Driving for Diversity: Q&A with Jessica Brunelli

Among the drivers in attendance for Tuesday’s testing session at Infineon Raceway was Jessica Brunelli. This up-and-coming driver is part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program.

Brunelli competes in the K&N Pro West Series. Just 18 years old, Brunelli is a local girl from Hayward, Calif. She will return to compete in the Thunder Valley Casino Resort Pro Series West race on Saturday, June 25.

As part of a Q&A session that took place at the track, Skirts and Scuffs columnist Lindi Bess had the opportunity to speak with Brunelli about her career and aspirations. Below you will find some excerpts from the Q&A session as well as those questions posed by Lindi.

Pictured above is Jessica Brunelli with her PR Rep Mike Cesario

Jessica Brunelli pulled into the garage and readied herself for the media.

CC (Contra Costa Times): This track is typically lots of crashes, lots of spins, lots of stop and go. How do you practice for that?
JB (Jessica Brunelli): "I think the best thing is doing what were doing here today. Making sure I feel comfortable in the car. I do have a little road racing background but never this long of a race. Never this many cars and never in a stockcar. I’ve always driven in formula cars. It's definitely going to be a new experience and different from anything I’ve ever done. So the only way to practice is doing what we’re doing today.”

CC: First time on the track (Infineon)?
JB: "Yes, I’ve never been at this track before. I was never old enough for racing here. I stopped road racing before I had turned 16, I never got a chance to run here."

CC: Tell me the experience going through Turn 3 for the first time, at the top of the hill when you can’t see anything….
JB: "I’ve been doing it on iRacing a little bit, did on "Gran Turismo" a couple times and it definitely is actually more visible than in any video game I’ve played, so it's actually, so the video games made it a lot worse than it would be, so being out there it's not as invisible as I thought it would be."

CC: Cute little story. Dale Jr. the first time he drove the track talked about his experience using the simulator and we find out that’s the video game. He said the difficulty is that it's tough on the video games to show the elevation. There is a lot of elevation going on here
JB: “Yes there is definitely a lot of up and down here. iRacing actually does a good job showing the elevation. You can never get that feel of dropping, the feeling in the seat of your pants. It at least gave you an idea of what was next. You kind of had a map in your head of what to expect. Everything else just fills itself in when your out there.”

jessica B
Jessica looking out at several media reps who have gathered.

LB (Lindi Bess): Hi Jessica, I’m from Skirts and Scuffs. My name is Lindi Bess. I’ve got a couple questions for you. What’s the greatest challenge coming to a road course as opposed to an oval track?
JB: "I think that going from road to oval originally coming back to road has been kind of a challenge because in all honesty, I thought it would be easier than it has been because of my road racing background. But because these cars are so much heavier than what I’m used to, and I can’t see as much as I did in a road course car. I think that’s my biggest challenge is is being so high off the ground and in such a heavy car its kind of playing with what I was used to in a much lighter car.”

LB: With the “Boys have at it” policy, are you ready to move up in Cup and deal with that out on the track?
JB: “I’m ready for it. I AM READY for it. It's actually why I like stock car racing so much in that there is so much contact and rubbing is racing. I find that to be so much more my type of racing. I like the bumping and the hitting, and the rubbing and moving them out of the way. I mean, road racing was always a gentlemen’s sport, you let them go, you don’t touch each other, but I feel like this is more for me.”

drive for diversity

LB: What was it like the day you heard you were going to be part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program?
JB: "I was really excited, but I wasn’t there when they told us who was going to be a part of the program because I had to go do a driver’s showcase at Caraway. I drove a cup car for a bunch of teams so they could see how I drove. It was actually right at the same time they announced the driver for diversity lineup. So I got a phone call later that night telling me I had made it. I was really really excited."

LB: Did you go out and celebrate?
JB: "Yes I did. Me and my dad, and some drivers from Ron’s program went out and ate. Probably would have done it either way but it was very special to me."

jessica in carJessica in her D4D car (2010) Courtesy of Jessica B.

LB: You’ve been out driving on many different courses across the country. What is the pace like back East in comparison to here in California? Is it a faster pace back east or slower?
JB: "No, not really. You know, it's interesting because I feel like back east is a little bit slower. Over here on the West Coast everyone is moving quicker. But it's still hurry up and wait. I do think things on the East Coast is more kick(ing) back. I don’t necessarily like anymore I do miss the West Coast, but there are significant differences in personalities and how things are done."

LB: So are you going to move back East?
JB: "I actually moved back East when I joined the Drive for Diversity Program (Charlotte, N.C.). I moved out at 16. I was a junior in high school so I actually finished my junior year home-schooled and then my senior year I re-enrolled in a public school so I could finish my senior year.”

LB: Last question. Do you have a plan B?
JB: "Yes, actually I’m going to school, and will go to UNC Charlotte. I do have a plan of getting an education because you never know, not that I plan that this is not going to work but you can get hurt. Something that you don’t plan for then what. I definitely think that education is important and plan on seeing it all the way through.”

Look for a more in-depth interview with Jessica coming up on Skirts and Scuffs.
Driving for Diversity: Q&A with Jessica Brunelli Driving for Diversity: Q&A with Jessica Brunelli Reviewed by Admin on Friday, June 17, 2011 Rating: 5