It was a fine day when the “Grey Lady” editors asked me put this piece together.  I managed 15 interviews in 5 days with the drivers, crew chiefs and NHRA officials to sort out why women in the pro ranks have, most assuredly, “arrived.” Everyone one of these ladies has a “Wally” or two. I believe it might just be time to offer the option of a  “Barbara . . .”    “Wally” is the trophy nickname, a tribute to NHRA founder Wally Parks. Barbara was his devoted wife who worked alongside him in the sport for decades.  – LSL

NEW YORK TIMES  Automobiles  

OCT. 31, 2014

Women in Top Ranks of Drag Racing: Hear Them Roar

By LOUISE ANN NOETH

Just Call Them Winners                                                             Photo Credit: National Dragster/NHRA

MADISON, ILL. — By the time a cannon blast signals the start of the New York City Marathon for more than 50,000 runners at 9:40 a.m. Sunday, the racers’ group known as professional women will have already been on the course for half an hour.

But when the starting lights blink green later that day at a National Hot Rod Association drag race 2,500 miles to the west, in Las Vegas, there will be no head-start advantage for the women. The drag races are heads-up, yet in each of the four professional categories for these single-purpose acceleration dynamos — Top Fuel dragster, Funny Cars, Pro Stock Car and Pro Stock Motorcycles — there are female racers in the select group competing in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

In Top Fuel (the long rear-engine machines) and Funny Car (barely recognizable replicas of production models), 7,000-horsepower nitromethane-fueled engines rocket the cars through the 1,000-foot course in less than four seconds and power past 300 m.p.h. Even the gasoline-burning Pro Stock cars and motorcycles that use the traditional quarter-mile track rip past the clocks in under seven seconds. In this straight-line division of motorsports, racers don’t leave the starting line as much as they launch from it.

When the N.H.R.A. season of two dozen races concludes on Nov. 16, teams will have been racing since early February at a variety of tracks across the United States under a broad range of weather conditions. To adapt and remain competitive, the drivers must be capable of processing events that unfold in microseconds, then explain them in exacting detail moments later.

This human data download, which can generate hours of work for the pit crews, is no longer the domain of an exclusive men’s club in drag racing. There is a strong, confident and skilled female contingent that commands respect as they pull up to the starting line. Women with spots in the playoff round for the season points championship include Erica Enders-Stevens competing in Pro Stock Car; Alexis DeJoria and Courtney Force driving Funny Cars; Brittany Force in Top Fuel; and Angie Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle. A former multi-time bike champion, Angelle Sampey, has returned to the sport after a six-year hiatus. 

No mechanized conveyance has a sentient idea who is at its controls; it merely responds to input, and good input gets good response. Drivers are in control of engines characterized as a volcanic eruption contained in something the size of a kitchen stove. 

Getting the car down the track is just part of the job, though. Lightning reactions to the starting lights, where races are frequently won by margins measured in thousandths of a second, are required.

Fans have noted the drivers’ poise, taking delight when Courtney Force beat her father, the 16-time champion John Force, and as Erica Enders-Stevens outraced her husband, Richie Stevens; consistently led the qualifying; won races; and topped the points standings during the 2014 season.

For too long wrongly stigmatized as a masculine activity that embodied power and aggression, winning drag racers are a persuasive demonstration of brains being more valuable than brawn. While a significant number of women have won championships at the top levels of drag racing before, this year’s group is a sizable emerging class of refined athletes. Physical fitness is a given; their mental focus has helped them carve a spot among the top ranks of the sport. 

“Drivers slow down time,” the N.H.R.A.’s vice president for technical operations, Glen Gray, said at the Midwest Nationals here in September. “They explain runs down the track in such incredible detail and have extremely heightened intuitive senses. The men know they have to be on their game because the women are sharp.”

Drivers are the machine’s vital data sensors, a technical feedback loop that is not gender-specific, demanding tough-minded concentration in a high-pressure environment. The more detail drivers give the pit crew about the machine’s operation during the few short seconds of a run, the better the team can make the machine for its next the run down the track. 

So what can women deliver that the pervasive data acquisition systems cannot? 

“Seat-of-the-pants feedback is more important than what the computer tells you,” explained Tommy DeLago, crew chief for Alexis DeJoria. “She clicks into a race mode and is uncanny with her sensing precision — within 10 feet on the track.

“Alexis is able to tell us how the car expressed itself during the run,” he added. “She may not know what caused it, but she locks onto the weird factor, and that gives us a clear path to improving the tuneup.” 

DeJoria uses meditative breathing exercises on the starting line to slow her heart rate and focus her attention. 

