I’m Ingrid Steffensen, a college professor and dance mom from suburban New Jersey who kind of fell into high-performance driving at the ripe old age of 41, and then got so hooked on the sport that I wrote a book about how learning to drive at the racetrack changed my life. The book is called Fast Girl: Don’t Brake Until You See the Face of God, and in it I write about all kinds of things, like how learning something new invigorated my brain, how conquering my fears made me feel hugely empowered, and how much braver this new skill has made me feel in the rest of my life.
I was definitely never a daring kind of person—I was never into, say, roller blading or downhill skiing or Evel Knievel-style daredevil jumps. I was not the kid who jumped off the garage roof to see if she could fly. My favorite activities were mostly sit-down stuff: reading, music, food, Ken-Ken puzzles. Psychologically speaking I’ve never been very brave, either. I’ve usually shied away from conflict. Even in daily life, I’m kind of a wimp. I can’t even be rude to telemarketers! True, I have often fantasized about being rude to them—but I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it.
But then I came to the racetrack and I discovered a whole new me out there on the asphalt—somebody who can push herself to the limits and be unafraid of getting a little pushy with others, too. I was always the one to wait things out, back off and say, “you first.” But then, one day at the racetrack, at a DE event, came the moment I think I’ve been waiting for my whole damn life:
Slowly but surely I was gaining on a wicked-looking Darth Vader of a Porsche Turbo, all dressed in black. This in itself would have been cause for celebration, but the motor oil on the cake was the fact that this was a flame-spitting Porsche Turbo. Friggin’ awesome. And I was catching up to him. Oh, he made me work for it all right, but I reeled him in, stayed on his ass, and he was forced to give me the point-by.
Heh heh heh, I chuckled evilly, in my head. I am Track Girl, hear me roar.
And I decided that if I can get out there and go headlights-to-tailpipe with a flame-spitting Porsche Turbo, then maybe I can go out there and take some risks in some other parts of my life, too.
I think that if you enter a venue like that and come out not only intact but victorious, you will be changed in some important respects. In the passing lanes of life, men have a tendency to put themselves first. They put themselves out there, they engage in the contest, they put the foot to the floor, and when they see an opportunity to pass someone else by, they take it and they don’t apologize for it. By engaging in a little actual passing myself, I’ve been forced to put myself quite literally ahead of the other guy. And it’s brought me to realize that maybe I can do that for myself out here in the real world, too: put myself first, the way many men would.
And so I have. In the years since I started driving at the racetrack, I’ve reassessed my career, written a book, become a high-performance driving instructor, and even tried downhill skiing (and I love it!). I’m putting myself out there in a big way, and it’s scary but, like facing the turn at the end of a long straight, it’s also thrilling. I hope you’ll read my story and see why!
For more information, or to purchase Fast Girl, visit www.ingridsteffensen.com.