Sears Point Wine Country Classic - Gimbel spotlight

Retired teacher ready to tame track at Wine Country Classic. SONOMA, Calif. - Nancy Gimbel isn't the stereotypical racecar driver, but that doesn't bother the 57-year-old retired schoolteacher who will compete at this...

Retired teacher ready to tame track at Wine Country Classic.

SONOMA, Calif. - Nancy Gimbel isn't the stereotypical racecar driver, but that doesn't bother the 57-year-old retired schoolteacher who will compete at this year's Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge Wine Country Classic Vintage Car Races at Sears Point Raceway, May 31-June 2.

Gimbel has been competing in vintage car racing for nearly 20 years, and has been a regular at the Wine Country Classic since its inception in 1986.

"It's like a beautiful museum coming to the Wine Country Classic. You see cars from every era of racing, even cars from way back," she said. "It's almost an unreal experience so see some of these cars in the pits and racing on the track."

Gimbel's car is also pretty unreal, a 1963 Lotus previously owned by Dan Gurney, one of history's most famous drivers. Nancy and her husband, Gordon, bought the car, called "The Pacesetter" in 1983 and have been racing it ever since.

"I don't feel any different because I race and I'm a woman," she said. "They certainly don't cut me any slack because of that. I just try as hard as I can. Once we have our helmets on, it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman."

Nancy has always been involved with cars, dating back to her youth while growing up in Southern California. She married Gordon in 1967 and the two spent weekends drag racing and competing in autocross in the Sacramento area.

It was Gordon's support that empowered Nancy, who was competing in a sport ruled by men.

"I give Gordon a lot of credit because women weren't encouraged to participate back then. They were better suited for polishing and waxing a car but Gordon always encouraged me to participate. He has been the best," she said.

Nancy (Lotus) and Gordon (Cobra) compete in seven-to-11 vintage sports car racing events each year on the West Coast, and countless club events. She even sharpened her skills before last year's Wine Country Classic, coming to Sears Point Raceway for a day of instruction with Ken Garza, an instructor at the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School.

Nancy was schooled in turning points, braking and other aspects, and the session paid off as Nancy lowered her time in the Wine Country Classic by 20 seconds from her previous personal best. She was also given the "Presentation and Performance Award," presented to a driver who exemplifies excellent driving skills, as well as a well-maintained vehicle.

Fans will get their opportunity to see "The Pacesetter" at Sears Point Raceway May 31-June 2 and the Gimbels encourage all the fans to stop by the pits to say hello and look under the hood of their legendary machine.

"It is such a beautiful event and it's a great time of the year to have it," Nancy said. "Sears Point does a great job and I encourage everyone to come by and say hi."

-spr-

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Series VINTAGE