From Winnipeg to the Winner’s Circle: Amber Balcaen makes NASCAR history at Motor Mile Speedway.
A 24-year-old dirt racer from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Balcaen was pursuing an unprecedented feat in her first season of NASCAR-sanctioned competition: to become the first Canadian-born female racer to win a NASCAR-sanctioned race in the United States.
Saturday night, Balcaen was in the winner’s circle…and in the record books.
Read the recap of Saturday night’s record-setting race here:
Winnipeg’s Amber Balcaen Claims Victory and Makes NASCAR History
By Michelle Bailey (@MichelleBailey1)
Amber Balcaen (HANDOUT)
After spending all summer at Motor Mile in Radford, Virginia racing her heart out to become Canada’s first Canadian female to win a NASCAR-sanctioned race in the USA, 24-year-old Winnipeg native Amber Balcaen reached her goal on Saturday night.
Balcaen, who grew up in Charleswood, has made history by beating the pack and getting the checkered flag after rain delays threatened to douse her dreams.
“I knew I had only two races left at Motor Mile this season to put myself in victory lane,” said an elated Balcaen moments after her big win. “I came so close to winning the last race, and to get the win tonight felt just amazing, and I’m glad the weather finally cooperated.”
Amber Balcaen celebrates after winning at Motor Mile in Radford, Virginia on Saturday, August 27, 2016. (HANDOUT)
Balcaen, who cut her teeth in the racing world by following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather by driving the dirt tracks, decided pavement and the world of NASCAR were calling her name.
“If you would have told me when I was a little girl that I would work my way up from dirt racing to NASCAR and win in my first season on pavement, I would never have believed you. This is honestly a dream come true.”
Balcaen has one more race at Motor Mile this season. She hopes that with the help of much-needed sponsors she can continue racing towards additional wins and perhaps even a shot at the big race known as Daytona.
“Now, that would be something,” she said.
Full story here –> http://www.chrisd.ca/2016/08/28/amber-balcaen-nascar-motor-mile-race/#.V8Lyd5grK00
By Jeff Archer | [email protected]
Published 07/20 2016 11:23PM
For full VIDEO story CLICK HERE
24-year-old race car driver Amber Balcaen has her eyes set on the future.
“The ultimate goal is NASCAR Cup on a Sunday,” says Balcaen.
Balcaen is making the transition from dirt track racing to pavement. The key to the transition is simply getting laps in.
“The more that I’m in the seat the better that I’m going to get,” Balcaen says. “So for me it’s just seat time and hopefully that turns into a lot of wins.”
Despite being a woman in a sport dominated by men Balcaen hasn’t had to fight too many battles on that front, at least not recently, thanks to a strong racing record.
“There’s been more barriers more so when I was younger. But I think once you can ropve yourself and prove that you are a winning driver like the other guy I think the respect starts to come a little more,” Balcaen says.
Winning certainly means a lot to the Winnepeg, Manitoba native. But Amber takes as much pride in her position as role model, especially for younger girls, as she does in finishing at the top of a race.
“Part of the reason I love racing so much is because it’s such a beautiful platform for me to be able to be an inspiration, a positive role model for younger girls. It’s something that I want to continue to grow, being able to be an inspiration for other women,” says Balcaen.
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I have created the “Amber Balcaen Racing Dirt Road Sponsorship Fund” as a way to give back to the dirt track racing community and to stay true to my roots. I have always been very passionate about giving back to the racing community and helping others succeed. I know how difficult it is to find sponsorship for racing, as it is a very expensive sport. My objective is to help those who are kind, hard working people who are financing their race programs on their own.
I always said that when I “make it” I wanted to give back to the dirt track racing community. Well, I’m far from having “made it” but I realized it’s never too early to start helping people, even if it starts out in a small way. With that said I present the launch of my “Amber Balcaen Racing Dirt Road Sponsorship” with my first driver Zak Kwiatkoski from North Dakota. Zak is an extremely hard working and talented racecar driver and am proud to call him my friend!
– Amber Balcaen
2016 Driver: Zak Kwiatkoski
Zak Kwiatkoski, Lightning Sprint
My name Is Zak Kwiatkoski, and I’m from Grand Forks, North Dakota and I pilot the 17k Kwiatkoski Racing Lightning Sprint. For as long as I can remember I enjoyed everything that has wheels and/or a motor, and at 8 years old my parents recognized my attraction for motorsports and got me into go-karts. A once a week hobby quickly turned into a great passion, and a successful career that lasted 14 years where I accumulated 60+ career feature wins and 6 Season Championships at the Forks Karting Speedway. In 2015 I competed in my first season with the Northern Lightning Sprint Association and captured my first career lightning sprint win in the final race of the season. My goals for the 2016 racing season are to be in contention for NLSA and Greenbush Season Championships, also compete in the 2016 Lightning Sprint National Open in Eagle Nebraska.
