WIN Series Presents : Sunny Hobbs

Mothers Can Burn Rubber Too!

Sunny Hobbs is a wife, mom of three, feels the need for speed, and has been competitive her entire life. From the time she was a young girl, her parents, Scarlette and Jim Hobbs and brother Beau, were avid fans of motorsports.

Sunny’s competitiveness continued to grow as did she. I asked her if she had any aspirations in her younger years. She replied, “I was raised to believe you could do anything you want to do. I played basketball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, volleyball, and I water skied. I mean you name it I did it. I wasn’t necessarily a tomboy I also modeled overseas for three summers when I was going to high school. I just tried a bunch of different things to see what would fit.’

Sunny is returning to racing after taking time off to start a family. She was recently quoted having said, “I’ve been fortunate enough to keep behind the wheel from time to time while starting a family. The support from my family is contagious and I’m looking forward to getting back to fulfilling my dream. I don’t make any apologies for being a mother and taking that time off…my children are precious to me and I want to prove to them and other mothers out there that try and juggle their 'dreams' that with hard work, anything is possible.”

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Sunny about her life, goals, and her family.

Sunny's first car, a 1980 Chevy Malibu.
Do you remember at what point you knew you wanted to be a race car driver?
Yeah (laughs) I can. I was at Southside Speedway. I had purchased my first car which was a 1980 Chevy Malibu, it was street stock and I’d taken it around the track during practice, and from then on I was completely hooked on racing. I’d been to races all my life, but getting in the car myself and just feeling it…..I just was in love immediately.

*Southside Speedway was also raced by such NASCAR notables as Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Tony Stewart.

Having gained experience during competitions on both road courses as well as ovals, Sunny is now more determined than ever to reach her goals and beyond. She is making a comeback this year and with the time she spent in ARCA ReMax driving late model stock cars as well as trucks, this female driver can accomplish anything she puts her mind to.

Can you share your racing goals for 2011 with us?
What I’m trying to do right now is get back into the ARCA Series and even into the Truck Series. So that’s like in the short term we’re looking to do like to 2-3 ARCA Races and 2 Truck races. I want to see how that goes. Taking just one step at a time. To me, it's about being in good equipment and being consistent on the track its not necessarily being in a particular series or a certain kind of limelight by driving XYZ car. I just want to run good where I am. That’s my short term plan, and that’s what I’m really focused on right now.

Sunny, recently you raced in two ARCA events at Daytona International Speedway and at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which was your favorite track?
“I like short tracks. I really like racing at Atlanta. I raced an ARCA car there and it was fast and demanding. It demanded all of your focus. I really liked it. So Atlanta Motor Speedway.”

Why NASCAR over other forms of racing?
Well actually tried both of them.  I still race sports cars in addition to circle (oval) track stuff.  But the circle track is where my heart lies. It fits my driving style, my personality, I like the wheel to wheel. I like the traffic aspect of it and the bumping.  That’s just where I keep gravitating back to.

The whole ‘Rubbing is Racin’ thing then…..
”Exactly.” (we both laughed)

Do you have any female mentors or role models?
That’s kind of a tough question. I mean you know Lyn St. James is an excellent role model. I admire other women racers like Shawna Robinson, Kelly Sutton but I have other people I’ve admired outside of racing. But its not necessarily a woman either. Someone asked me who my favorite female racer was the other day and I really don’t think of it that way. I think of it like who is my favorite driver.

Okay then who is your favorite driver?
I knew that question was coming up next. I’ve always really admired Mark Martin. But I was a huge Bill Elliott fan growing up.

If you could sit and talk with a legend, male or female, who would it be and why?
Goodness, you got really good questions. I guess it would be one of those two guys. With Mark Martin I admire his work ethic and his commitment to the sport and putting everything into it - his body, his mind and just his philosophies. Then with Bill Elliott I like his style of racing on the track.

Would you eventually like to own your own team?
No, I used to when I raced late models have my own team. We built our own cars, went broke and it's just a lot of work. I never realized it until I raced for somebody else how distracting that is. I like to be able to drive for other people so I can just stay focused on my racing and not everything else that goes along with it.

Did you further your education at any point? Just in case things don’t pan out,  with sponsors being so hard to find...
It is.  That’s been like THE toughest thing for me. I went to college. I went to the American University in Washington, D.C. and got a degree in International Relations. I haven’t taken a job in that field, but I’m also a stay at home mom.  So that’s my job when I’m not racing and visa-versa. I’m married and I’ve got that part of my life sewn up. I am very fortunate to get back into racing at all because that’s one of the toughest things for women in the sport. You get to a certain point in your career where you have to make a choice. Yes I was absolutely committed to racing for a very long time. Racing, Racing, Racing. Then I got to this point where I thought, you know I could keep doing this for 10 more years and then I’m gonna turn around an go where’s everybody. I didn't want that to happen so I’ve gotta have a family.  As fortunate as I am to get back into racing, and as far as a back up plan goes, I’m living my back up plan.

Do you have a plan B?
“Plan B is to stick to Late Models and run as much as possible.”

Where you were married?
We were married in Wintergreen, VA – it’s a ski resort, but we married  in the autumn on the side of the mountain. Gorgeous time of the year up there.

Is your husband involved in racing?
No. Not at all. I think that’s the way it has to be. We didn’t meet in racing so we’re a good team because of that.

