In 2007, 45-year-old Mary “Mickey” Wright left the corporate world to pursue a decades-old dream: auto racing!
After attending the Competition 101 Racing School, she began competing on both dirt and asphalt tracks. By 2010, Mickey had won 18 qualifying and feature event races. In 2011, she began road racing in various series, and in 2012 she won first place in the SPO South Atlanta Road Racing Championship, making her the first women to win first place in the history of that division. She also won first place for the SCCA Central Florida region in 2012.
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 in second place overall. Now age 51, she is racing in the Trans Am 2 series for the 2013 season for Competition 101 Racing.
Q. I know that you only started racing in the past few years. What were you doing before that?
A. I lived in Chicago and worked for TBS Development Property Services. I was a Business Operations Manager. We bought land, built retail shopping centers, leased them out, and things like that.
Q. In the back of your mind, were you always thinking about getting out of your 9-to-5 job and becoming a racecar driver?
A. Of course, it would have been better if I could have done it younger, but it’s very expensive. I wanted nice cars with big engines to compete, because you have to have the equipment to compete. A lot of people can go out there, but I wanted to experience it and it took at lot of time to get support.
Q. When you say “support,” were you looking for sponsorship?
Q. Do you think part of gaining sponsors was your compelling story of starting off on a new career path at the age of 45?
A. It was the dream and the drive. At first, I started out just going to the Richard Petty School and Finish Line and just seeing, “Do you really have it in you?” And then, passing those and moving forward – that’s why I’m here now. I actually have a lot of experience under my belt.
I’ve been on oval tracks, dirt tracks, and now I do road racing, which I love. I’m racing at Daytona and all the NASCAR tracks in the south-central Florida region, and Sebring, Road Atlanta – they’re very prestigious race courses.
The first time I went on Daytona, it was like, “Oh my gosh,” because of the banking. It’s unbelievable. And when I came in, my guys were like, “What the hell were you doing out there?” And I was like, “This is Daytona, come on!” Now I’m used to the track, but at first it was like standing up next to the John Hancock building. It’s really a cool feeling. I actually have extra guys come on my pit because they’re like, “You’re pitting at Daytona, Mickey. You don’t know how lucky you are.”
Q. You obviously have a lot of innate driving talent. Who’s been helping you as far as coaching you on your driving skills?
A. Stuart Lycett (Founder and Chief Instructor) and Danny Partelo (Crew Chief) at Competition 101 (Racing School). Stuart’s been with me since day one. We’ve been working together for the last six years and we’re going on our seventh year. I’ve grown a lot with Danny. This is a very mental sport. You’ve got to be psyched to do it.
Q. Are the majority of people you’re racing against considerably younger or are there various ages competing?
A. There are younger ones, but there are older ones. I’m usually the only female.
Q. Have there been any repercussions when you are the only female in the field? How have you been treated?
A. There are some guys that don’t believe women should be in racing. A lot of times when I’m in a wreck with somebody, they come over and then they’re like, “You’re a chick!” And it’s like, “Duh.” But I don’t drive like that. The guys always say, “You need to hit ‘em back,” but I can’t do it. I’m just not into that. But, then we end up being friends. I’ve actually earned a lot of respect. I’ve had guys come up to me after a race and they don’t know I’m a girl.
Q. Until you take the helmet off.
Q. It looks like you have a really full schedule this year and a lot of great tracks coming up – Watkins Glen and, as you mentioned, Daytona and a lot of prestigious tracks. What are your goals for this season?
A. I’m in a new league and I’d like to be in the top 5. That’s always my goal, but it’s a fast group of guys. I did finish 3rd in one race and I finished 5th in another one this year. Just to be in the top 5 is always good.
Q. I’d like to ask you about what advice you’d have for young people – not necessarily aspiring drivers, although that’s fine, too – but maybe more general advice about pursuing your passion and going after your goals.
A. My advice would be that if you really have a feeling – to me, I think racing was in my blood – just don’t give up. Just keep trying. I was told no a lot of times before I finally convinced somebody. It takes a lot. Don’t give up. Stay on the right ‘track’ is what I’d say.