back in 1998, Drag Racing is still very much a male-dominated sport. Because it usually is such a unique story, women racing do tend to get more media attention. For the most part, that is a very good thing. However, as we have seen with IRL driver, Danica Patrick, you also tend to be scruntized much more and criticized for your every action. What that means is that as you are going through the learning curve process, they have a microscope on you. Any mistake you make (and believe me, all drivers make mistakes- male or female) spurns all the negative criticism that you can’t “cut it as a driver”. The truth is, all rookies make mistakes, the men just don’t have the magnifying glass over them for theirs.
The great thing about motorsports is that its the one sport where men and women can compete evenly…. the cars know no gender. But these cars are extremely expensive, and require the help of corporate and product sponsorships as you move up the ranks. Better equipment means faster times and makes you more competitive, so obviously the better funded racer has more chances of winning. Being a woman and also hispanic, I am able to offer a very different demographic to my sponsors. Because we are so rare in the sport, women tend to get more coverage and more mainstream appeal than male counterparts. This is a big selling point to sponsors…. win or lose, their car will make the press and thus reach their audience in a big way.
Sponsorships in drag racing are some of the most beneficial marketing dollars companies can spend because it provides them with a very wide array of marketing and promotional abilities. Everything from signage on the car (viewed by spectators, TV, magazines, etc), apparel, corporate hospitality, on-site event promotion, endorsements, printed promotions and hero card handouts, etc. are used as tools to give sponsors exposure and a ROI. My team makes sure that we are very proactive in getting exposure for the companies we represent. We have been featured in countless magazine articles (http://www.horsepowerandheels.com/Media/Print/Index.htm), we created our own TV Series (http://www.horsepowerandheels.com/TV/index.htm), and we stay active promoting the team, and our sponsors on a daily basis. BRISK USA (http://www.briskusa.com/), my main sponsor for 2008, started off as a product sponsor in 2006 and we really worked to get them exposure for their products. They were so impressed by the results, they decided to step up in 2007 to help us bring out a more competitive car. We work very hard to make sure ALL our sponsors are getting a very worthwhile response out of their association with Horsepower & Heels.
Although it would seem that after years of competing and especially how much more marketing appeal we have, that sponsorships would be easy for female drivers. However, I found out the hard way that the glass ceiling is still strongly in place. I’ve been told before that a sponsor still feels that he isn’t sure a woman could handle “a beast of a car like that” and that they are looking for a champion and to win races. Doesn’t matter that women have proven they can win…. the mental thought is still that a man can “get the job done”. Unfortunately, its a double-edged sword. Because you rely on sponsorships to fund a competitive car, women can only be as succesful as their funding allows. Until one is given the chance with a championship budget, we’ll always be running for 2nd best.
When I started racing, I very much wanted to be accepted, wanted to prove that I was able to compete with the men and be good at what I do. But after awhile, I found myself trying to “be one of the boys” to be out there competing with them. It was almost as though I was apologizing for being me… for being feminine and girly and still wanting to be a fierce competitor at the track. I didn’t like that…. and one day, when a fellow racer expressed his absolute disbelief that I wore heels to a dinner banquet it came to me: Who says Horsepower & Heels don’t mix?!? There is nothing wrong with being a fierce competitor and still being true to what I am…. I am very proud of being a woman in such a male dominated sport.
My friends laughed and really appreciated the name, and after launching my website (http://www.horsepowerandheels.com/) to the public, I received comments and notes from all across the world from other women who could relate. Its allowed me to meet so many great and supportive people.
I started the blog as an experiment in March of 2005 when I launched my website. I had just heard the word “blog” and wanted to learn more about the blogosphere and to have a place to talk about things that were important to me. It started off as a journal, keeping my family and friends informed with how the racing was going, but over the years has expanded to include all things important to me. I love the open communication it allows, and though my niche tends not to be as active in the social media area and don’t comment as much as I’d like, my blog still is the highest read section of my website, and brings 10,000 unique visitors and more each month.
I have readers of all types on Horsepower & Heels: men, women, other racers, and people who don’t race at all. Men thinks its cool, and love to chat cars. Women think its empowering, and kids like to see what’s possible when you put your mind to it. All of that is important. And I try to make sure that there is something for everyone, and that its easy to understand. I also think its important to use my blog for good causes too, that’s why you’ll see a lot of special causes posts (http://www.horsepowerandheels.com/blog/labels/Special%20Causes.html) in the mix too. Its important to give back.
After my rookie PRO season, my crewmate Debbie and I were laughing at all the funny things that happen behind the scenes getting to the races. Some of those stories just don’t make good blog posts, and some of them would have made me money on America’s Funniest Home Videos. So, we decided to start carrying around a camera for PNN.com and record what its like behind the scenes being to women on the road and at the races. So far, we’ve been struggling to get the car back together, but once the race season kicks back in for us, there’s sure to be hilarity to follow.
This goes back to what created Horsepower & Heels to begin with. People see you out there in racing t-shirts and tanks, and a firesuit, and they begin to forget that you’re still a woman and capable of being girlie and attractive. I haven’t been racing recently, and I still get the comments of awe and shock when I wear dresses and skirts, as if being a racer by default means I can’t be girlie too. Its not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes it can get a little undermining… like, do people even see me as girl anymore? Am I really that transparent? I’ve been “just one of the guys” so long that sometimes I just want someone to open a car door for me, or comment on my new outfit, and not the size of my engine. Don’t get me wrong, I’m way more comfortable in a shop getting greasy than I am in the kitchen or garden, but still.
11) I’ve seen quite a bit of objectification of women in the male sports blogosphere. They seem to only cover women’s sporting events if the girls are “hot.” What are your thoughts on this? Do you see this as a challenge for bloggers like you and me?
You always get the jerks who make rude and lude comments, that’s just part of it. But I think that as a whole, I’ve found men to be very respectful and complimentary of the actual talent of women athletes, a pretty face just is the very sweet icing on the cake. It breaks the stereotype that women who succeed in athletics are manly and ugly…. just look at Ashley Force or Danica Patrick. Beauty AND Brains AND talent to boot!
I do think that regular coverage of women sports is lacking. We are lucky in motorsports, because we’re the only sport that women and men compete together, so we already have media representatives there and grab their attention. But if it were an all-woman series, I don’t think we’d get the billing or the coverage at all, and that’s sad. Its the same for all the other sports…. womens’ basketball only is talked about when there’s a fight, etc.
I do think its very important to show support for our female athletes, and that especially includes corporate sponsorship. By allowing them the same means to achieve in their sport, you are not only giving them the chance to be the best, but you are lending credibility to them in the eyes of people who subconsciously or even consciously view them inferior.
I don’t neccesarily consider myself a feminist, but I’m all about empowering women to achieve anything they set out to do. I believe that by not conforming to this centuries old idea of what a woman is supposed to do, act, and be, we are redefining what we are. That includes sports….
Media coverage such as ….Because I Played Sports, more support from sponsors, more personalization into the lives of the women. How much more impressive is it to see these awesome athletes, and know that many of them are mothers, career women, etc. Most women athletes right now are not making their living from their sport, unlike male counterparts. That’s what makes their successes that much more impressive.