The iconic Trans Am Series has quickly become one of the most competitive and challenging classes in American road racing. In a year when the series is expanding into new and old markets alike, it is trying to appeal to a larger demographic, and it's roster of drivers is fast becoming one of the most diverse and talented in racing today.
A member of the rookie class in the SCCA PRO Trans Am series is Derhaag Motorsports' driver Mary "Mickey" Wright, the first woman in race car history to lead points in the V8 Stock Cars series. While most of her peers are preparing for retirement, Mickey is on the brink of making history yet again as she competes this season to be the first female champion in both the V8 stock car series in the SPO division as well as Trans Am.
"We’ve had three great races so far this year, stated Wright. "I finished thirteenth in the last one. To finish to begin with is a great accomplishment.”'
Mickey’s need for speed began in 2007 at the age of 45 when she took middle age by the steering wheel at Competition 101’s Racing School. By 2010, she had won 18 qualifying and feature event races on both dirt and asphalt tracks. In June 2011, Mickey began road racing with SCCA, NASA and V8 stock car series. Mickey won first place in the 2012 SPO South Atlanta Road Racing Championship, making her the first woman to win first place in the history of that division. She also won first place for the SCCA Central Florida region for the 2012 season. Her first victory, however, came at the Palm Beach International Raceway.
“My favorite race track has to be Palm Beach International Raceway, and not just because I’m talking to you," added a bemused Wright. "It’s the first road race I ever won, and it was on Mother’s day. I think it’s very fast and short, so you get a little bit of everything. Then I’d have to say Sebring as a longer track, but PBIR is my favorite track.”
Mickey was the first woman in history to lead Super Production Over (SPO) points in the V8 Stock Car series for the 2012 racing season, finishing overall in second place. Though 2013 may have been a shortened season and year of transition in search of finding a new racing team to call home, Mickey triumphantly placed in the “Top 10” at the Historic Stock Car Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, along with a handful of other first place victories.
"People always say, how come you’re not winning," Wright quipped. "I tell them you don’t understand. I’m winning just by driving a car, and to finish a race. This is my first year in Trans Am, and people don’t understand the level of competition I’m up against."
"Everybody thinks they can be a racecar driver," Wright continued. "I have a friend who swears that she would beat me all the time, so I told her I would put her in a car and see. We went to De Soto Speedway, and I was in my open wheel modified and she was in another one, and I kept lapping her. She was like I was afraid I was going to catch you! I don’t think she went 25 miles an hour. The noise, the power - you put your foot on the gas and the car goes. You’re trapped in a circle. People don't understand that."
At 52 years old, this Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg resident is living proof that stereotypes are meant to be shattered. Mickey's life in the fast lane speaks to the fact that it is never to late to chase your dreams. Her outstanding career triumphs are a testament to her fearless dedication to being the best. She's behind the driver's seat, and is writing her own rules.
"I’m very happy to be where I am right now," added Wright. "I’m hoping to stay with my team, because to me, right now I’m at the top. I look at it like I’m in the NASCAR of road racing. My goal was always to get to NASCAR but I realized I like road racing, so I’m honored to be here and I hope to be here for a while longer."
Although Wright was in her mid forties before persuing her racing career full-time, she recommends a much different path to people who might want to follow in her footsteps.
“My advice to them is get into it as early as you can," Wright stated. "Get as much experience testing and training in whatever car you can get in. I’ve been doing this for seven years, and I started out in dirt, drifting, getting a lot of experience. It’s a very expensive sport, but the biggest thing is to test yourself and ask if you really want to go through with it.”
With the Trans Am Series is experiencing a bit of a rebirth, with new cars under development from several manufacturers, the average race fan might have a problem finding more than a passing mention of the series in the mainstream media.
"There’s only I think two or three races that are going to be televised this year and that’s kind of sad, because some of these races have a lot of people in attendance,” added Wright.
According to a statement by Trans Am, two Trans Am events will be broadcast this year, Rounds 6 and 7 of the 2014 Trans Am Championship, at Road America and Mid-Ohio, respectively. Each show will be one hour in length with an estimated reach of over 70 million households, anchored by MAV TV, Tuff TV and Altitude Network. Broadcast times and dates will be announced as the events approach. Witout much mention on television or in the news, most people wouldn't even know that their next event is being held on May 10 at Road Atlanta.
"I’m hoping to finish in the top ten at Road Atlanta, because it’s another track I know. I’m trying to expand my comfort zone, and I have a badass machine, and team."
“I meet a lot of people, and love being where I am right now," Wright concluded. "I’m priveleged and honored. These guys are awesome.”