By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
After scoring a historic ARCA Menards Series West victory at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring last Saturday, 19-year-old Gracie Trotter has had a crazy few days following a performance which showcased female drivers could go out there and dominate the competition with ease.
“It’s been a wild ride. Pretty crazy, talking to a lot of people. Social media has been going insane. But it’s good to be back home,” said Trotter. “I’m on the East Coast getting to celebrate with my family and friends back here. So, it’s been awesome. Pretty crazy, but I can’t complain. It’s been great.”
In a time where Hailie Deegan has been the face of female drivers in America due to her controversial aggressive driving style and three West wins. There are others who prefer the clean and respectable style of racing like Brittney Zamora, the driver Trotter replaced this season in the No. 99 ENEOS Toyota Camry.
The Denver, North Carolina native told Motorsports Tribune she falls in the middle of both clean and aggressive.
“I’m always going to race someone as clean as they race me or as dirty as they do race me. So that’s kind of how I’ve always been. Being also a female in the sport, lots of guys I’ve had experiences where people are going after me. Guy drivers going after me for, you know, passing them or doing better. I had it said to my face before,” Trotter on her driving style.
“I will be aggressive when I have to, but I always tried to race as clean as I can. I never want to wreck someone or the win because I want to earn the win myself. If I don’t feel like I earned it, then the win is not as exciting or special to me than if I did earn the win. So that’s one big thing to me.
“One thing I’ve always gone by is ‘If you drive me dirty, I’ll drive you back the same’ or ‘If you go out and wreck me on purpose, I go out and wreck you back one way or another.’”
Trotter had her work cut out for where she had to use both techniques to get the job done because she started ninth out of the 12-car field.
As soon as the green flag dropped, Trotter wasted no time to work her way towards the front of the field. It was around that point she realized how good her car was where a shot for a strong result was possible.
“I didn’t realize how good of a car I had until probably around Lap 20 or so. I was kind of being cautious at the beginning. I knew we had 150 laps to get it done,” said Trotter. “I was being cautious, trying to pass the cars. I knew I was a lot faster than the cars that were ahead of me. Once I did get around those cars, I could still see leaders. I’m like, ‘OK. Like the cars are actually pretty good. We got a shot at this.’ A couple restarts here and there. We we worked our way up to the front every single time.”
By Lap 54, she found an opening on the backstretch to get by the West championship rivals of Blaine Perkins and Trotter’s teammate Jesse Love for the race lead and never looked back.
— ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) September 26, 2020
“They were running side by side and kind of got into each other a bit and that left me a hole open, and my spotter said, ‘go, go, go,’” said Trotter. “I went for the hole and made it work coming out. Let them figure out what they needed to do. We were going three wide and I just held my line and went for it.”
Trotter nailed all but one restart and led an astonishing series record 95 of 150 laps to become the first female to win an ARCA sanctioned race and the second to do so out West (Deegan at Meridian in 2018 when NASCAR was the sanctioning body).
Congratulations to @gracietrotter11, who made history winning the General Tire 150 at The Bullring at @LVMotorSpeedway, piloting the @BMR_NASCAR No.99 Toyota Camry and became the first female winner of an @ARCA_Racing sanctioned event!#ENEOS | #NASCAR | #GracieTrotter pic.twitter.com/vBUesty1WO
— ENEOS Motor Oil (@ENEOSUSA) September 27, 2020
Once she got out of her bright orange machine, Trotter was congratulated by her Bill McAnally Racing crew and teammates like Gio Scelzi, who splashed her with his water bottle. While it was a landmark victory, there was a weird feel because there weren’t fans in the stands to witness a significant moment in stock car racing history.
“It is a little bit weird getting out of your car,” said Trotter. “There’s not as much excitement getting out of your car and there’s people cheering you on and you have people to look at and screen to when you get out of the car in victory lane. It is a bit different.”
“I’m just hoping we can get those fans back, but I am glad that they do have the races where you can watch on Track Pass. So that’s pretty cool.”
Regarding restarts, it’s been one racing element she’s been trying to work on the most throughout her rookie year. The latest results have boded well with not only her victory at the Bullring, but also her home track at Hickory Motor Speedway where she won a super late model race on September 14th.
“We had a little restart class over at Calico on the whiteboard. He was drawing up all these pictures for me, helping me with these restarts,” Trotter commented. “When I won a couple weeks ago at Hickory, I use the same restart tactic that he showed me.”
That very win puts the third-generation racer in an elite group who won at the prestigious North Carolina short track she grew up being around and of course competing over the years.
WINNERS at @hickoryspeedway I can’t thank my team of guys enough, Bond Suss, Gary Huffman, Joe Cipriano, my dad for making this happen and everyone at Toyota and @RevRacin who have believed in me, @jackirvingjr , Trent Rodriguez, David Wilson, Tyler Gibbs, Matt Bucher, Mark Green pic.twitter.com/RrjjZmH67i
— Gracie Trotter (@gracietrotter11) September 14, 2020
“Hickory is very special to me. I actually grew up going to that track almost every weekend and also going up to Concord Speedway,” said Trotter. “My dad owned a race team. He owned two USAC midgets and a late model stock. So, we were out there a lot. My dad used to race there in the early 90s and so I grew up going to that track.
“Even when I started racing late models, we test out there all the time. It’s only 25 minutes from our race shop in Denver, North Carolina. I grew up there going testing all the time. I know that track very well. It definitely is a drivers track. Both turns are different from each other. So that track’s really an animal. It’s really bumpy.”
Despite its bumpy nature, Trotter quickly followed her comment by saying she’s so used to running there, it’s not all that bumpy like other drivers make it out to be.
“People come there all the time and say, ‘This track is so bumpy. I can’t even see! It’s vibrating my seat so bad.’ I’ve kind of gotten used to it and I’m like, ‘What do you mean it’s bumpy (laughing)?’
“That track is very special to me, and I’ve always dreamed of my first win being there and it ended up finally happening. I’m really happy. My dad was there to share it with me and my whole family was up there too.”
With just three races left on the ARCA West calendar (Roseville, Kern County and Phoenix), Trotter hopes to continue having strong runs and with crew chief Roger Bracken on the helm, she’s confident it can be done.
“Me and Roger haven’t gotten along the best, but we believe in each other. We always have since day one,” Trotter on Bracken. “The first day me and Roger talked, we said we were going to go win a race this year and we did it.
“No matter how many hard times me and him have this year, we’ve always made the best out of it every single race and always have had good finishes this year. Exceeded my expectations with everything and Roger has been a big help. He’s been really hard on me this year, which I’m really grateful for. He’s helped me a lot in my development.”
Even if the going gets rough between the two, it has humbled Trotter because to be a successful driver and make it to the NASCAR national tour someday, she must accept constructive criticism.
“No matter how bad where you don’t want to hear it, you listen to it,” Trotter on handling criticism, which is her main advice for young aspiring drivers. “My dad always told me is to ‘Keep your ears open and your mouth shut. Just listen to what they have to say and take it all in.’
“That’s one thing I’ve had to learn over the years and learning that in being where I am today. That’s really helped a lot because you have to listen to those things that are bad and that is what makes you stronger and that’s what makes you more successful.”
The ninth race of the West campaign will commence on Friday, October 23 at All American Speedway in Roseville, California (10:00 pm ET on Track Pass) for the running of the NAPA 125 presented by Freon Can Return for $10 Program.
The full interview with Gracie Trotter: