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Stanford frosh competes for racing team spot

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Julia Landauer ’14 will compete in the Nascar-sponsored Drive for Diversity Testing and Evaluation Combine this weekend in Radford, Va., for a chance to secure a yearlong spot with the Revolution Racing team. It’s an opportunity that she says could “jumpstart” her professional driving career.

(ANASTASIA YEE/The Stanford Daily)

The event takes place over a three-day span—from Sunday to Tuesday—with the goal of identifying young, up-and-coming minority and female drivers. Thirty-six athletes will participate; 10 will ultimately be chosen to move to North Carolina and join Revolution Racing for a year. If selected, it’s an honor with far-reaching implications.

“It’s a huge in with Nascar,” Landauer said. “You’re provided with so many resources that otherwise you’d need a lot of connections to get. They can really open the door for a driver.”

Participants are judged not only on their driving, but also on their “off-track” qualities, such as their stability and media savvy.

“They want to see how well you speak publicly, because so much of Nascar is how you interact with fans,” Landauer said. “They want to make sure you’re a marketable driver.”

But the racing side still matters—competitors will be put through time trials to assess their skill levels. That, along with their performance away from their cars, helps decide who gets one of the 10 coveted spots.

“They can tell how you’re adapting to the track situations. You can tell how good a driver is just by watching them going around. If they’re smooth, if their times are consistent. That’s what they’re looking for,” Landauer said.

Revolution Racing’s—and by extension, Nascar’s—goal is to find and develop the “total package,” a female or minority driver that can be marketed broadly. The drivers are all assumed to be of high quality—Landauer, a champion multiple times over in a variety of races and series, had to apply three times before she was finally accepted. To that end, the uniqueness of each participant plays a significant role in what is a largely subjective competition.

“There’s a big effort in Nascar to get it to be more diverse and not just a white boy sport,” Landauer said.

She believes that she presents a compelling profile. Beyond her gender, she’s from New York City and a Stanford student studying the applications of green energy to the automotive industry—two qualities that coincide with current Nascar marketing plans targeting large metropolitan areas and “cosmopolitan” fans, Landauer said.

Indeed, even though many drivers reside in New York, it’s rare to find one who was actually raised in a major city. But Landauer is from the five boroughs and attended Stuyvesant High School in downtown Manhattan, just blocks from ground zero.

Her interest in racing began when she received a go-kart for Christmas when she was 8 years old; she drove it around the driveway in her family’s house in Newton, N.J., and from there, her passion took off. She has been racing for more than half of her life, at this point, and considers herself a professional.

As such, she puts in hours of work per day, both for marketing and physical fitness. To prepare for the combine, she does extensive running and weight training.

“People underestimate how much endurance it takes. It gets to be about 135 degrees in the car, so if you don’t have the stamina, you’re not going to be on your A game,” she said.

Landauer intends to pursue racing as far as she can, and has already planned to take one or two years off in the middle of her Stanford career to dedicate herself fully to her craft. If she is selected to be part of Revolution Racing, she would start her yearlong program in late March. She plans to be enrolled for spring quarter, which means that she would either be forced to take classes online or to commute between North Carolina—considered the heart of racing culture—and the Farm.

Although a chance to compete on the Cup level—Nascar’s highest—is still years away, the importance of landing a spot with Revolution Racing is not lost on her.

“It could make your career,” Landauer said. “Or, for that matter, break it.”

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