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Shannon McIntosh - Track Chic's Woman Behind The Wheels Feature

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Track Chic, the social phenomenon for female motorsport fans [], showcases USF 2000 Rookie Driver, Shannon McIntosh in the May issue of Woman behind the Wheels, as she switches gears and career tracks from successful USAC oval career to open-wheel racing. After a 16-year background racing strictly on ovals, most recently in the USAC Midget regional series, Shannon McIntosh, a petite but powerful 5’1 racer surprised many of her followers by entering the 2011 “Mazda Road to Indy” USF2000 National Championship Series with Cape Motorsports and Wayne Taylor Racing.

A native of Miamisburg, Ohio, Shannon began her racing career at age 5, and has amassed over 100 combined victories through Quarter Midgets and USAC Midgets. With over 16 years of racing experience now under her belt, Shannon not only brings a wealth of oval track knowledge, she was also the highest-ranking female on pavement in the Midwest in 2006 and named “DARF Asphalt Driver of the Year” in the USAC Ford Focus Midget Series.

Track Chic first met Shannon at a Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle awards luncheon where she was a recipient of the coveted Kara Hendrick Memorial Scholarship. At that time, Shannon was under the guidance of legendary team owner Bob East, and her impressive career was clearly headed on the path for USAC and stock car ovals. But last summer, Shannon caught the attention of Greg Gaich, the proud father of daughters and founder of Glass Hammer Racing ( Glass Hammer Racing’s mission is to encourage the interest and participation of young women in motorsports. Track Chic was thrilled to meet Greg at an Indy 500 TweetUp organized by @the_race_gIRL and @happyfish during 2010 Speedweeks. Then Greg’s vision for Glass Hammer Racing was in its incubation stages and we enjoyed exploring the zillions of possibilities; there was obviously plenty to talk about! Descending into madness, Greg took his vision and desire for his daughters, (and others like them), to experience the joy and confidence that can be gained through motorsports from zero-to-race team within one month. Aptly named, Glass Hammer helps to advance the careers of young women in motorsports who will become the role models and inspiration for the next generation of little girls.

When commenting on Shannon McIntosh as his selection to represent the driving force of Glass Hammer Racing, Greg responds proudly “She had me at “Hello.”

To accelerate her 2011 career shift, Shannon moved to St. Petersburg Florida, home base for Cape Motorsports, and is excited about the path her career has taken.

Track Chic caught up with Shannon trackside at St. Petersburg during the Honda Grand Prix weekend for her very first street race competition in the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Series, the entry rung in the Mazda Road to Indy Career Development Program. Tell us about your surprising decision to move to open wheel racing. This is a huge opportunity for me. I am only 21 and have 16 years experience competing on ovals. My path was clearly headed towards USAC and NASCAR, but I’ve always wanted to race the Indy 500, it is the pinnacle of racing in America. The IndyCar Series is so diverse now, with a good combination of streets, road course racing and of course ovals. The Mazda Road to Indy ladder program is wonderful for drivers like myself, and gives us the opportunity to learn road course competition and really hone our skills, and work our way up the ladder to be successful.

In the last year I have been given some terrific opportunities to be able to pursue this route with IndyCar. It’s an amazing path and I am so very grateful. This is my year to really learn and improve.

Tell us a little about the differences … what surprises you most about this type of racing?

There is a huge difference. Sebring was our first race of season. It has a huge 3.7 mile track with sweeping corners; I was used to competing on a half mile track or less, so there was a lot to learn! Now we are here in St. Petersburg for my very first street course competition. The thing about street courses that I am comfortable with and really enjoy is the intensity of street racing. You are close to the wall most of the time, always right on the edge. I like testing the limits. It’s pretty demanding right now because I am so new, but I enjoy bringing all the elements together … the shifting, the braking, etc., and mastering them. Can you share more about St. Pete’s notorious “walls”? Dario Franchitti says that St. Pete is a tough course because the walls make you feel like you are in a tunnel. You can’t see over them, you can’t see what’s coming up next. And another Track Chic Woman behind the Wheels, Star Mazda competitor- Tatiana Calderon, told us that the walls were her biggest challenge last year. She was afraid of the walls and trained diligently off-season reviewing in-car video to overcome her fear. What is your reaction?

The very first time I was on the track during Friday’s practice, everything was coming at me pretty quick. Those walls are right there, you don’t know what’s coming up next. I definitely agree with that. But as things start calming down, it’s pretty cool. It definitely feels like you are in a tunnel, and it does feel like everything is moving so very fast, but it makes you really stay on top of your game; I like the challenge.

You did well yesterday. You don’t get much practice time in USF2000 … what do you need to do today to be successful?

For me right now, it’s all about track time, lap time I am still learning the car. The goal for me this season is to learn the car and perfect my technique.

My goal for this race is to keep it on the course, keep it clean, it’s important for me to stay focused on MY RACE, not position … just my race. I want to improve my braking points and technique. I listened to the advice of others and learned a lot yesterday. It definitely did speed up my time. I started 14th and finished 8th, so I am very happy with that.

Today, I will be starting in the middle of the pack. What was important yesterday was avoiding the crash in Turn 1. I want to stay clean, race smart, and let everybody weave themselves out. I just want to focus on my race. I look forward to being in the front with the fastest drivers, so I can learn the drifting and the aero of the car.

Is that a hard discipline? Especially for you, you are used to running up front! How hard is it to stay focused on your race and not worry about beating the guy next to you?

It is hard; it was especially hard for me at Sebring. I was coming into this new arena and everyone was questioning the “oval driver… how is she going to do?” You have all these thoughts and you want to give a good performance. I spun out and it got to me mentally. It was a bit of an ego blow, I was a front runner my whole career. Right now, I need to get laps, hone my skills in this new equipment and learn this new type of racing. Then I will be competitive. That is a more positive approach and better for me in the long run.

With no scheduled races between now and the The Night before the 500 on May 28th in Indianapolis, how will you train for your next competition?

I am really looking forward to The Night before the 500. Ovals are my strength. We will be doing some testing between now and then, so that will be very useful.

In between racing and enjoying the Florida beaches, do you do anything for fun?

Gosh, not a lot. I seem like such a boring person; I do nothing but “work”. But it’s not really work because I love it. I love training, working out, being around the team and the cars. I also enjoy the marketing aspect, reaching out to sponsors and the business aspect of motorsports.

There is a downside – whether it is friendships or a more serious relationship, there isn’t much time left over.

What do you need to do today to have a successful race?

Keep my head clear and stay focused.

How hard is that to do when you are running around, signing autographs for fans and keeping media appointments to generously answer a zillion questions from people like me? It’s hard but I embrace it! I met with the team early this morning and we finished our track map with notes on the car’s handling. When it’s time to race I will need a few minutes to clear my head, watch some in-car camera videos to mentally get in the zone and focus on the details necessary to compete successfully.

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