Amber Balcaen first Canadian woman to win NASCAR-sanctioned race in U.S.
Taylor Allen, BEAT REPORTER
RRC graduate Amber Balcaen made history by becoming the first Canadian woman to win a NASCAR-sanctioned race in the United States.
Balcaen grew up in a racing family and fell in love with the sport right away.
“I’ve always loved racing and always knew I wanted to race. The passion for the sport kept growing as I got older,” she said.
She made the decision to pursue her dream while sitting in class one day at the University of Manitoba.
“I was sitting in class and thinking, ‘why am I here right now?’ I want to race cars. That’s when I went home and told my parents that I wanted to become a NASCAR driver and make it a career,” said Balcaen.
She had the support of her family, but they made sure she knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“They said they would support me with whatever I want to do in life. However, they know, especially my Dad, how tough it is to make it in this sport. He reassured me it’s going to be tough but it’s not impossible,” said Balcaen.
She proved that it wasn’t impossible with her history-making victory at the Motor Mile in Radford, Virginia on Aug. 27. Balcaen went home after the race to lie in bed while reflecting on her accomplishment. She returned home to Winnipeg the next day, where she was greeted by family and friends at the airport.
Her schedule has been crazy busy ever since.
“I had 12 interviews on the Monday after the race. I wasn’t expecting that at all. It’s been awesome,” she said.
Balcaen has also been busy making public appearances. She did Carpool Karaoke with Energy 106, threw out the first pitch at a Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball game, spoke to students at Shaftesbury High School, and received the city’s Outstanding Achievement Award from Mayor Brian Bowman.
She admits earlier in her career she had some troubles as a female in a male dominated sport. However, her time racing in Virginia has been a positive experience.
“The guys have been good. They’ve been respectful. When I won, the second and third place drivers congratulated me,” Balcaen said.
Danica Patrick has been an inspiration for Balcaen. Patrick has made history with numerous firsts for females in stock car racing. Patrick drives for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“Danica paved the way for females in the sport. She made me realize if she can do it, maybe I can do,” Balcaen said.
When she’s not behind the wheel, Balcaen is in the gym building up her endurance with cardio and strength training. She also spends time updating her social media, and reaching out to potential sponsors. She hopes her victory opens more doors for new sponsors.
Although she is in the early stages of her career, Balcaen is already giving back to the racing community. She has started a scholarship for local dirt track racers.
“I’d like to inspire people to chase their dreams and realize that anything is possible. I’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity in my career to be where I am now. I want to prove to people that you can make your dreams possible you just have to work hard for them,” she said.