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Natalie Sather has always known she wanted to work in the auto industry. At an age when most young girls are telling their parents they want to be ballerinas or princesses, Sather was telling her parents that she wanted to be a car salesman or a race car driver.
“I’ve been around cars and racing my whole life,” said Sather, whose father owns car dealerships. “People who know me say I could sell snow to an Eskimo, so I always thought I’d make a good salesperson.”
For now though, Sather is focusing on her dream of becoming a professional race car driver as a member of the 2009 Drive for Diversity class, racing at Evergreen Speedway in Washington. And she’s not letting that stop her from being a girl.
The 23-year-old from Fargo, N.D. started racing go-karts when she was eight and moved to sprint cars in 2002. With her mom by her side, she traveled the country while moving up the sprint car ranks.
“I don’t know how many girls can say they spent every Saturday night in high school with their mom,” she said. “That’s what I did, though, and I wouldn’t trade it. My mom is my biggest supporter; we’ve been traveling and racing together since I was 12 years old.”
Sather says she’s the girliest tomboy you’ll ever meet and she just might be right. During the 2003 off-season she competed in the Miss North Dakota Teen USA pageant where she was voted Miss Congeniality. She went on to compete in the 2006 Miss North Dakota USA pageant where she was second runner-up. She was also captain of her cheerleading squad in high school.
Don’t let the beauty pageants fool you, though. Sather isn’t afraid to get a little dirt under her manicured fingernails. In high school she transferred to a school in a nearby town so she could take classes her hometown school didn’t offer – mechanics, welding and building construction. She recently moved from North Dakota to Monroe, Wash. where she’s racing with Total Velocity Motorsports this season. She’s at the race shop every day, working on her super late model and learning everything she can. Sather knows it’s important for a driver to know what’s going on with the race car.
“It might sound silly, but I’ve always lived by the motto ‘if you treat a car good, it’ll treat you good,’” she said. “That’s why I’m in the shop every day working with the guys. I want to be involved in the whole process so I do whatever I can to help, whether it’s cleaning the car and the trailer or changing oil. Whatever needs to be done I’ll do it.”
Sather’s willingness to help out at the shop has helped her fit in with her new race team.
“It’s a little bit like a circus – we’re always joking around and having a good time, but when it’s time to work everyone gets down to business and pulls their weight,” Sather said. “I’ve only been here for a short time, but I can honestly say this team is my family.”
Sather is hoping that her new found family will help make her transition from dirt to asphalt a smooth one. She’s competing on asphalt for the first time this season in cars she is unfamiliar with. She looks to one of her idols, Jeff Gordon, for motivation.
“I’ve always admired what he’s done for the sport,” she said. “He came from open-wheel and has had a successful career in NASCAR. He didn’t give up and he didn’t forget where he came from.”
Sather made her asphalt super late model debut April 11, scoring a top-10 finish. She’ll be racing the full season for the Drive for Diversity program at the 0.375 and 0.625-mile tracks at Evergreen Speedway. She’ll also be racing as many sprint car races as she can fit into her schedule.
“I can't leave the dirt. I love it. It's what I grew up on,” she said.