“Disciplining my mind is harder to do than driving the car,” she said, “but it helps when the car wants to slap you in the face. I don’t fear the car — I have a big respect for what it is capable of.” 

Courtney Force, 26, a four-time winner in 2014, her third year as a pro Funny Car driver, provides feedback incrementally. 

“This is the craziest thing about our sport, we can think about so much in such a short period of time,” she said. “I can’t explain it. I just do it.

“It starts when I get out of the car, continues during the ride back to the pit, and then I sit down with my crew chiefs to review the car’s data download,” she said. “Sometimes a delayed memory hits me later that can make all the difference to the next run.” 

The smartest, most successful crew chiefs recognize that the mental or emotional tune-up of the driver is as critical as the mechanical one.

Courtney Force’s crew chief, Ron Douglas, strives to instill confidence and encourages her to have fun driving. 

“The most valuable skill Courtney can bring to the team is consistency in her actions,” Douglas said. “The more she tells us what she felt, the better we can optimize the car for the available traction.” 

Erica Enders-Stevens, 31, who has won four races this season and is No. 2 in the Pro Stock points standing driving a 215-m.p.h. Chevy Camaro, sees racing as 70 percent mental and 30 percent driving. 

“Winning,” she said, pointing to her head with a locked-on-target expression, “it’s all up here. Losses build champions.”

“I focus on things I want to happen,” Enders-Stevens said. “There is no room for an ounce of negative thought if I am going win a championship.” 

Her co-crew chiefs, Rick and Rickie Smith, noted that Enders-Stevens was good at identifying small problems before they became big because she had a driver instinct to be “one” with the car. 

“She is very consistent,” both crew chiefs say, adding that they trust her as much as they trust the computer data. 

Enders-Stevens said that her mind-set was greatly changed this year with her move to a new team. 

“They are my catch net. I can focus on the car, not the competitors, on my lane, my lights,” she said with beaming gratitude. “Team work makes the dream work.” 

Motorcycle riders like Angelle Sampey, 44, and Angie Smith, 35, must momentarily let go of the left handlebar to release the clutch lever, simultaneously tucking in tightly and bracing for the 3G launch off the starting line. 

“I must anticipate, but be careful not to prematurely react,” Smith said. “I also need to be mentally tough. Drag racing is as much a psychological war as it is a technological battle.

“I am an adrenaline junkie who loves the team dynamic, trophy or no trophy, because I am part of a group with a common goal,” she said. 

Sampey, with 41 career wins and three championships, has a tactical approach. “I am the human traction control that makes microcorrections that most people will never see from the grandstands,” she said. “I don’t need the competition to do anything but stage and stay in their lane for me to do my job.” 

Each Friday before qualifying runs start, Brittany Force, 26, will sit in her Top Fuel dragster and make a dry run in her head. “I talk to it,” she said about her style of nurturing bravery and driving poise. “I say, we can do this, we can do it together.” 

Of all the woman on the current pro drivers list, Brittany, also a daughter of John Force, was never going to drive a racecar. She was headed to the classroom, having secured her teaching credential.

But how do you resist a father whose influence rivals the moon’s gravitational pull? 

“We need women in the sport,” her 64-year-old father, a popular champion, said. 

Brittany and her sisters grew up in and around racing, so immersed in the culture that driving when she was 16 was just her summer hobby.  “Drag racing is my normal,” she said. 

These women are not an anomaly. The pipeline is full of young women who have an eye on professional rides in their future. The farm system is N.H.R.A.’s Junior Dragster program, which has more than 3,000 active racers, who can start as early as age 6 in scaled-down dragsters powered by modified lawn mower engines. Upward of 45 percent are female, and that number never falls below 35 percent, the N.H.R.A. says. Enders-Stevens started there. 

“Experience is critical to be able to move up into the pro ranks,” said a pragmatic Gray, the racing group’s technical chief.

Then again, Enders-Stevens says she thinks there might a gender advantage after all: “I know my car is a girl, because it listens better.”

October 6, 2014

BSFpanoramic SAH LandSpeed Louise Wins 2014 James Valentine Award from Society of Automotive Historians

Many peaks of the Silver Mountain range surrounding the Bonneville Salt Flats are named after land speed racers including Ab Jenkins, “Terrible” Teddy Tetzlaff, John Cobb, Athol Graham and Malcolm Campbell.

Click photo for full panoramic view

 Los Angeles, CA  - The Southern California Chapter of the Society of Automotive Historians named “LandSpeed” Louise Ann Noeth the winner of the 2014 James Valentine Memorial Award in the periodicals category.

