In the Driver's Seat with Julia Landauer, NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Racer
There's an old saying that life is but a dream, but if that's the case, then 19-year-old Julia Landauer is certainly living her dreams everyday as a motorsports star in the making.
Just one glance at the young racer and you'd see the determination, focus, and poise this talent has to be a great driver in the stock car ranks. What may surprise you is that she's originally from New York City, which might not be the first place most fans would think of as far as racing goes.
However, Julia's got all the passion and soul of yesteryear's heroes with a focus that's a bit similar to that of Leilani Munter, with both racers sharing a passion for the outdoors and environment. Not to mention, they also have the need for speed!
Julia's journey into racing is an interesting one, which is almost like climbing up the proverbial racing ladder to success. With great support from her family through every step of her career, she's tackling her greatest journey yet -- a transition from the open-wheel and sporting car ranks to now NASCAR racing.
If one needs to wonder about her potential in the stock car level, consider this: she captured a Skip Barber Region Series title at the age of 14, becoming the first female to accomplish that feat! Certainly, she's not afraid to mix it up with the best drivers in any circuit she competes at, with her knowledge and experience in various vehicles paving the way to her success throughout her career.
I interviewed Julia via e-mail recently and caught up with South Boston Speedway's newest late model racer. Taking the time out of her busy schedule, I found Julia be to a very pleasant interviewee, as she's very friendly, detailed, and candid about her experiences as a racer.
Also, you can tell she hasn't forgotten about the very people who've helped her along the way, which makes Julia Landauer quite the likeable racer for those looking for a new talent to follow in racing.
So ladies and gentlemen, strap up your seatbelts and start your engines, because we'll be going "In the Driver's Seat with Julia Landauer, NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Racer!"
Rob Tiongson : Looking at your bio on your official website, it seems like you caught the need for speed rather quickly. Tell the racing fans here how you caught the motorsports bug --- did you have any particular idols or inspirations that propelled you into a racing career?
Julia Landauer : I was blessed with having parents who were (and still are) racing enthusiasts. I’ve always played with toy cars and have always showed an interest in racing, and when I was ten, my family and I went to Oakland Valley Race Park, about two hours outside of the city, and started racing as a family.
Originally it was my younger sister and I racing, with my folks being the crew team, then when my brother was old enough he joined us. It was a family sport where girls and boys competed on the same field, we got a technical background from working on the karts, and we got to work with adults.
I loved racing from the start and started winning pretty quickly, so it really started from there. I knew from about age 11 that I would always need to be involved with racing; it’s an addiction and it seemed natural to fully devote myself to racing.
RT : You’re originally from New York City, which isn’t exactly the racing Mecca for most drivers or folks who embark in auto racing, yet here you are, now a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racer. Would you consider it a long journey or a one that’s been fast and unbelievable to be where you are at age 19?
JL : It’s been a lengthy journey for sure, and it’s only just getting started! I began in go-karts at age 10, raced in my first car race at 13, won the Skip Barber Regional Series at age 14, raced the former Formula BMW USA at 15, Ford Focus Midgets with Bob East in Indiana at age 16, and I started racing select late model races at age 17 in California and have continued here at South Boston.
I’ve been very fortunate to have experience in various forms of racing, all while finishing high school and attending my first year of college, which was a deal I struck with my parents; they agreed to support me as much as they could on every level if I finished high school in school, as opposed to home-school, and completed one year of college. It’s been really busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
RT : On June 18th, you started your very first NASCAR race with the Sellers Racing team, one of the top stables at South Boston Speedway, finishing 18th. For those out there who have never turned a lap in a racecar or around this track, describe the thrill you had just even getting out there for your first qualifying session.
JL : This is such a great track. It has good speed, the two ends of the track are uniquely challenging, and the racing is incredibly close.
Getting out there for qualifying with the sticker tires means extreme grip, and you can really throw the car into the corner and carry a lot of speed, more so than in the race.
Adding competitors on the track during the race introduces a different exhilarating factor, and you need to be on your toes. It’s really rough racing and people will race you hard, but it’s the best kind of action-packed racing.
RT : I know your first race didn’t go quite as well as you wanted it, but what things did you learn in the event that you’ll apply in the upcoming races there? Any teammates that you’ve gotten the chance to mingle with?
I learned so much, as it should be. It had been 11 months since I last raced, so it was a bit of an uphill battle for the first race. We’ve sorted out several mechanical issues with the car and I’ve reviewed my notes a lot from my performance at the last race. These first couple of races will be getting back in the saddle, but I’m definitely ready for this July 1st race!
