NASCAR driver Julia Landauer talked with Stark County students Tuesday about being a woman in a male-dominated field, handling setbacks and her experience as a contestant on “Survivor.”
JACKSON TWP.Â Julia Landauer has never quite fit the mold for a race car driver.
Sheâs a woman. Sheâs from New York City. And she graduated from Stanford University in 2014 with a degree in science, technology and society.
The 27-year-old has amassed dozens of wins in many different racing series. She is a two-time champion driver who became the highest finishing female in the NASCAR K&N Pro Seriesâ 64-year history. She most recently has been racing the NASCAR Pinty’s Series Championship, which is Canada’s national stock car championship series. She became the first woman to lead a lap in June.
As she climbs the NASCAR ladder, Landauer has been using her racing platform to advocate for womenâs empowerment and for education in science, technology, engineering and math.
Landauer came to Stark County as the first speaker of Kent State University at Starkâs 29th annual Featured Speaker Series.
Ahead of her evening presentation to the community Tuesday night, Landauer answered questions from students attending Canton South and Louisville high schools and Kent State’s Twinsburg Regional Academic Center and Geauga campus.
Here are some highlights:
On how she became interested in racing cars: Landauer said her parents introduced her to go-karts at age 10 because they saw it as an activity that she and her brother and sister could do together on the weekends and something that girls could compete in against boys.
âI was a 10-year-old kid who was maneuvering a machine,â she said. âIt was so cool to me.â
She knew at age 12 that she wanted to pursue racing professionally.
On which characteristics have helped her the most throughout her driving career: Perseverance. âBecause so many more things go wrong than go right,â she said. âIf you think of most sports, there are two teams playing so every player has a 50/50 chance of winning. In racing, there are 20 to 40 drivers. Jeff Gordon, who is one of the best and most accomplished race car drivers, had a 14% win rate, so you are so much more likely to lose over and over again. So picking up the little victories and momentum and encouraging yourself to keep going even when it doesnât go right has been really important.â
She said effective communication skills and the ability to network also are important.
On being a contestant on the âSurvivorâ reality TV show: Landauer competed in the âFans vs. Favoritesâ season that aired in 2013. She called the experience tough and challenging, both physically and mentally.
âIt was the first time I couldnât trust anyone and it gave me a totally new appreciation for my family and friends who are my support system,â said Landauer, who was attending Stanford at the time and was the youngest competitor of that season.
She made it halfway through the season.
âIâm so glad I did it, I donât know if I would do it again, maybe if it didnât6 interfere with my racing,â she said. âIt was a wild ride.â
On handling setbacks: Landauer said sheâs suffered setbacks throughout her career, even starting from when she was a new racer on the national go-kart level and the well-established go-kart racers didnât want her to drive for them because they didnât believe a 12-year-old girl had the ability to make it. Even now, Landauer said sheâs dealing with setbacks. Sheâs had to learn how to drive a different kind of car in the Canadian NASCAR series and has only raced part-time for the past two seasons due to lack of sponsors.
âWhen I do have setbacks, I acknowledge them, make sure I know what Iâm feeling, maybe allow myself to dwell on it for a bit, maybe eat some ice cream or whatever it might be, and then just bounce back and figure out whatâs in my power and what I can do to keep moving forward,â she said.
On coping with nerves before a race: Landauer said she still gets âreally bad butterfliesâ before each race.
âI feel that if I am not nervous before a race, then that means Iâm mentally not there because there’s a lot on the line,” she said. “A lot of people have put in a lot of work to get there, and I have put an amazing amount of pressure on myself to perform.â
To overcome anxiety, Landauer, an avid runner, will sprint to the bathroom, take deep breathes and try visualization techniques.
âOnce I get into the car though, Iâm in my own bubble,â she said.
On being a woman in a male-dominated field: âI feel like I have to put in more effort than a guy does to fit in with the team,â she said. âBut that effort is so worth it because when I get the respect of my team, itâs the most loyal thing.â
She recommends that women entering a male-dominated field find male allies, men who are empathetic to the obstacles women face and can be an advocate.
On her plans after racing: âI hope to continue to inspire people to go after what they want even if they donât fit the mold,â she said.
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