Presented for “Excellence in Automotive Historical Research,” the entry entitled “Counting Down to a Century of Speed” appeared in the October 2013 issue of the GoodGuys Gazette. The 18-page feature encapsulates 100 years of land speed racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

“One judge commented about the possibility of expanding the article into a full length book,” explained Bob Ewing, Chairman, Valentine Award committee, “ ‘I would look forward to seeing something along those lines on the shelves.’ Another judge commented the entry had ‘considerable value in a number of ways,’ but also felt it could have been edited better, and that the lack of captions on some photos left him wondering which vehicle was which.”

Noeth, an acknowledged expert on the subject matter, was equally grateful for the award as well as the critical remarks.

“A new book is underway!” said author Noeth. “One judge, a retired college professor, said that there should have been more detail into how the research into the article was done. As a street urchin who learned her craft through the tender mercies of thoughtful, yet tough university-trained editors through the years, I don’t automatically think about creating a bibliography when hunting down historical facts – but I will now.

The Valentine Memorial Award is named for the late J.H. Valentine, at one time the recognized authority of automobiles built in Los Angeles. Valentine devoted his life to accurately compiling nearly insignificant data on early automobiles one by one. With no chance of personal wealth, he ensured that future historians would have a large quantity of priceless material. The Valentine Award honors authors whose automotive historical research is linked to people and events in California, but does not preclude significant historical milestones anywhere in the world.

Noeth was first honored in 2002 by the SAH SoCal Chapter, winning the Valentine for her book “Bonneville Salt Flats.” She has repeatedly earned additional honors through the years for her historical work.

Here is a link to the 2014 Valentine Award winning article:

http://www.landspeedproductions.biz/wp-content/uploads/BSF100.pdf

 
 
LSL HC web Pennzoil Platinum Synthetic Racing Oil: Pretty Puffery or Power Protector?

In the Shell Technology Center: LandSpeed Louise and Penske Indycar driver Helio Castroneves

In late June, I was the guest of Shell and Pennzoil at the Shell Technology Center as well as the Grand Prix of Houston. While many were enamored with the double-header of open-wheel racing I was focused on getting details about the Pennzoil Platinum synthetic motor oil. Yeah, OK, another snake oil in a pretty silver package, right? Maybe.

What caught my attention is that this “synthetic” is derived from nearly pure natural gas. Some big brains figured out how turn gas into a liquid to form a base oil into which they then blend in some additives and come away with what Shell/Pennzoil claims will kick the butt of Mobil 1 and Royal Purple. Seriously.

Now it helped that Roger Penske uses the stuff in his Indy engines. My respect for “The Captain” runs deep; he does not run junk nor does he “cheap out.” Ever. Never.

Did you know Indy cars can’t use “secret snake oil” anything they put in their racing engines MUST be commercially available.

The Shell Technology Center is no little shack, home to some 2,000 scientists and engineers, the oil giant spends a staggering amount of cash on R&D each year – more than a billion annually since 2007.

If they were opening their doors to me, I figured it was worth a few days to find out if land speed racers might benefit from this ingenious method of lubrication. After all, these ingenious amateurs racers are the fastest people on earth who have, for decades, set extraordinary speed records using mostly modest means.

To prepare for the trip I consulted with some leading and respected LSR engine builders: Al Teague, Mike Le Fevers, Ken Duttweiler, John Beck, Dave Brant, Rex Svoboda, Doug Albietz and Rick Yacocci to get their views on dinosaur oils versus synthetic versions.Pennzoil Platinum with PurePlus Technology Bottle 160x300 Pennzoil Platinum Synthetic Racing Oil: Pretty Puffery or Power Protector?

I explained that Pennzoil was claiming its Platinum Synthetics would provide complete protection, without compromise, in five key ways:

1. Cleaner pistons
2. Better fuel economy
3. Protects horsepower
4. Unsurpassed wear protection
5. Excellent extreme temperature performance

The engine builders held basically the same opinion that synthetics had a clear advantage in protecting any engine, but the price made many people hesitate when taking something off the shelf – especially when talking about street-driven cars.

While I savor technical discussion, I am no lubricant or fuel expert so I am grateful for the time they spent coaching me on what was important. All were very generous with their knowledge and insightful about what wsolar121 1024x603 Pennzoil Platinum Synthetic Racing Oil: Pretty Puffery or Power Protector? as important for me to discover. From the conversations, I came away with specific questions for the Pennzoil science and tech people. some I have answers to, others are in-process of being answered.

My goal was to take home details about how the stuff worked in high performance and racing engines. I am all too aware of how LSR must simultaneously protect their investment while wringing out every last pony of giddy-up out of every run.

