Racing into 1st place: Kelly Frank


Clarissa Zuo and Lucia Lehmann

   When most people picture a race car driver, they don’t usually think of a young woman in high school. But that’s exactly who aspiring race car driver and West Ranch junior Kelly Frank is. Although she only started last year, the young race car driver has already seen tremendous success, winning first in her division at her latest race.

   “The most recent race I attended was at Laguna Seca, that was Dec. 17th,” Frank said. The race was called NASA, which stands for National Auto Sport Association. I was in the novice group, which is the beginner group and it was really fun.”

   In a way, race car driving runs in Frank’s blood. As with famous racing dynasties like the Earnhardts and the Pettys, the tradition was passed down in her family.

   As Frank explained, “My dad has been a professional race car driver for 40 years, so he got me into it ever since I was little.”

Frank at her most recent trace, the Laguna Seca.

   But Frank was also motivated to pursue race car driving for a more universal reason: the historic underrepresentation of women. According to University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor of Physics Diandra L. Leslie-Pelecky via her blog, of the 2926 drivers that have raced at the cup-level, only 16 were women.

   “Car racing is a very male-dominated activity and I wanted to do it to prove that women can do the same sport,” Frank said.

   Frank is joining a young generation of racers with a growing female population, with the National Auto Sport Association reporting that the number of women who are taking their courses has steadily increased and most are very eager to enhance their driving skills.

   Once the initial course and licensing is complete, the real work begins with hours upon hours of practice.

   “Basically, we have a simulator at home so I practice the track on the simulator first, then I have to figure out the car that I am going in and I have to practice in that car a little bit,” Frank said.

    Despite the safety measures built into the training, car racing is still ranked as one of the most dangerous sports in the world. Drivers surpass more than 100 miles per hour, so it’s not surprising that people have been injured or killed before. Every race, Frank faces the dangers of getting hurt. 

   She explains, “It can be really dangerous. One of the races I didn’t go to, a guy fractured his spine and dislocated a bunch of discs because he flew off the track. You have to be really careful because turns are really dangerous. If you don’t brake hard enough, you can fly off the track and get injured.”

   However, for Frank, those thoughts all dissipate when the race starts. Like many race car drivers, Frank reports entering a state of calmness and focus.

   “Usually I have a lot of things going through my head, but when I am able to get into my racing zone, I have almost nothing in my head besides where I am going and where I turn,” Frank explained. “It’s crazy, because I am not used to that; I am very used to thinking about stuff constantly, it’s so different to not think about anything besides the race.”

    With a win under her belt, Frank has started preparing for her next race. Frank said, “The next race I am doing I am possibly racing a Jeepspeed for an off road race in a Jeep. On the track, I usually race with a BMW of some sort and last time it was a hybrid.”

   Frank has big plans for the future. When asked about her dream car, she replied, “A Formula 1 car. Every novices’ dream is to race a Formula 1 car in their life.”

   Until then, Frank is working hard to reach that point. She said, “My biggest goal is to advance. I want to get to a higher level.”