Katie Hagar and the Need for Speed
by Adam Perry for Portland Magazine, October 2010
Just as Black Entertainment Television (BET) dares to challenge redneck clichés by running a reality show about NASCAR drivers, Katie Hagar–a 24-year-old Damariscotta native–defies the auto-racing stereotype that says good ‘ol Southern boys rule the tracks.
“Growing up in Maine, I was a true and passionate athlete,” Hagar tells us the morning after racing in North Carolina’s 34th annual Bobby Isaac Memorial 150. “I wasn’t worried if others thought that it was odd or not. The car doesn’t know your gender, and that’s all that matters.”
Hagar, who resides in Mooresville, North Carolina, doesn’t let the hard-edged, male-dominated world of car racing faze her (“They don’t dare make [sexist comments] to my face…”) and has been racking up top-five finishes since going pro a few years ago.
“The happiest 30 seconds of my life behind the wheel happened when I was racing in California in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program at Stockton 99 Speedway, breaking the track record my fourth time ever being at that track.”
Energetic and sprightly, with a flashy smile and long blonde hair, Hagar is a perfect fit for Changing Lanes, BET’s new NASCAR “one-hour competition docu-series” which highlights minority and female drivers–the latter comprising a gender which now represents nearly half of all NASCAR fans.
As a woman striving for success in auto racing, Hagar says the legendary female drag racer Shirley Muldowney’s “strategic way of thinking” is a big inspiration. Hagar also stresses that Damariscotta–“always home to me”–continues to positively shape her as a person.
“Maine is the one place I go to if I need to get away,” she says. “All my family is there, and it’s true when they say ‘home is where the heart is.’ When I come home, it’s to re-ground myself, whether I’m just relaxing, picking out horse stalls, eating seafood, or visiting local beaches.
“After being away from home, I notice that it’s the small things I miss the most: how pure and fresh the air smells, how clean the waters are, how quiet and relaxing it is fishing and hearing the loons and owls at night, the privilege of having your privacy. Those are the things that made me me, and every day I am thankful for that.”
Not that she ducks the adrenaline rush of her present circumstances: “I don’t dream of crashing. I dream of winning.”