Dream, Believe, Achieve: Meet Alli Owens
Women racers are on the rise! The 2010 is looking like the year of the Girl Racers. Women have been a part of the sport since its beginning with such drivers as Louise Smith, Sara Christian, Ethel Mobley and Patty Moise just to name a few. These women opened the door for other women in the world of motorsports, proving that women were and are more than capable of running fast and with as much intensity as their male counterparts.
More recently, women like Janet Guthrie, Shirley Muldowney, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Lyn St. James and Shawna Robinson are perfect examples of women who can hold their own. Times have changed for the most part and women are taking control of their racing careers and making every lap count.
A new era in motorsports is upon us. More and more we are hearing about these up and coming women much earlier in their careers. One in particular that is making some noise right now, is 22-year-old Alexandra "Alli" Owens, from Daytona Beach, Fla. Alli was born born Sept. 2, 1988 to parents Mike and Sherry Owens. Alli also has a younger brother, Adam, who is 14 years old.
Alli says this about her brother Adam: “My brother is probably the most critical one about the whole thing. He is very protective of me even though he is younger. He doesn’t always understand why I put myself through some of the things with male drivers or bad media. But on the other hand he pushes me to be the best; he will be the first one to get mad if I don’t pass a car when had a shot at it.”
Lindi Bess: When you were growing up, what did you aspire to be and why?
Alli Owens: “When I was really little I wanted to be a vet and help animals. That all changed as soon as I got a motor!”
LB: During your school years, were you involved in any clubs? Athletics?
AO: “I was always involved in school activities. In elementary school I was in safety patrol (yeah, I was the kid yelling "NO RUNNING!") I was also involved in the Dragon News, our 5th grade morning TV news group. Once I got into middle school I joined WEB Leaders, which was a group that helped new 6th graders adapt to to the challenges of change in their lives. High school was hard for me to be a part of any clubs or athletics because racing took all my after school and weekend time.”
|Alli in her first quarter midget at age 12.|
LB: Education wise, what are your goals? Degrees? Plan B?
AO: “School came natural to me for some reason. I was in honor classes and really good in English. I loved to write. I struggled to stay focused in school because all I wanted to do was turn wrenches on my cars. In class I would practice my autograph and day dream about the last race I competed instead of listening and following the lessons. I still somehow managed to graduate with honors from high school in three years on an excelled program. As far as college goes, I unfortunately didn’t have the funding to go. Not sure if I would have went anyway because racing was the only thing I cared about and still is. There is not a Plan B for me, no way. If I were thinking about a Plan B I would have already prepared myself to fail in motorsports. I will NOT fail at this, that is not an option!”LB: What are some of your career goals?
|Alli tearing down mini stock engine at 16 years old.|
AO: “I want to win in the ARCA series before I move up. Once that happens I want to move up to either trucks or Nationwide and run full-time. From there obviously the Cup Series is the ultimate destination. The day I hang my helmet up and call it quits, I want to be able to say that I have won at every top level stock car series. My main goal is to align myself with one of the top Cup teams and develop under their wing so one day I can branch off and start my own team and be successful on the owner’s side as well."
AO: “My first racing experience was when we lived in Indianapolis. They held a community event called the Kiddy 500, right before the Indy 500. It was an event for kids to race Big Wheels against each other. My dad was the one who took me to the big wheel race without my mom knowing. I was the only girl there and I remember this red head, freckle face, missing front teeth little boy next to me sticking his tongue out at me. From that point on I have had the desire to beat the boys for the rest of my life in any activity they think they can do better. I ended up winning that entire event and became the first girl to do so.”
LB: What is your earliest memory of motorsports?
AO: “We lived in Indianapolis and my parents took me to the Indy 500 practices before the 500 and I actually hated it. I cried and cried to go home, I didn't like the sound of those cars. My first stockcar race was at Volusia Speedway Park, a local dirt track here in Florida. I went there for the first time when I was 10 and I fell in love! I loved the rumble of the late models a lot more than the high-pitched Indy cars. I think I was born a stockcar fan moreover than open wheel.”
She began her career as a BMX racer at the age of 8, bringing home the Presidents Cup along with many other competitions early on, which only made her hungry for more.
|At age 14, Alli won First Place in her first stockcar event.|
LB: What part does your family play in your auto racing career?
AO: “Family is number one, point blank! My dad is the one who took me to the big wheel race without my mom knowing. My dad and I have always been close when it comes to sports. He coached my little league teams each year and went on to my softball teams as well. When I was 8, our neighbors started racing BMX and of course my dad was the first one on the list to step up and take me to the bike shop to get a bike. That’s what started my whole career in racing. I think fathers are always secretly happy when they have daughters who like extreme sports or something of that sort over ballet or cheerleading. He was always a big supporter of everything I wanted to do that was potentially dangerous that my mom quickly said, “I don’t know about that.” Alli continued on, "As far as my mom is concerned, I think at first she would have liked to see me doing more girly things so she could be a part of it, but once she realized how happy racing made me, she quickly became my biggest fan. She fell in love with my passion for competition.”
LB: Was there moment that stands out as the point where you absolutely knew for sure you wanted to be a ‘racecar driver’?
AO: “Yes, I was 12 years old and we just built my first dirt car. When I sat in the car, strapped up, put on my helmet and took to the track for the first I knew that this was it. I was born to race, no wait, I was born to WIN! I came home and told my parents, they laughed it off and said I’m sure things will change when you get into high school. Guess what? They didn’t! At 12 I was fully committed to succeeding in this sport.”
|Alli with her trophies, last BMX, first quarter midget and first dirt car.|
2004 and 2005 brought Alli two Rookie of the Year awards in mini-stock and Late Models at New Smyrna, finishing third in both seasons. It was obvious she was fast becoming a championship contender. Alli was now considered a veteran of NASCAR-sanctioned late models, Fascar Late Models, Mini Stocks, pure Stocks, quarter stocks and BMX competitions.
