Natalie Sather’s proven her staying power in the sport of NASCAR and auto racing, persevering through some excruciating injuries and adversities in her young motorsports career. Despite some nasty spills and tough times on the racetrack, the 25-year-old Fargo, ND native is determined to establish herself as a Sprint Cup star in the future.
Every racer in the world has a story to tell, whether it’s one that seemingly been smooth sailing like Katie Spotz’ Atlantic Ocean transcontinental row this past March or filled with some bumps on the road, like Lance Armstrong’s storied career that’s been tested by health scares and allegations.
In the case of this NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racer, Sather’s story has been a bit of both, catching the need for speed early on after some visits to the track when she’d watch her father’s friend compete at a local track. Some years later, she found herself strapping in a go-kart and as they say, the rest was history.
It’s been a somewhat adventurous year for Sather, who broke her left wrist in a racing incident in mid-April at South Boston, VA. Fearing it would end her career, those worries were eased with surgery and her adapting to driving a stock car with virtually one healthy arm.
However, as she’s put it, she’s “never, ever given up.” Even with some of her setbacks, there’s a side to Natalie that’s very personable and fun-loving, just like that nice girl in the neighborhood who treats everyone with respect and considerateness that makes you wonder how she separates “Natalie Sather, the racer” from “Natalie Sather, the 25-year-old?”
Certainly after reading her thoughts on what she does on and off-the-track, you'll find out just how relatable this Sellers Racing driver truly is and how badly she wants to make it as one of the the young talents in this ever competitive sport.
Part two of “In The Driver’s Seat With Natalie Sather” looks more into her current state in the sport, as well as what goes on in her mind leading up to a race. Get to know more about this young prospect racer, who’s proven that consistency wins in the end, as well as a good sense of humor and heart!
Rob Tiongson: When you're at the track, strapped up and geared up to go, do you have a particular pre-race ritual or superstition that you follow? Or are you more like, "OK Natalie, this is our race to win?"
Natalie Sather: Ok, well, I do have a few rituals that I do, have to wear, etc. Some are more personal than others, but I will let you in on the secret. I have a racing angel pin that must be on my suit. I also do have a lucky pair of under garments that I do wear most of the time (laughter).
Also, once I’m strapped into my car, I always say a lil’ prayer and then tell myself that I can do this, and also ask my Grandma, who was one of my biggest fans, to cheer me on and give me the strength and courage I need to finish the race.
RT: Alright, so it's down time, race isn't for a few days. What's a typical week in the life for you, during a race week? How about during a true off-week?
NS: A typical race week for me, well honestly, it’s been a lot different this season due to the fact that I broke my wrist at the beginning of this season so it has limited how much I can do. But normally, I would help out in the shop.
I had started working on the shock dyno this year and really enjoyed it. Otherwise, I work out as much as I can and get prepared for the next race, whether it’s washing my suit, cleaning my car, etc. On an off-week, I usually try to go home to spend time with my family and friends. I go to the lake, hang out with my puppies, and work on my hunting cabin.
RT: What's been your favorite track that you've competed at thus far in your career? Any particular track that you're absolutely floored to compete at some day?
NS: My all-time favorite place to race would hands down be Knoxville, IA! It’s a half-mile dirt track located in a small town outside of Des Moines, IA. From the staff to the facility, to Dingus (a lil’ bar across the street), everything about that place, I just love.
My favorite part is the track, as it is where I really found out what I could do in a race car. From the high speed, the intense wheel-to-wheel racing, to the slide jobs, there is never a dull moment. I hope to one day go back and race a sprint car there!
A track that I someday hope to compete at is Daytona, the birthplace of NASCAR. This is where the legends made a name for themselves. To be able to race where the founding generation drove would be such a privilege!
RT: Free Association time for you, Natalie! No pain, no game...this will be child's play. Tell me the first thing that comes into your mind with the following, alright? Here we go!
NS: "¡Andale! ¡Andale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! ¡Yii-hah!" (Speedy Gonzolaz)
RT: Three wide.
NS: My favorite way to pass.
RT: Starting position.
NS: Outside pole.
NS: Most of the time.
RT: A real racer's track.
NS: South Boston (asphalt) and Knoxville, IA (dirt).
RT: Your ideal street car.
NS: Chevy Truck!
RT: If I could organize a music concert, I'd have...
NS: Country music.
RT: Best motto ever given to you.
NS: “Save your fork - the best is yet to come.” My Grandma told me that.
RT: Where you see yourself down the road...
NS: Racing, or anything to do with racing.
RT: When it comes to distinguishing yourself amongst your peers, what are some qualities or factors that make you such a special, unique racer to fans out there who may be looking for the next big star to follow?
NS: I am the “girliest” tomboy you will meet. I can work in the race shop, hunt, shingle a roof, and don’t even mind a lil’ dirt under my nails. On the other hand, I own about 30 pairs of high heels and love putting on a fun dress and going shopping at the mall.
I carry a hand gun and lip gloss in my purse. I am an energetic, outgoing person, passionate about what I do and that comes out on the track. I am always myself, and tend to show a lot of emotion, but it’s who I am.
If I didn’t love this sport and put everything I had in to it, I would have nothing to lose…but I do. I am also passionate about the opportunities to help out in my community that racing has presented.
I have had the chance to meet many strong kids at the local hospitals that have opened my eyes, and taught me how to be a stronger, better person. This I hope to continue on throughout my career and help these young kids work towards their dreams for the future.
I have faced a lot of difficulties in my career from breaking my leg (in ‘02) and my wrist (just this season) to being scrutinized in my career, giving many reasons for one to quit or give up. All of these things have only made me stronger and shaped me into the woman I am today.
RT: Say I'm your team owner...and we're competing for the long haul of a season. How would you impress me, as far as proving yourself out there? Would you go all out for wins or go for top-10s, gradually working your way to becoming a race contender as a season goes on?
NS: I am a very competitive person, but you have to be realistic. This is only my second season racing asphalt, but I still tend to set my goals very high.
Consistency is key…I would go for the top fives, top 10’s, and of course I will take a win. In order to win championships, you have to use your head and be consistent.
In 2007, I won the American Sprint Car Championship and didn’t win a single race (although I came very close a few times) but I was always in the hunt, finishing every race, and making sure I made smart decisions which paid off in the end.
I am always looking to improve every race, learning something new every time I hit the track.
Author's Note: Thanks to Shannon Myers Tipton of Creative Designs for the photo in this piece, and major kudos to Natalie Sather for taking the time out of her busy schedule to have a sit down interview for the readers of The Podium Finish!
Follow her on Twitter (@SpeedSather) and find her on Facebook at her "Natalie 'Speed' Sather" fan page. Visit Natalie's official website at http://www.nataliesather.com/ right now!