By: Michelle Smith and Hunter McDowell
I am going to turn sexist on the guys for a moment!
They always have "the next" Michael Jordan, "the next" Wayne Gretzky, "the next" Joe Montana, "the next" Tiger Woods, and so on.
Well, in the Woods instance, we just did: Ben Roethlisberger! Kidding of course!
But women never have that luxury! You NEVER hear about "the next" Cheryl Miller, or "the next" Lisa Leslie. We are never hyped up that way.
Most of the time you don't hear about a great female athlete until they ACTUALLY achieve something or end up in Maxim's list of hottest athletes.
We often, and deservedly so, take a backseat to our male counterparts.
This weekend was no exception.
If you turned on ESPN at anytime this weekend, you probably saw non-stop coverage of the NFL Draft. Yes, the NFL DRAFT, not even a real game! Every "expert" in the wide world of sports endlessly debated and graded every pick from Sam Bradford to the backup tight end drafted in the seventh round. I love football, but this was a little too much!
Unless you are a diehard racing fan or read every piece of sports news out there, you probably missed big news for females and young athletes.
I didn't even hear about it until my friend Louie Guido informed me of the news this morning!
Katie Brice, a 14-year old, competed in her first NASCAR sanctioned race at Stafford Motor Speedway on Saturday. Brice is taking advantage of the new 2010 NASCAR rule that allows teens at age 14 to obtain a learner's permit to drive on sanctioned tracks.
The decision to lower the minimum age for obtaining a license from 16 to 14 was to compete with the other leagues that allow drivers as young as 12 years old.
Racing against men twice her age, Katie only completed half the race, but her barrier-breaking efforts did not go unnoticed.
"That was my dream," Katie says. "When you have your NASCAR license, you can race at any track in any car."
You go girl! Dream big or don't dream at all!
When Brice was 12 years old, she began racing go-karts and ever since then, "she kept wanting to go fast," according to her dad Jim Brice, the owner of Smokey's Racing.
She's the real life Ricky Bobby from "Talladega Nights", only female, and 14 years old!
Just two years removed from her go-karting days, and at a time most teenage girls are entering high school and losing their braces, Katie is living her dream: going fast.
Her bright pink, 1986 Monte Carlo will not be confused with the high speeds of Jimmie Johnson or Tony Stewart, topping out at 100 MPH on straightaways.
Katie's entry into NASCAR has not been met without controversy. Many people are outraged at her parents for allowing such a young girl participate in such a dangerous sport. Her family supports her 100 percent and make the argument that it is no different than other hazardous sports such as football and skiing.
Perhaps I can debate the age issue on another article. I want to stick to what Katie wants to accomplish.
Katie's mother Lisa said it is "nerve-racking" to watch her daughter race at such high speeds against faster, more aggressive, and experienced drivers.
You think? Most kids her age are still riding their bike in the neighborhood, or getting dropped off at the movies by mom or dad.
Since Danica Patrick burst on the IRL scene in 2005, more and more females have developed an interest in a previously male dominated sport. During her rookie year, Patrick finished fourth at the Indianapolis 500 and immediately became an idol to girls and red blooded men.
However, Katie says she doesn't see Patrick has her role model.
Good call, Miss Brice.
Danica, who also drives in the Nationwide Series this year, has more "GoDaddy.com" Super Bowl commercials than she does victories on either circuit. In 2008, Patrick did become the first female driver to win an Indy Car race at the Japan 300.
Instead, Katie tries to emulate herself after another fellow young NASCAR driver Joey Logano. Logano, who is 19 years old, became the youngest driver to win a Sprint Cup Series race in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2009.
"My only goal is to have a race career in NASCAR, be like Joey Logano and everybody else out there," Katie says.
During the Indy 500 this year, there will be four female drivers: Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Milka Duno, and Simona De Silvestro.
Women are becoming more and more a factor in racing and it might not be too long until we get a prodigy that pans out. Michelle Wie let us down in golf.
The next great girl prodigy isn't even old enough to get her license yet! But when she does...look out Jimmie Johnson!
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