Women in NASCAR
ALTON - In a sport in which you have to leave your feelings at the door, Mackena Bell and Sara Durant are fine with that.
The two women work for Rev Racing and were at Virginia International Raceway this weekend competing in the K&N Pro Series Biscuitville 125. Bell is the driver of the No. 21 Toyota Camry. Durant is a pit crew tire specialist for the No. 2 car.
NASCAR's Driver for Diversity program is slowly making progress by getting more women and minorities involved in racing.
"The race car doesn't know any different so out there I'm just another racer. It's proving points that women deserve a spot in this sport and we got to come out here and not play the female card," Bell said.
Bell is a rookie in the series but Durant has been at this level for four years.
Mark Green, Durant's crew chief said, "She knows as much about what tires we need than I do. The problem is a lot of those higher echelon organizations. They for a better word, they don't think a girl can do things like that but Sara is capable of doing that."
Reaching the sport's elite level is still the pinnacle of success and NASCAR would like to make sure it's not impossible.
Bell, 23, said, "To me that's the ultimate goal but I'm happy where I'm at right now and I think that we've done great things."
Bell, who bought a Go-Kart when she was 12 years old racing in Carson City, Nevada, and Durant, who grew up around racing in upstate New York, are perfectly okay with steadily progressing up the ladder from their current series to the Camping World Trucks Series, Nationwide Series, and Sprint Cup Series.
"Women have a name and a place in this sport. It's important that we just keep coming out and doing what we do and learning and do it the right way," Bell explained.
So far Bell is living up to what she says. "She's always made it to the end of the races. She gives good feedback. Practices are always good and we accomplish a lot," Nick Hutchins, her crew chief, said.
Durant's position on the team impacts race results as much as anyone's. "The tires - they don't lie. They give you a lot of feedback on how the car is handling. So you're constantly taking down numbers and data and making adjustments based off of what you see," Durant said.
Green believes a driver's ability to perform is all mental. "Nothing physical about it. It's all in the head. So if you want to do it bad enough and you have that want, and you work at it hard enough you can usually get to where you want to be so if [Mackena] has that want bad enough she'll be okay," he said.
Not every female driver looks up to Danica Patrick. Bell said when she was younger she admired a woman who raced at her local track. Bell rooted for Amy Barnes because a female driving was just something different.
Bell also said, "This sport is really tough and you can't beat yourself up. You have to continue to make strides."
One way people working in the K&N Pro Series can get noticed in order to advance up through NASCAR's ranks is by being seen at particular weekends in which that series is at the same tracks as the Trucks and Nationwide Series. That happens a handful of times throughout the season.
K&N Pro Series cars can reach 170 m.p.h.