RT : Not only are you competing in South Boston Speedway, but you’re also taking up Communications and Engineering at Stanford University. How do you balance school and racing in your life?
JL : Balancing college with racing is a totally new challenge! High school was one thing, but being in California and taking college courses makes for a very demanding schedule. It meant that I didn’t get seat time during the school year, but I built up my racing team, Julia Landauer Racing, LLC, did a lot of physical training, made many great connections both at school and in Charlotte, and now that I’m on summer break I can focus primarily on racing.
My goal is to incorporate school and racing, and I’m really interested in green technology and applying it to racing as well as the entire automotive industry. I work with various professors at school to come up with different green initiatives that racing can use to decrease its negative environmental impact. So I manage to squeeze racing into schoolwork, which is awesome.
RT : Racers are often defined by how they handle any kind of moment on the track, be it a great day heading to Victory Lane or just battling to survive with an ill-handling car. Would you say you handle adversities well, especially if your race isn’t quite going in your favor?
JL : Yes, I would say that I handle the highs and lows of racing well. Racing is a humbling sport and every racer experiences the highest highs and the lowest lows. While watching races growing up I always admired the guys like Scott Pruett and Mark Martin for their composure. I’ve tried to incorporate their humility into my attitude.
RT : Off the track, what do you enjoy doing to unwind and relax after a hard day’s work at the track or in the classroom?
JL : I love being outside! Whether it’s exercising, walking around my favorite parts of NYC, hiking, or being outdoors with good company, I’m able to unwind a little and refocus.
I haven’t had a whole lot of “down time” recently, but watching races (and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain), reading, being active, and eating good food are great relaxers.
RT : Some of NASCAR’s most successful racers have that open-wheel and midget racing experience like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Kasey Kahne. Why do you think that racers with these backgrounds tend to have a better feel for stock cars?
JL : Open-wheel racing is a completely different style of racing, therefore it gives a driver a more enhanced racing background. In the Focus cars, there is much more sliding and the driving is purely kinesthetic, or seat-of-the-pants. This way of racing will undoubtedly help any racer.
RT : Alright, Julia, it’s time to do a little fun “Free Association” here, where you tell me the first thing that comes to your mind. Hope you enjoy this, my friend….so here we go!
JL : Being behind another car.
RT : Learning.
JL : Listening and absorbing.
RT : Success.
JL : When you work extremely hard and smile at yourself at the end of the day. (And winning, of course).
RT : Pet peeves.
JL : Undercooked eggs.
RT : School.
JL : Interesting people, long equations, and piles of books.
RT : Family.
JL : My best friends.
RT : Social media.
JL : A fascinating phenomenon.
RT : Hope.
JL : Possibilities.
RT : My future in racing looks…
JL : ...exciting, challenging, rewarding.
RT : Throughout your young but accumulating racing career, what’s one track that you’ve felt absolutely comfortable at? Any track where you’ve struggled at before and you’re like, “Julia, I have got to conquer this place?”
JL : My favorite track is still Road America, a road course. It’s the track where I took my first car racing school. I want and need to conquer South Boston; we’re getting closer!
RT : Say I’ve hired you to drive my car for a race and we’ll be starting about middle of the pack. We don’t have a huge budget but a good run could land us a sponsor for the rest of the season. Are you going to go for the safe top-10 finish to bring home the car in one piece or are you going to drop the hammer for the win?
JL : We’re going to do a little bit of both. First we’re going to get good, consistent times and get into the top ten, pushing pretty hard. Second, we’re going to push for smart, aggressive passes towards the end and contend for the win.
RT : I bet you’ve gained a lot of new fans who are just curious to know more about you. Besides attending race this summer and fall at South Boston Speedway, how else can racing fans learn more about you?
JL : I would love to have fans check out my website, www.julialandauer.com, “like” my Facebook fan page (Julia Landauer, Athlete), and follow me on Twitter, www.twitter.com/julialandauer. I want to share my love for racing with as many people as possible, so please tell your friends!
Author's Notes: I would like to thank Julia for letting me have the opportunity to interview her and to learn more about her promising racing career! Photos are courtesy of Julia Landauer, with the main article's photo credits going to photographer Emily Dehn Knight! If you'd like to see Julia race in action, check her out this summer and fall racing late models in South Boston Speedway!