‘Car chicks’ impact automotive world

I really didn’t think it would be a big challenge to come up with a short list of five names for a column about amazing women who have had an influence on my life in the automotive world … that is until I tried to do it.

Many faces came to mind and narrowing down the choices took much thought, some pacing and a couple of middle-of-the-night revelations.

You see, I’ve always been intrigued and empowered by women who excel in their occupations and by those who can think outside the box to infiltrate professions that have traditionally been male dominated.

Shirley Muldowney

Limiting my feelings for drag-racing legend Shirley Muldowney to this space is practically impossible as she’s just that amazing. Shirley has been racing since 1965 and was the first woman to get a license in the top-class of drag racing: Top Fuel. She set and beat countless records at nearly every level. And she won … a lot.

Bouncing back from a near fatal crash in 1984 at 250 mph just shows what this wonderful woman is made of. Shirley continued racing and winning and breaking more records. Many young women have since followed her path of courage and determination.

As a young girl, I recall being at my father’s racetrack in Brainerd, Minn., the same weekend Shirley’s car crashed in Canada. It was a somber day for me as she really and truly felt like a friend, even though I didn’t know her. I was drawn to her story, her fierce winning spirit, her passion for her sport and, of course, her signature pink race cars. Shirley set the standard for women in motor sports and has taught us many lessons about living life at your own speed.

Teresa Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt was one of the most successful, respected and beloved heroes of the racing world, NASCAR or otherwise. And, helping to carry on his legacy is his widow, Teresa, who has handled the tragedy of losing her husband in a crash during the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 with incredible courage, hope and love, even expressing her gratitude in written statements to Dale’s massive fan base.

Teresa, a mother of four who was named “Outstanding Mother of the Year” in 2002 by the National Mother’s Day Committee, went on to campaign the Earnhardt NASCAR race teams. I have always been impressed by the many qualities synonymous with Teresa Earnhardt. When Dale died, however, I think many people underestimated Teresa’s ability to rise from the tragedy and take over.

Patty St. Lawrence

Automotive TV is certainly gaining popularity in the mainstream market. However, automotive-themed programming has existed on Spike TV, formerly TNN, for two decades. Even the fans of Spike’s weekend “PowerBlock” might not know that one of the two creators and executive producers is Patty St. Lawrence. I have had the pleasure of working with Patty and getting to know her during my time hosting the “PowerBlock.”

The story of her incredible sacrifice to create and sustain the business with her husband, Joe, is truly extraordinary. Thanks to their perseverance and sacrifices, we have been blessed with quality automotive entertainment. With strong programming, Patty’s company, called RTM Productions, just keeps getting better. Patty is also the mother of two.

Danica Patrick

At age 28, Danica Patrick might never live up to all the pressure piled on top of her, but she’s fierce, focused and not about to let anyone, including the group of men with whom she shares the Indy Racing League tracks, block her path to success. Danica might not be the first woman to strap herself into an open-wheel race car and compete in this male-saturated sport, but she is the first woman to have won an event. I think she’ll wind up holding the checkered flag a few more times in her racing career.

In addition to admiring Danica’s strength and tenacity in this testosterone-filled sport, I feel a personal connection because she was my predecessor on Spike TV, hosting the Power Block until she decided to focus on her racing career.

Camee Edelbrock

I first met Camee Edelbrock while working on the “Overhaulin’ ” TV episode (on The Learning Channel) where we took apart a 1964 Corvette engine before installing the new Edelbrock engine. The two of us immediately connected and shared many laughs.

What really struck me about Camee was her modesty, despite being a member of one of the most famous families in automotive history. As part of being vice president of the Edelbrock Corp., she’s hard working, driven, as genuine as they come and a joy to know.

A few years ago at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas, Camee was honored with the first ever Young Executive of the Year award. She sets a standard for women in the automotive world and beyond. And I love that she’s the real-deal car chick.

Among her numerous accomplishments, Courtney Hansen is the author of her own book, the host of Spike TV’s “PowerBlock,” the former host of TLC’s “Overhaulin’ ” and a writer with Wheelbase Communications. You can e-mail her by logging on to www.wheelbase.ws/media and clicking the contact link.

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