At 15, Alli became the spokesperson for Race Against Drugs. She went on to volunteer as a motivational speaker for the National Crime Prevention Service, speaking at schools and rehabilitation centers. In 2004 Alli graduated from Finishline Racing School's advanced course "Race to Win."
2006 was a year of change for both Alli herself and Alli Owens Racing. Alli graduated from Atlantic High School with honors. This was the year that Alli Owens Racing signed with The National Labor Management Committee, The Electric Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers as sole sponsors for the upcoming 2007 season.
2007 brought Alli her best finish to date, third at Hickory Motor Speedway. It was also the year that she qualified just outside of pole. The year ended with six top fives, and nine top s in the Nascar Sanctioned Late Models division.
Alli drove the No. 12 ElectrifyingCareers.com Chevrolet right into the 2008 ARCA RE/MAX Series, teamed with DGM Racing. This female stockcar driver has two top-10 and seven top-20 place finishes in her 22 ARCA starts.
On Dec. 26, 2009, in an open test at ARCA at Daytona International Speedway, Alli Owens and seven other women went up against the "new girl," Danica Patrick. The weekend had almost 60 participants. You wouldn’t have known it as they became virtually invisible with the parade of media around the “new girl.” That was okay. Alli snuck in under the radar in her No. 15 ElectrifyingCareers.com Chevrolet and was the fastest female in the group. Not to mention, Alli’s Venturini Motorsports teammates were in the top 5 all weekend.
LB: When I asked Alli what she thought of Danica Patrick's involvement in NASCAR, Alli said the following:
AO: “Bring it. As soon as she (Danica) puts on the helmet and buckles in, she’ll just be another car to beat. That’s what I hope she’d say about me at least. I wish her the best and I think she’s opened the media doors to this series and women drivers everywhere. This is a different world than what she’s used to and I hope she respects that and understands the responsibility she will carry on her back on behalf of all of us females in general. She is a very nice person and we get along fine.”
The ARCA season opener at DIS had Venturini Motorsports driver Alli Owens driving the No. 15 car. Alli ran third for most of the race, running strong and consistently. Unfortunately, mechanical problems and a crash in the final 10 laps of the race dropped her back to a 23rd-place finish. Alli’s teammates, Mark Thompson, driver of the No. 66, finished second and John Wes Townley, driver of the No. 35, finished in the third position.
LB: What has been your biggest career achievement thus far and why?
AO: “Getting an incredible partnership with NECA and IBEW at the age of 17. I worked day and night, in school, on the weekends, and all the time in between to get this sponsorship with them. It took me a whole year to do it and I sold it all myself. To look back and see how we have grown in the last four years is something amazing and very self-rewarding. On track performances, awesome to talk about but as of right now to know I was self-driven to succeed at such a young age. I know what we went through as a family to build Owens Racing LCC into what it is today and that's what true achievement is all about.”
LB: Who are your current sponsors? How is your schedule for 2010?
AO: “The National Electric Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. We are adding more races each and every day. We are pushing to run the full ARCA season.”
LB: Who is your crew chief? Pit crew members? Any females on the crew?
AO: “My crew chief is Cal Boprey and my pit crew members are Dicky, Shoney (nickname), Pauly Poo (nickname), Herm (nickname) and Dave. There are no females on my crew but we do have a couple girls that come in and work around the shop every now and then.”
LB: In your opinion, what are some of the problems that females face when trying to get a job in NASCAR, at any capacity?
AO: “They need to know this sport inside out. There are a lot of talented people out there and for the most part teams are not looking at gender. They are looking for talent and skills. As for the over the wall pit crew jobs, its a lot harder because of physical strength; that’s something that most teams can’t see past.”
LB: What advice would you give to a young woman aspiring to be a racecar driver?
AO: “You have to want this 100% and be willing to sacrifice anything and everything besides family. I think this is the toughest sport mentally, physically and emotionally. This is a hard life to live and have to be so unbelievably focused. Dream, Believe, Achieve!”
LB: Do you have any female mentors/role models?
AO: “When it comes to role models and mentors, it is hard to pick one person because every women pioneer brings something to the table to respect. I don’t have a person that I have ever said “I want to be like….” In fact, my true inspiration comes from children. There is nothing more powerful than looking into children’s eyes and seeing the look of purity, fascination and amazement. When they see me or any other driver, they see a super hero. I don’t know about you, but that’s a tall order to live up to.”
LB: What do you do to relax? Girlfriend time?
AO: “I go out line dancing, fishing, mudding in trucks or on four wheelers. Head out to the lake, going out to eat, and curling up on the couch with my puppy and watch movies all day. It’s normally just my roommate/best friend Jessica as far as the girls I hang out with. She and I are normally out with my boy from the team or other guy friends. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up as one of the guys - the girly stuff just doesn’t seem fun.”
LB: Where is your Happy Place?
AO: “Inside a race car. It is the single most perfect place in the world. The only place where everything goes away and I don’t have to worry about stress, money, personal issues, or anything else that we face in everyday life!”
Alli shares her words of wisdom:
“DREAM-BELIEVE-ACHIEVE (It's what I live by each and every day!)"
I would like to personally thank Alli Owens for taking the time to do this interview. I have to say that I have become a big fan of hers and I’m sure you will too after you’ve gotten to know her a little better.
Alli can be found on Twitter as @AlliOwens, on Facebook where she blogs regularly, on her Web site http://www.alliowens.com/. She also has a radio talk show,Gas N' GO with Alli "O".
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Skirts and Scuffs contributor Lindi Bess had permission to use photos in this article. Please do not copy; they are the property of Alli Owens.