Hope
Schmerbach

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When my brother was five years old, my dad bought a racing go-kart for him. At the time I was eight years old and participating in other sports and enjoying sleepovers with my friends. I had no idea that this sport even existed. I asked my dad all kinds of questions about it and he told me just to come along to my brother’s first race which happened to be the next Saturday. So Saturday morning we all got up early and hit the road. When we got there I was so amazed at this sport that I had never known about and how many young kids, my age, and adults there were. It was fascinating to learn all of the basics about a go-kart and how to race it. That night I convinced my dad that I would also like to give it a try. So for a while my brother and I shared the go-kart, once every other weekend I would get to race it and my brother had the opposite weekends. Of course we went to each other’s races to watch because we had started making friends there and it became a family event for us every weekend and also all of the other competitors brought their families along as well. I loved every part of it. My dad was very knowledgeable to the sport so he began to teach us some of the basics of preparing our kart for each race. Finally my dad decided that one kart was not enough for the both of us so he bought another one for me.

It didn’t take me very long to figure out that this was a male-dominant sport and I was usually one of few, if not the only girl who was racing. There were 7 different divisions that raced each night and they were separated by age, the smaller the age, the slower the kart. I am a really good listener and picked up on my dad’s helpful tips very fast; my brother however, is very individualistic. I began to win races and soon enough I was old enough to move up to the nest division and my dad felt as if I was ready so he bought yet another kart. This meant that everything was about to change because for one, I was no longer racing with/against my brother, and two, I had a whole new kart to learn about. I picked things up very well and immediately started to win races which gave me a whole new problem to deal with, this was the first time I had to deal with angry boys, and their fathers. But my dad stuck up for me and told me that just because I am a girl, doesn’t mean I can’t race with the boys and beat possibly beat them, but he also told me that it would be hard too. By the end of the season I had built up plenty of courage and self-esteem as well as something that was new to me for the first time. A season track points championship. We raced for points, and by the end of the season, whoever had the most points was named the champion.

The following few years I continued to race and move up divisions. I was good, really good. By the time I was a freshman in high school, I had racked up two track championships and finished fifth at the IKF Regional Nationals in 2006. My dad and I talked for a while one night after a race and he told me that he thought it was time for me to move on to something bigger and better. He told me that the next step was to race a stock car. I thought about it for a while and decided that he was right and I was ready. The following spring, my dad bought a stock car for me. My brother had decided that he didn’t like racing anymore and would rather help work on the new car. Stock cars are a whole different ball park. They are full-sized cars that involve a lot of time, effort, and money so my dad wanted to make sure that this what I wanted. He took me to watch a few of the races and I met some of the drivers, again all male. I was so excited for my first stock car race and I was very nervous but my dad promised me I would do just fine. Most stock car drivers start with no experience at all and it take many years to perfect the skills needed to win races, but I already had those skills, I just needed to adjust them a little.

I was a nervous wreck when I strapped myself in for the first race. I was shaking and pushing against my father’s judgment that I should just try it once and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to do it. I was a little rusty at first and then my competitiveness took over. I finished in the top half of the field and I was loving every minute of it. As soon as the race was over, my dad came to the side of my car and asked how it was and I said “when is the next race!” I once again picked thing up very fast and started winning here and there. Stock cars were a little different, we still raced for points, but now, we started winning money as well. The better I finished the more money I won. And we had the choice to travel to tracks all over, not just one track. We traveled all over to race because my dad knew how important it was to get me “seat time” or experience in the car and on different tracks. The first year I received third place in the points at one track and fourth in points at another. The stock car racing began to change how I pose myself to other competitors at the track. I was taught good sportsmanship and always congratulated the winner but I developed a new attitude. I would not smile at anyone, unless they smiled at me, and I would walk with my head held high because I learned to face the fact that I was not welcome. I was racing against all men who were typically middle-aged or older. At first I noticed small snickers when I walked by or just plain starring, and it bothered me. So I walked around like I was invincible and not paying attention to anything but where I was going. And the more I won, the worse it got. In 2009, I won two track championships, one at Dubuque Speedway and another at Farley Speedway. In 2010, we decided to focus less on single track points and instead race as many new tracks as possible including ones in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. By this time I have a large collection of trophies and lots of newspaper and magazine articles.

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