In this series I am looking into women’s role in a highly male-dominated field of interest - motoring and motorsports - asking females involved. Part IV. - The Stock Car Driver from Arizona
After making a round trip from Belgium, over to Canada, heading Down Under, we are now arriving to wild west Arizona. Stock car racing grew out of the outlaw attitude of the south with bootleggers taking their police interceptor-outrunning getaway haulers on the dirt tracks of North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, etc. It all turned into NASCAR, creating the greatest motorized spectacle in North America over the decades with fans all around the world. With the fading of the macho, masculine world of wrenches and left turns, I wished to find out more about females in the sport. Meet Cassie Gannis from Arizona, USA.
I am from Phoenix, AZ and I love the desert heat. I love all kinds of animals and I work as a veterinary technician. I don’t have much free time but when I do I like to cycle, swim and spend time with my dog and cat. Trust me when I say, I don’t have a social life.
My dad, along with a neighbor, used to race as a hobby when I was very young. One time I went to a race and watched with my mom. I LOVED it! Once I got home I would set up bike races with the neighborhood’s kids. When my sister wanted to watch kids’ shows [on TV], all I wanted to do was to watch cars go around in circles.
I was a very good swimming when I was young. Swimming in meets all over the states but all I wanted to do was to race cars. Every chance I got, I wanted to race, whatever it was. I consistently bothered my Dad to let me race. He finally gave in when I was ten and we bought a used quarter midget. It was on the South Mountain Park Track where it all started. Racing became my passion.
I began racing in 1999 in Quarter Midgets, where I consistently won races until 2003. This is a great series to start racing in. It was the first time I got upside down in a car too. It was [when I learnt] to trust my safety equipment.
I moved up to the Bandolero Series in 2003 and was State Champion that year. I still love that series. My car was painted like Sponge Bob and it was so very cool and fun.
By 2004, I was racing in the Legends Series. People from all ages can race these cars. I traveled to Tucson, Las Vegas and Irwindale. In 2005 I was Rookie of the Year and placed third in points. I still love the sound of the legends’ engines. I would get back in one for fun if given the chance. It is a great developmental series.
In 2006, I raced an ASA Speed Truck in Las Vegas before I had to take some time off for corrective Scoliosis Surgery. I wasn’t out long because I followed all post-op instructions and worked very hard at rehab to get back in the race car. I still have two titanium rods in my back and am fused from T1-T12.
In 2007, I moved up to the Whelen All-American Late Models and consistently placed in top five. I was the youngest female to get behind the wheel at Tucson.
By 2012, I was racing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Super Late Models. The difference is more horse power than the with the late models. I love the series, I just wish we had more tracks to race on. On the east coast you have multiple tracks within reasonable driving distance. Tucson is the only paved 3/8th track in Arizona. If you want to travel the closest track is the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Nevada or Irwindale in California. It is a huge cost for teams that want to travel. You really have to think about whether you want to travel or not.
In 2011 and 2012, I raced in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. It was such a thrill. I really learned a lot. It was when I realized how important fans were to my sport. I really enjoyed reaching out to them. I was able to travel to Irwindale, Colorado, Spokane, Utah and many more. The best part was that I was able to race at my hometown track, Phoenix International Raceway. I was so touched by the fan support. In 2012, I was Voted Most Popular Driver in the series based on fan vote. That award really meant a lot to me. Without fan support we couldn’t do what we racers love to do. I was truly honored when I received the award at the NASCAR Night of Champions at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC. It was such a great evening and I owe it all to the fans. I love the series, the officials and the director, but I can’t find the funding to race in the series.
This year I was able to get my ARCA license and just barely missed making the race at Daytona in February. I am now approved for ARCA, the Truck Series and Xfinity up to 1 mile. Once I complete a race in any of those series I will be able to race at all the tracks. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel! I just need that sponsorship.
My goal is to develop as a driver and win a championship for my sponsor and fans. I think finding a sponsor is hard for a lot of drivers at all levels. Finding marketing dollars is tough. You really have to work hard at it. I just keep hoping I’ll find that sponsor that wants to grow with me. I continue to race my own NASCAR Super Late Model throughout the southwest. My favorite saying is “Let’s go racing”.
One of the best things about managing myself is that we are a close net family. I know my family supports me 100%. We all work together as a team. My crew is the same way. I know it can be hard at times and my family makes sacrifices so that I can race. I work as much as I can. When I am not working my regular job I am pet-, house-, or ranch-sitting for extra money. I always say, will work for race car parts.
The downside to that is, it is hard for sponsors to realize I am a competitive driver when it is me or my family stepping up to the plate with a marketing presentation. We can’t afford to pay a marketing company. We can only reach out so far. Also, managing a team is a lot of work. We have to do everything ourselves. Sometimes there is not enough time in the day to get everything done.
Physically I work out on my upper body. I also cycle and train with my sister who is a pro-cyclist. Mentally I get more focused as the race day moves on. People notice I get more quiet. Usually the day of the race I visualize the track and the how the race will go. Once the window net is up for the race, I am totally focused on the race. I am ready to go green.
When I first started racing I really wasn’t aware of [the male-dominance in racing]. But as I started to get older, I felt I really needed to prove myself. Once I did that I was fine. I still hear people tell male drivers that they were beat by a girl but I just ignore it.
I am not very sure [why there are so few women in the top level of racing] but I am sure some of it has to do with funding. I also think there are some expectations that it is just a passing fancy. But women are here to stay and they will win at the top series soon. I am sure of it.
I love the sport of motorsports. It has the most loyal fans out of any sport. I guess I just wish that more companies would realize the value of motorsports marketing. Race car fans are brand loyal an and off the track while the drivers showcase their sponsors on and off the track. It is a win-win for everyone.
For more about Cassie, visit her official website at http://www.cassiegannisracing.com/index.html