The upcoming ASA Transcontinental Series FreeState 500k at the Phakisa Freeway Circuit in Welkom, Free State, South Africa will have a special meaning for all involved. For Tiff Daniels and Toni McCray it's an opportunity to share their passion in another part of the world.
The two female American drivers are honored to be competing in the inaugural event on 31 January 2010 on the 1.5-mile oval. Both are looking forward to the event as well as having the opportunity to meet with future and current female competitors in South Africa and show them that they can be successful in this sport as well.
"It's amazing to be able to have a platform for sending a positive message to young girls," Daniels said. "Racing has provided me with an opportunity to share my story, and highlight the importance of education, self-confidence, being true to yourself, and working hard to achieve your dreams. Through racing, I have also had a chance to meet many of my own role models and people who inspire me to improve with every day."
"This is a huge opportunity and I am very excited and honored to go and compete in this event," McCray said. "To be a role model for some is like being put on a pedestal. They look up to you and want to be like you. It's a great opportunity to tell them to follow their hearts and dreams, that anything is possible. There is so many opportunities in auto racing and you can be successful in it if you put in a lot of effort."
Both Daniels and McCray are looking forward to competing on the Phakisa oval. Daniels is especially looking forward to racing with McCray and her teammate Marc Davis, "The South Africa race is going to be very competitive. There are a lot of talented drivers entered in the race, including my teammate and car owner Marc Davis, and we will be joined by the South African drivers, who will have had some time on the track. ASA has come up with a rules package that should ensure that the cars are very equal, so I expect a lot of tight, door-to-door racing. From the videos I found online, the mile-and-a-half tri-oval should provide for great action, as it looks to be fairly smooth with a wide racing surface that will promote side-by-side multi-groove racing."
McCray has been doing her talking behind the wheel as she won a 100-lap feature event at Orange Show Speedway, an ASA Member Track, back on October 22 where she held off her fellow competitors which included NASCAR competitor David Gilliland. In fact, she had to come through the field twice to win the event by over two seconds to the second place finisher. "I wouldn't trade anything in for what I get to do," McCray said. "It just goes to show that when you work hard, you can be successful."
Both are proud to be successful in this sport but realize they do have a lot to prove, "As a woman in racing, it has been important for me to take steady progressions & not push things," Daniels said. "We have a lot to prove, but we have also been given an amazing opportunity to inspire generations of women (and men!) If you stick to your dreams, never give up, and always approach every challenge with grace, respect & dignity - you will succeed with the right attitude."
Many of the South African fans will have an opportunity to meet Daniels and McCray along with the rest of the competitors during the daily Pit Walkabout each day of the four-day event.
Both have seen their successes through auto racing. Daniels is one of a few females in the sport with an engineering degree. In fact, she graduated magna cum laude from the University of North Carolina - Charlotte's prestigious mechanical engineering department and has high-level job at Earnhardt Ganassi where she works closely with drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and their new driver Jamie McMurray. "My engineering background has proved very useful in my driving career, giving me a solid foundation so I could fully utilize my driving skills," Daniels explained. "Graduating from UNC Charlotte's Motorsports Engineering program and working as an engineer for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has helped grow my knowledge of the race car, which is particularly useful when diagnosing handling issues on the racetrack, suggesting changes to the setup, and communicating with the crew."
"Tiff and Toni are great role models for today's generation and the next generation of female drivers in the world," Dennis Huth, ASA President said. "Both have each taken their own path to success in this sport and that is something that needs to be shown today. Success in motorsports comes in different ways and they are great examples of this."
To learn more about Phakisa Freeway, visit www.phakisa.com or www.freestate500.com.
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