With the start of the 2016 season around the corner I would like to thank my friends and family for their support and also the continued support from R&R Dirt and Gravel, Norwex Enviro Products Consultant Donna Kwiatkoski, Todds Electric, Garon Construction, Grafixity Vinyl, Ryan Clark at RDO Equipment, and would like to welcome to the team, Amber Balcaen Racing Dirt Road Sponsorship, Kustom Kollison, and Forx Radiator.
Hometown: Grand Forks, North Dakota
Occupation: Construction Worker/Architecture and Design Student
Crew: Dad, Ryan Clark, Brady Rarick, Mick Koski, Kyle Henningsgard
Social Media: @zak_kwiatkoski
Brian Thornsburg: You’re in the process of moving from your home town of Manitoba Canada to South Carolina. What made you finally want to make the big move and how are you adjusting to your new surroundings.
Amber Balcaen: I currently still reside in Winnipeg, MB. The process of moving the states is difficult when you’re Canadian. I am in the process of getting a visa so I can live there permanently, so I am just back and forth between home and North Carolina for now. I want to move there because that’s where the racing is. I will be racing in the region so it just makes sense geographically. Plus I absolutely love the state, I think it is so beautiful and I have been lucky enough to make some friends there already!
BT: Was it difficult to leave your home town to follow your dream of racing. What are your thoughts on that?
AB: I have extremely great friends back at home that I have been close with for a really long time. I am used to seeing almost every day so that will be a big adjustment not getting to see them all the time. I am also very close with parents, especially my mom. I know it will be a big adjustment for her to not see my all the time but I am thankful that my parents support my dreams.
BT: What was it that gave you the racing bug and made you want to pursue this profession full-time? Did you have any doubts in your mind while making this decision?
AB: I have been in love with racing my entire life. Both my mom and dad have a racing background so I was born into it and it instantly became my greatest passion. I went to college with plans to live a more “normal” life however the temptation just never went away. I knew I wanted to race cars for a career and do big things with the platform that was accessible to me. I for sure had my doubts. I don’t come from any money, I have always financially been responsible for my racing since day one. I am a Canadian trying to make something of myself in an American sport. I am a female in a male dominated sport. And I’m from dirt racing that up until about a year ago had zero experience on pavement. There was tons of adversity that I would have to overcome but I didn’t let it stop me because I felt that this is what I am meant to do in life and simply couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
BT: You mention in previous interviews that your mom and dad were a little nervous about you stepping behind the wheel of cars with increasing amounts of speed involved. Do they still get nervous about your racing career or have they calmed down a little bit about it?
AB: My mom feels way more comfortable with me on asphalt than she did with me in sprint cars on dirt. I think asphalt is safer in these big cars so she like the idea of that. I think initially my dad questioned me hopping into a 410 sprint car but once he saw how comfortable I was in it and how quickly I adjusted to the speed he was much more comfortable. I don’t think I have any fear when it comes to speed.
BT: You were the first woman to win a dirt track racing championship in Manitoba Canada. What was that like and what other history are you looking to make as you work yourself up the ranks of the five NASCAR series?
AB: Every accomplishment feels great but once you reach one goal you just want to set another goal. The chase to do more and be better never ends. I hope to win a race in every series of NASCAR that I compete in. I was really close to being the first Canadian female to win a NASCAR sanctioned race in the USA last weekend at Motor Mile where I was battling for the lead the majority of the race. I am hoping next race I am able to earn that title. I also want to win championships on pavement as well as races. Being a Canadian female in this sport lets me set some pretty neat goals that I look forward to accomplishing!
BT: Your bio stats that you have never used family money or financial backing to fund your blossoming racing career. What is it like to go out and find sponsors yourself and do you believe this puts you at a disadvantage over others competitors.
AB: I’m not going to lie, it is extremely tough. You have to be utterly relentless and not let the No’s discourage you. I think for the most part it puts me at a disadvantage because I have to work 100 times harder just to GET on the race track, regardless of my talent; Rather someone who already has the financial backing to do so. However, the optimistic side of me says it is an advantage because I am able to use my college experience and problem solving skills to learn about the industry and learn how to bring value to potential sponsors and create real long-lasting partnerships. It allows me to leverage the way I present myself, my professionalism and social skills, and my ability to build partnerships with people. Life is all about learning, growing and personal progression. This route is definitely not the easiest way but I think it has made be a better person and it feels really great to truly earn things. It teaches me to be humble, and I will for sure be giving back to the dirt track racing community once some success is earned.
BT: What do you believe teams and sponsors like most about you and your ability on the racetrack?
AB: Because sponsors have been the only way I am able to be on the track, I know the importance of them and how to bring value to them and always want to keep them happy. Teams want you to be competitive and I have a very competitive attitude. I go to the race track to win. I am easy going and can be fun and be silly, but there is also a time for seriousness and when race day comes along I am nothing but focused on the job I need to do. I want to win for my team, sponsors, and fans, just as much as I want to win for myself.
BT: What kind of conversations did you have with your father about finally stepping behind the wheel and going out racing? What finally made your dad give in to letting you follow your dreams of racing?
