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Can a girl with pink hair make it work on the track at Daytona? Alli Owens just wants the shot


Alli Owens: Not just another pretty face (Photo: Alli Owens)


By Mike Mulhern

   Growing up in town here, it's hard to miss the world of NASCAR. (And if you're looking for an unusual souvenir, that Florida-bungalow home over on Peninsula Drive where Bill France Sr. signed the original NASCAR papers in 1948 is for sale.)
    So Alli Owens, just like so many from around here, has decided to take a shot at a career in racing.
   And so far she's doing quite well….for a 20-year-old woman -- with a new pink streak in her hair -- in a man's, man's, man's world.
   But then Owens' game plan is strictly business. She's not just another pretty face trying to become bankable.
   Saturday afternoon here she gets to show that, when she takes her plan to the next level, running Eddie D'Hondt's new Toyota in the ARCA 200.
   And she'll be starting from the front row (4:15 p.m., SPEED).
  Toyota? Yes, NASCAR's newest manufacturer is playing its cards quite coolly in NASCAR, with a subtle yet quite direct marketing game, pushing the Alan Kulwicki model, in ventures like Owens'. 
   It's her third plate race, and the start of her second season on the ARCA tour….a series suddenly much more upscale technologically, with NASCAR's car-of-tomorrow obsoleting that fleet of 400 excellent Cup cars, which are now ARCA machines. And D'Hondt has taken advantage of his Petty Enterprises connections, and the mass firings over there, to put together a pretty good looking crew for Owens this season.
   Still, she's just a girl…..and despite all the hoopla over NASCAR's diversity pushes, the women-in-racing issue is still ripe for debate.
  However Owens seems different from the typical 'diversity' player. First, she's solid business; so if she doesn't make it as a driver, she is certainly laying a good foundation for running a race team. She's moved from Daytona to Mooresville, to make it work.
   "This is it, full-time," she says.
   "And our car this year is absolutely amazing. So I expect to run top-five all day and contend for the win."
   A woman winning at Daytona in a Toyota? Hey, that would make some headlines, wouldn't it.
   Is she simply dreaming? Well, last season, during her 12 ARCA races, her best runs were 15ths at Chicago, Nashville and Rockingham. Not bad for a 19-year-old just starting out in on that wild tour.
   The new pink streaks in her hair? "My aunt has breast cancer, and she's been a really big supporter, who really wanted to be at this race….so we're showing our support for her," Owens says.
   Now making a viable business out of racing isn't easy in the best of times, and this certainly isn't the best of times.
   Yet she seems undaunted.
  "It is a lot on my shoulders, at 20 years old…but I have a good business game plan, and I have my hands in a lot of the business of this team….I don't just show up on race day," she says.
   "If I wake up tomorrow and this thing doesn't work, it's all on me. I've got to make sure the business works first; then the racing is the fun part.
   "With the economy the way it is, it would have been very easy to pitch a sponsorship deal to run in one of NASCAR's major series, and we know NASCAR would love to have a female running one of those tours.
   "I wanted to stay in ARCA, because I have a lot to prove here….to prove I can win, that I can do it, to get the experience, to win something and prove myself as a driver, not just as a girl.
   "We'll run some Nationwide stuff too this year, and if that goes well, then we'll run the full Nationwide tour next year. I don't want to push too far too fast but I'm not going to sandbag myself."

Daytona ARCA 200


Great. Here we go again. We

Great. Here we go again. We saw this with Shawna Robinson, with Deborah Renshaw, with Patty Moise, with Robin McCall, with Sara Fisher, with Danifraud. The sport doesn't need "diversity," because it's a dead end.

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