Reitenour, 23, an Ohio native currently living in Baton Rouge, La., has been driving since she was 5 years old. She is a third generation racecar driver, following in her grandfather and father’s footsteps.
“When I was little, my dad got me started. It was more the love and support that he offered, that made me enjoy it,” she said.
Reitenour may have started racing because of her family, but it has been her drive to win that has gotten her where she is now.
“Once I started to win, I wanted to win all of the time. I started to hate losing. I like it so much because of the competiveness,” she said.
Reitenour has won more than 200 races. Her love for racing, winning and being the best she can be has been clearly influenced by some of her biggest racecar driving inspirations.
“Tony Stewart is one of my favorite racers. He is an amazing racecar driver. He can get into anything, anywhere, any time and be competitive,” she said. “Carl Edwards is another awesome racecar driver. He came from absolutely nothing and worked his way up in the ranks. I think that is an awesome inspiration for me because unfortunately, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. You have to work for it.”
Now, as a fulltime racecar driver, her weeks and weekends are packed with races and preparing for races. Most races are on the weekend, which leaves the week for working on the car in the shop, test runs, promoting, and staying in shape. When she is racing on a constant basis, she is in the shop with her team Monday through Thursday, leaving Friday for test runs, all of which she relies heavily on her team.
“With racing, it is all about your team. I would never have gotten to where I am today without my amazing team,” Reitenour said.
She added, “I mean I love going wheel-to-wheel with another amazing driver and to be that person who crosses the finish line first. It is just an amazing feeling. Racing is just about team and about having all the support.”
Racing is only part of the sport, another big part is self-promotion. “It’s keeping your name out there, doing interviews and trying to get in newspapers. All kinds of stuff to push yourself so you have the opportunity to get in front of sponsors to show them that you can represent them in the best way possible,” she said.
“Honestly, my biggest struggle is being a female in a male dominated sport,” Reitenour continued. I don’t look at it as a struggle. I try to go out there like any other racecar driver. Once we put our helmets on, we’re all the same. We’re all going out there for the win. But it is more of the business aspect that is more of a struggle because I have to go out there and make people believe in me, make them understand that I am going to put that car in victory lane and I am going to be the best person to represent them.
“The sport is so competitive and we are all trying so hard to make it to NASCAR. I don’t think people understand the struggle females go through to try to get people to believe in them and to fund and help them. It’s about getting the right opportunity with the right people at the right time. It’s not based all on your performance on the track. It’s off the track too,” she added.
According to NASCAR’s website, the NASCAR Xfininty Series had a total of five women out of 112 contestants in 2014. In the Sprint Cup Series, there is only one active female racecar driver; however, Reitenour has not let such statistics hold her back.
“I don’t ever look at it like I have problems with being a female racing against all these males. I always say you get what you deserve. If you go out there and give respect, you’ll get respect,” she said.
Reitenour cites her win in the Firecracker 150 in North Carolina as one of her biggest accomplishments and favorite race. She was the first female to win this race in the state of North Carolina driving a heavy body stock car.
“[The Firecracker 150] was my favorite. It was a really long race with 150 laps and it was really hot outside. I had my whole entire family there, which was amazing so that they could see me win and celebrate with me. We worked so hard to get to that point and for them to be able to see it, it was amazing,” Reitenour stated.
“I raced that track for awhile and I wanted to win it so bad. And to finally get that win, it was more that I was proud of myself that we accomplished it. But to be the first female is great because it opens doors for other female racecar drivers,” she added.
The one thing Reitenour does have going for her is her age and her experience.
“I am very fortunate that I started out at a young age because it gives me that much more experience on the next competitor that maybe didn’t start out at such a young age. I am very blessed to have started so young,” she said.
Racecar driving doesn’t always end with a win though. There is serious risk involved. Crashes happen, but it is all part of the sport.
According to Reitenour, “Any racecar driver who hasn’t been in a serious crash doesn’t race fast.”
Her most serious crash happened around the age of 12. She ended up flipping her car six times and was paralyzed from the waist down for more than two hours. However, with any crash or accident, it is important to face it and get back on the track.
“You have to stay calm. My thing is I want to get in the racecar the next day even though I’m hurt because I don’t want that in my head the next time I go on the track. I don’t want to worry about that. I just want to get back in the car and do what I do,” she said.
With Reitenour’s schedule she does not have time to worry. She is on the track as much as she can be. However, even with her busy schedule, she makes sure she has time to participate in community service.
“My favorite thing is to give back when I can because I am very lucky to have gotten where I am today. I like to work with animals. I also work with fighting against cancer and the MS society,” she stated.
Giving back isn’t the only thing she wants to continue.
“My short-term goal is to be back in a racecar every weekend. I want to be competitively competing every weekend for a championship and gain as much experience as I can in any kind of racecar. My long-term goal is to win championships in NASCAR. I don’t want to just be in NASCAR. I want to win in NASCAR. Do I have a long road ahead of me? Absolutely. But do I think I can do it. Definitely. With the people we have behind me, we can do it. We just have to have the right opportunity,” she stated.
For more information on Reitenour or to help support her on her journey to NASCAR, visit her website, meganreitenour.com.
Kaylene Hersey is an intern at Lioness and is currently a senior creative writing major at Western New England University. She is from Colchester, Conn. Besides writing, she has a passion for baking and dancing, and she hopes one day to work in the Editing and Publishing world. If that fails, she plans to open up her own bakery.
Photo courtesy of Nascar.