Thunder Valley's November 'Driver of the Month'

Laurel Viera - Thunder Valley Racing's November Driver of the Month Laurel Viera's earliest memories of racing are of standing by her stepfather's racecar and holding his helmet--from age 3 and up. Her summers during elementary school were spent...

Laurel Viera - Thunder Valley Racing's November Driver of the Month

Laurel Viera's earliest memories of racing are of standing by her stepfather's racecar and holding his helmet--from age 3 and up. Her summers during elementary school were spent at the track including a stint as a trophy girl on her 12th birthday. Her first opportunity to drive didn't come until 1992 when she met someone who helped her get into dirt track endurance races at county fairs with 100 or so cars running 150 laps. She had done endurance racing for 2 summers when one of her sponsors offered to put her in a dirt track hobby stock. In 1994 she bought a used 1980 Malibu hobby stock and met her goals for her first race completing the race without getting lapped or crashing.

She had her first A feature win in 1995 in Jackson, MN. "My most memorable racing story covers two weekends. First, was my A feature win in 1995. Ever since I could remember, I wondered what it would be like to stand in victory lane. It was a long time coming in my life but it was better than what my fantasy had played out many times over. The following weekend, the TV station showed up to do a story on me, as well as my Mother was there for the first time ever, to watch me race.

On the start of my heat race, another car and I got tangled up and when we broke free, I was headed for the wall. All I could think of was my Mother was in the audience for the first time. Suddenly, I was hit so hard that it spun me around and sent me down the track and into the infield. I went through the grass, launched off some railroad ties and through a wall of billboards. The car came to a complete halt smashing into the rider's door of a brand new 1995 Ford Mustang. $4,000 worth of damage, yes, to the pace car. That is my claim to fame. Even 6 years later, people still talk about my pace car crash, not my record book feature win the week before."

Laurel drove hobby stocks from 1994 until 1999. "In 1996, my partner and I built a brand new hobby stock. 1997, we used the same chassis and in 49 starts, I had 29 top 5 finishes, 10 top 10 finishes and only 3 DNFs. In 1998, my partner and I shared a car, which resulted in a track championship for him on Friday and a top ten finish for me on Saturday, even with missing a points night and 5 DNFs. (I had some bad luck with mechanical problems, being the second night driver.)"

During her hobby stock years she drove at 11 different tracks in Iowa, Minnesota, and Oklahoma. In 2001, they converted the dirt track stockcar to an asphalt setup and have been racing in the NASCAR Sportsman division. "I am racing in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. It is a fast 5/8 mile track that the likes of Dick Trickle, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and the Sauter family have come from. I plan on spending another year in the Sportsman division on asphalt and then we'll see what happens from there."

Given how long she's been racing, its no surprise that Laurel looks up to those who understand how to hang in there. "Shirley Muldowney is who I credit with really changing the idea of women in a man's world. Her first step was getting women allowed into the pits. I feel that was probably the biggest change for women in racing. Then she stuck with it, through, not only the good/winning times but the tough times. Perseverance! I also give a lot of credit to my mother, who raised me to believe that I could do what ever I wanted in my life and be good at it too!!! "

Laurel Viera is the November 2001 Driver of the Month in the online newsletter of Thunder Valley Racing (http://thundervalleyracing.com). Thunder Valley creates opportunities for women race car drivers and their fans.

-TVR-

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Dick Trickle , Shirley Muldowney , Mark Martin