Can you tell me a little about your husband and what he does? Or does he prefer to be out of the 'limelight' so to speak?
The funny thing husband Erik is not really “into racing”. He is now, since we met and married, but he didn’t even really understand what I was doing when we met. He had never heard of ARCA, for instance, so was not impressed with me, which was great! He was more impressed at the time with me as a person.

What type of work does he do?
He is in IT for a major power company, based here in Richmond, VA. He says he loves the fact that I am driven, so to speak, that I am passionate about racing and continues to support me as a racing mom, because it’s what I love to do.

During her break from racing, Sunny and husband Erik began a family. Their first pregnancy blessed them with twin daughters in which the couple named Scarlette, after Sunny’s mother and Josephine. Approximately two years later the couple added their third child, son Dwight.

Would you support your children if they were interested in following in your footsteps?
Absolutely! I was raised to believe that you can do whatever you want in life, that gender, ethnicity or race should not be an issue. I hope to instill the same values in my children.

Do you find it difficult to be both mom and racecar driver?
Nope – no more than any working mother who juggles a lot of things at once!

When you travel do your kids come along and do the like to be on the road?
It depends on how far I’m going. My husband and I decide on a case-by-case basis what makes sense.

What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment to this day?
I think my biggest accomplishment so far has been is just being able to adapt to different tracks, different environments with success. I was talking with someone the other day and realized it's just so difficult to run a full season of anything. You get opportunities here and there to race and so I’ve raced a lot of different cars at a lot of different tracks. I’ve done short tracks, road courses, super speedways with all different levels of horsepower, torque, and I’ve been able to come out of the box and be fast.  That’s something I’m really proud of.

Have you race on a road course? Was it Watkin’s Glen?
Yeah, I’ve raced on a road course but not the Glen.  I recently spotted at Watkins Glen for a GRAND AM team. I’d love to race there, but I haven’t, yet. (emphasis on YET)

As a woman, have you encountered any problems with NASCAR being a male dominated sport?
One is the typical getting taking out in a race for no reason other than being a girl. Which completely shocked me at first. Like I said, my parents raised me to believe that boys and girls are equal and you can do anything you want to do.

I’m like why is this guy wrecking me every race. I mean you would think I would have caught on to that.  It just floored me that that was going on. You just have to find a way to drive defensively and retaliate and make a point. I think a lot of people go through that if you’re a woman or not it you’re a rookie.

Do you want to share with us who that was?
It was a couple people and a long time ago.  The farther you climb in the sport and your in a different series, there is a lot more professionalism. Just typical short track racing and I wouldn’t want to name the person, at this point.

What is your feeling on the ‘Boys Have at It’ Policy and do you think some drivers have taken it a little too far?
No, I don’t think they’ve taken it too far. I can’t say I’m all for it. There has to be rules and lines in the sand and they need to be consistent about what those are. But until you’re in a car that gets wrecked when your in it, you don’t know how it feels. It makes you very very angry and its hard to control that kind of feeling. I can tell you right now that I’ve jumped out of my car and started towards somebody else when at they take you out.

(For instance) Caraway Speedway, I put all my blood sweat and tears in a car that was built with my own hands and somebody else's shop night after night after night. When you go into the corner and somebody wrecks you, it pisses you off. I think you should be able to air your grievances without fear of retaliation. I don’t think you should go after someone with a tire iron or a wrench or something, but it sort of makes you a little hot under the collar.

What advice would you offer a young driver coming up
Start working in someone else’s shop on the race car. I think there is a lot about the sport that is very attractive. to people. But its a lot of work. There’s a lot of respect and understanding of the driving aspect of it from people who work on their own race cars. If your not in the shop, working on your car, then your not that committed. Getting your hands dirty then think twice about getting into the sport.

Sunny was made an honorary captain of the D.C. Diva’s football team.
Tell me about the D.C. Diva’s?
The D.C. Divas are a women’s football team in Washington D.C., part of a larger league. I had talked to their general manager about doing some cross promoting because these women are very serious about their sport. People come up and ask me if its lingerie football and I tell them NO. These are women athletes.  So I was their honorary Team Captain one night to just kind of bring some attention to what they are doing and a couple of their team members are gonna come out to the track where I’m racing in August. Just to support other women in sports.

When do you race next?
August 6th at Old Dominion Speedway.

What do you do to relax?
I’m doing it right now. I’m at the beach with my family. Awesome! To unwind I run run run run.

I’d like to take a moment to thank Sunny for her time.  Being a race car driver, a wife and a mother of three, this woman is very very busy.

The WIN Series is exclusive to Skirts and Scuffs and was created by Lindi Bess. The first original column to the site, a niche that Lindi felt was missing in NASCAR coverage. Bringing our readers interviews with some of NASCAR's most notable females such as Samantha Busch,  Kim Wallace, Krista Voda, DeLana Harvick, Wendy Venturini and many more. Lindi has also recently interviewed drivers such as Clint Bowyer,  Marcos Ambrose, David Reutimann and Andy Lally.  If you've missed any of Lindi's Interview's, just click on her name on Skirts and Scuffs home page.  If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to tweet me @LindiB_NASCAR or leave a comment at the bottom of an interview. I read all comments. Thank you
WIN Series Presents : Sunny Hobbs WIN Series Presents : Sunny Hobbs Reviewed by Lindi Bess on Monday, July 18, 2011 Rating: 5