|Two women making NASCAR history|
|Written by Sam Isdale, Sports Columnist|
|Wednesday, 20 February 2013 11:37|
As a kid, I was always running around with my brothers playing baseball, basketball, football and anything else they played. When it came to family parties, it was the same thing, because I was the only girl cousin. I was always trying to compete with the boys, but it was pretty tough. Today, I’m still following sports, and it hits home when I hear great stories about female athletes.
I’ll admit, I don’t follow NASCAR very much, but when I started reading about the two women who will be participating in the upcoming Daytona 500, I was more than interested.
It amazes me that someone is willing to drive in NASCAR, because of the speed of the cars, but it’s even more amazing that Danica Patrick was the first woman to win a Sprint Cup pole and has a top spot for the Daytona 500. Women are often stereotyped and put in categories that don’t include “sporty.” When you turn on ESPN, the first woman you’ll most likely see on TV is part of ESPN’s reporting staff. I’m not saying I wouldn’t love to be reporting for ESPN, but it’s really exciting to see a story about a female athlete.
Patrick is still in touch with her feminine side, even though she can hang with all of the guys. During the media tour last month, Patrick showed up in $1,200 designer stilettos and spoke about drinking expensive wine, but her pit crew chief, Tony Gibson, says he and the rest of the boys don’t treat her differently than anyone else.
“Yeah, you can joke around with her,” NASCAR racer Kevin Harvick said to ESPN. “She knows when you are joking and poking fun. Sometimes people can take it the wrong way. I’m just glad [Patrick] didn’t take it the wrong way. It’s fun.”
Another female that will be part of the Daytona action is Christmas Abbott. She may not be driving a car, but her role in the pit crew is extremely important. People may be dumbfounded as to how this 5 foot 3 inches, 155 pound 31-year-old is going to be able to lift and unscrew tires that are about 55-70 pounds in 12 seconds or less. The fact that she currently squats 255 pounds is what is dumbfounding to me.
Abbott’s story actually fascinated me a little more than Danica Patrick’s. As a young girl, Abbot wanted to play baseball, but she wasn’t allowed. I always wanted to play on the boy’s teams because of being around my brothers, but Abbot wanted to be on the boy’s teams because her hands were too small to hold a softball well. Abbott joined the team after her mother started making threats.
Abbott’s toughness helped her stick to baseball, even though the boys would whip the ball at her all the time. Now she laughs about it, but who would’ve thought that tough attitude would last her until now and get her on the pit crew for NASCAR?
Her toughness became honorable when she made the decision to go to Baghdad to help during the war. Abbott spent about three years assisting at a military laundry center. I can’t imagine being in a war-torn country, but she also was put in life-threatening situations.
“I remember when we were on a bus and there was an IED [improvised explosive device] in the road,” Abbott told Yahoo Sports. “I said, ‘What’s an IED and why can’t we drive around it?’”
Now her toughness was really tested. After hanging around with military men, Abbott picked up a new hobby, CrossFit. After she spent many hours doing pull-ups, squats, sit-ups and lifting heavy weight balls, she realized she loved it. When she returned to the U.S. in 2007, she opened up a CrossFit gym in Raleigh, NC. CrossFit fans admired her with her six-pack abs, loveable smile and her new gun tattoo on her hip [a tribute from being in Baghdad]. Not only did fans notice her, but so did a NASCAR executive.
Ted Bullard, who at the time, was from Turner Motorsports, was curious why there was never a woman in a NASCAR pit crew, so he decided to search himself. He joined a gym and soon realized that there were several women that could lift more than he could. Then he saw one of Abbott’s CrossFit videos and invited her to Charlotte for a tryout. Soon enough, Abbott was accepted into the NASCAR world.
I can honestly say I will be keeping up with NASCAR as the Daytona 500 approaches. I hope all the NASCAR fans don’t just focus on their favorite racers, but appreciate these two tough women who are a part of the sport, as well.