Thursday, March 29, 2012

Talkin' Trucks: Natalie "Speed" Sather set to make her NASCAR debut

Natalie "Speed" Sather is the next
female racecar driver set to make her
NASCAR debut this week.

Natalie “Speed” Sather is coming to NASCAR this week and if you do not know her name now, you soon will. 27-year old Sather just signed on with MAKE Motorsports as their new development driver. She is set to make her NASCAR debut this weekend at Martinsville, but Sather is not a racing rookie by any stretch.

Racing go-karts since the age of nine, Sather has worked her way up through the divisions of auto racing racking up championships including the International Karting Federation (IKF). In 2007 she became the first woman to win an American Sprint Car Series trophy. Sather was the 2008 Rookie of the Year at Knoxville Raceway before heading to stockcars in 2009.

Natalie was a 2008 graduate of the Lyn St. James Women in Racing Academy and a 2009 member of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity class through which she competed in the Whelen All-American Series.

As of late, Sather has been tearing up the track at South Boston Speedway. Crediting the valuable time and experience she has gained on the track, Natalie said, “running South Boston Speedway is really going to help me in making the transition to a bigger series. I don’t think moving up any sooner would have been beneficial to me; I needed a good year at South Boston.”

Preparing for her NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut this week, Sather and her team were packing up and heading to Caraway Speedway for their first test session.

“We’ll only unfortunately be able to test this one time,” Sather said of this crucial time on track. “It’s going to be an adventure on Saturday. I am really excited for this weekend and excited to get in the truck tomorrow (Wednesday) and shake things down, see how I feel. It’s going to be a fun weekend that is for sure.”

Plans for the season – albeit tentative
Sather’s schedule normally consists of over 20 races a season when she is running the asphalt tracks, but as of right now she's scheduled for two NCWTS races (Martinsville and Rockingham) and her debut in the Nationwide Series at Richmond. The hope is that more races will be added once sponsors come on board.

“We are still looking for more sponsorship and that is the thing that is holding me back from being able to run anything full time right now,” explained Sather. “I basically have anywhere between three to four races this year when I am used to running 20+ races on asphalt and when I raced Sprint cars it was 100+ a year. Unfortunately the funding isn’t there and I believe as a driver, the more seat time you have the better you are so I have just been trying to work harder to find additional funding for us.”
Photos used with permission of Natalie Sather

Overcoming the odds
Injuries are a part of racing; drivers get tossed around in often violent crashes, but usually and thankfully walk away unscathed. Sather has not been as fortunate.

“I broke my leg in just my fifth sprint car race ever. That was kind of like, wow, is this a sign – should I be doing this? Of course I love it so much that I got back in the car that same summer, I broke my leg in May and I was back in the car completely against doctor’s orders, in September.”

The bad luck continued for Sather.

“In my third race ever in Virginia I was involved in an accident and broke my wrist. I actually did not miss a race, I flew home and had surgery and flew back, racing with a cast on the rest of the summer. The doctors were great making me a brace and a cast that would mold with the steering wheel. I had to re-learn all my driving skills, having this big bulky cast thing on but my the end of the year we were running top-five finishes. I was used to it, then I started to worry what am I going to do when I don’t have it because I was used to it,” Sather said with laughter. “I had to re-learn it all again so there is always one thing after another but I keep trying hard and doing what I can.”

A matter of chance
Getting a deal in NASCAR is never easy…unless you are Natalie Sather. Her story of how she got her deal with MAKE Motorsports in not like any other I have ever heard.

“It’s kind of funny how it all came about. There is a gentleman whose name is Jesse Dickerson (manager/agent.) He saw me race last year at South Boston because he was there with some of his clients who were in other races there. I was in an earlier incident and had to start in 25th and drove my way up to 4th and he was like ‘Who is this driver? I need to know who this is?’ Then he saw me, I was a girl and he was like holy cow! Through Lyn St. James, he got my phone number and kept calling asking if I would want to work with him. He put the whole deal together with MAKE and I am very fortunate that they have taken the chance on me because I have never driven anything like this.”

Natalie’s story of relentless racing and being discovered out of the blue should give hope to all those drivers racing for the love of the sport – you too could be found at your local track.

As for her debut this weekend Sather says, “I am hoping this weekend at Martinsville I can just be smart, make good decisions and make the race on Saturday.”

Tune into SPEED on Saturday to see if Sather makes the race – qualifying is at 10am and the race gets underway at 1:30pm Eastern. 

*Update - Sather was a DNQ for Saturday's race.

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