AB: When I was a young girl I begged my dad for years to let me race and at the age of 10 he finally said “ok you can, but you have to find the sponsorship for it and work on your cars”. I was 21 when I made the decision to try to make a career out of it and both my parents were nothing but supportive. My dad said “It is going to be very hard, but I will support you with whatever you choose to do in life”. He said “you know I can’t support you financially but you have my moral support” and that’s all I needed.
BT: Your grandfather is Lou Kennedy and your dad Mike Balcaen both have had successful careers in dirt racing. Do you feel any pressure or that you have to live up to their legacy and what they did on the track?
AB: I used to when I was younger but I don’t anymore. I’m kind of on my own path now and am old enough where I will do whatever I feel is the right decision for my future.
BT: Not only are you continuing your families legacy in some ways, you are also carving a legacy of your own on concrete and asphalt tracks. What do you think about going a step further then what your grandfather and dad did and creating your own legacy on asphalt.
AB: I think it was a pretty bold decision, and kind of a scary one at that. I never thought I would have these kind of opportunities and be doing the things I am doing now. When I was young it seemed so far fetch to step outside of dirt track racing since no one in my family had ever done it. I have moved into an entirely different from of circle track racing, and one that I frankly didn’t know that much about. I have learned so much in the past few years by chasing my dreams and I don’t think it’s something I will every regret, regardless of how far I make it.
BT: What changes, if any, do you hope NASCAR makes to its top tier series before you debut there?
AB: I hope that they can be easier on the driver “fines” when it comes to drivers giving their opinions in interviews. Interviewers are doing their job by asking questions, and drivers are doing their job by answering them. As long as they are being answered in a respectable way (no cursing/vulgarity) I don’t see why they should be fined for giving their honest opinion on a racing related issue that they were asked about in the first place.
BT: You help mentor a young girl back in your hometown of Manitoba. What has that process been like for you and how has it helped you as grow as a person and a driver.
AB: She actually is from North Dakota but it’s been pretty cool to see her develop these last couple years. I do my best to be a positive role model to younger girls both in and out of the sport. I want them to know that they can come to me at any time for any advice on racing, or on life. I hope that my wisdom and experience can help them.
BT: What have you taught her so far and have you seen it pay off on the track?
AB: Yes definitely, I have tested her cars to make sure they are perfectly set up and fast for her to hop into! I have been helping her out on the driver’s side of things as well. If I am not able to make the race she will call or text me to ask me how she should run a certain line, how to drive that type of racetrack, or questions on set up. She has already won a feature so I think the help has paid off!
BT: Do you believe that some of the attention you are receiving from media is due to your looks? If so, do you find that disrespectful at all?
AB: When you are a female in the sport of racing you are more so under a microscope than if you were a guy. I work really hard for everything but I would be lying if I said the marketability doesn’t helps in some situations. In saying that, looks aren’t going to get you to the NASCAR Cup Series. Hard work, talent, and money will. I don’t think embracing my femininity is disrespectful. I pride myself on creating a brand that is respectable to all ages of women and use my role in Motorsports to empower other women. My mission is to use my platform in racing to help bring confidence to younger women and show them that anything is possible.
NASCAR: One-On-One with Amber Balcaen
by Brian Thornsburg
What would you do to follow your dreams?
For Amber Balcaen, the answer was to move from Manitoba Canada to Charlotte North Carolina and pursue her dreams of racing in The Cup Series. She might have a long way to go before we see her racing alongside Kyle Busch and Chase Elliot, but she has proven that she has the potential to do just that. Not only i she the first woman ever to win a dirt track championship in Manitoba Canada, she also takes time to help mentor the next generation of NASCAR stars.
With that being said, Balcaen recently sat down for an interview with Beyond The Flag and disliked the future of NASCAR racing, being the granddaughter of short track legend, Lou Kennedy and what it is like being a female driver in a male dominated sport.
To view full article click here http://beyondtheflag.com/2016/05/11/nascar-one-one-amber-balcaen/
“Super excited to announce that I will be racing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series this weekend at Motor Mile Speedway for Lee Pulliam Performance. This will mark my 1st ever NASCAR sanctioned race and I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to be apart of a National NASCAR Championship Winning team. I have nothing but confidence in this team and am going to do my best to make you all proud! Thanks to all my fans for the continuous support and a special thanks to Winners Circle Sports Bar for making this race possible, and to @championplugs, @1stphorm and Kirkey Racing seats! More info on full season to follow”
Click Here to Support Amber Balcaen Racing’s GoFundMe Campaign
In light of #InternationalWomansDay
Being a woman in a “mans” sport makes you realize the importance of women empowerment. Now a days women aren’t just pretty, or just smart. They are so much more. Women can accumulate strength, beauty, intelligence, kindness, ambition, independence, compassion, and integrity all at once.
There are so many ambitious and accomplished female leaders in this world. So don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something just because your a woman. Obviously I didn’t listen and either should you! Don’t ever let criticism or negativity affect your dreams or goals. Go after exactly what it is that you want.
As women, we must empower and embrace one another. Lift each other up and be each other’s inspiration. We must magnify our strengths and stand together.
Happy International Woman’s day to all of hard working intelligent beautiful women out there!