I was introduced to power-packed group of people and given a great deal of time to talk with each candidly. Participants in the PurePlus™ Technology Innovation Tour included Shell’s brain trust of  Dr. Opinder Bhan, Dr. Alison Falender and Scott Rappaport  together with senior motorsports engineer Paul Bastien, and Penske driver Helio Castroneves.

Richard Dixon 207x300 Pennzoil Platinum Synthetic Racing Oil: Pretty Puffery or Power Protector?

Dr. Richard Dixon

Later, trackside, we met with Chris Hayek, Shell Lubricants Global Brand Director; Dr. Richard Dixon, Shell NA Motor Oil Technology Manager; Penske drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power; Dr. Tony Sime, Senior Design Engineer, Ilmor Engineering. You might think that was enough, but Shell hit us with the power tools later that same evening where we  enjoyed private, leisurely cocktails followed by dinner with all of the above PLUS Tim Cindric, President, Penske Racing; Derrick Walker, President, IndyCar Competition and Operations and Will Phillips, IndyCar VP Technology.

I am NOT crowing about the VIP line-up. Rather I believe it important to mention these people because all were willing to talk at-length and in-depth about whatI kept calling the “fancy new snake oil.” What a fine, respectful guest I turned out to be. . . .,  thankfully, the irreverence was taken in the spirit it was intended: lighthearted but pointedly skeptical until proven otherwise.

The non-technical highlight of the entire five-day immersion was a rip-snorting, fun-poking, who’s-the-best-driver banter at dinner between Castroneves, Power and Montoya reminding all of us that we were the slowest in the room. It was bench racing at its finest and funniest. Those boys could easily do stand-up with Leno or Ferguson on their days off.

Once I get the questions back and answers sorted, I intend to share the information with the entire land speed racing community. That will include my Fuel For Thought column in the Goodguys Gazette, Bonneville Racing News and www.landracing.com.

Stand by, this stuff has some merit, but there are miles to go to show you what and why.

PurePlusbaseoilgraphic pdf 27 Feb 2014 Pennzoil Platinum Synthetic Racing Oil: Pretty Puffery or Power Protector?

 

June 27, 2014 – Berkley, MI – Winners of the 23rd International Automotive Media Awards were announced at during a ceremony held at the Vinsetta Garage Restaurant. IAMA’s were presented at a joint event with the North American Concept Vehicle of the Year (NACVOTY) Awards.

The International Automotive Media Competition (IAMC), is a program to recognize and encourage excellence in
all forms of automotive media. Louise Ann Noeth submitted three works for review – all three were judged to be
worthy of an award.

Cover 150x150 Packed Podium Finish for LandSpeed Louise at International Automotive Media Competition BSF100OCT2013 art 150x150 Packed Podium Finish for LandSpeed Louise at International Automotive Media Competition

 

 

 

 

GOLD | The Demon’s Dozen | Book – published by LandSpeed Productions
SILVER | Counting Down to a Century of Speed | Magazine – Goodguys Goodtimes Gazette
BRONZE | Counting Down to a Century of Speed | Magazine Graphics – Goodguys Goodtimes Gazette

“I’ve taken part in the IAMA’s since its inception,” explained Noeth, “At first, only as a hopeful entrant, to find out
how to improve my writing and photography storytelling skills. Years later, the administrators asked me to judge
some categories and I found the volunteer effort to be as rewarding as it was educational – we’ve got some
dandy fine motoring media folks at work in the world! When asked to step into the Chief Judge position, after
entering three pieces of my own, I accepted only after it was clear my entries would get a beating if they
deserved it. That those works finished Gold, Silver and Bronze tells me honest, serious peer review was done. I‘m
grateful. As I see it, my readers are the REAL winners because I believe it critical to never stop tweaking the
talents the good Lord saw fit to give me.”

Noeth shares the Bronze award with Kevin Reynolds, Art Director at the Goodguys Goodtimes Gazette.

 
Judging is by peers, to a standard; entries may earn up to 100 points. The Medallion International Automotive

Media Awards (IAMAs), Bronze (85-91), Silver (92-96) and Gold (97-100) medallions are presented for those
works so qualified. From among the highest-point (98-100) Gold awards are chosen the Best of Divisions, with
Best of 2013 being chosen from the Best of Division awardees. Therefore, the Medallion IAMAs are a competition
against a standard, whereas the Best of Divisions and Best of the Year IAMAs are a competition against other
award-winning entries. If no entry in a category meets the minimum standards no award will be made in that
category. Entries are judged by Category within their Division. The works sent for judging were published or
aired January 1 – December 31, 2013

The IAMC™ is administered, produced by and is a property of The International Society for VEHICLE Preservation,
©2014 all rights reserved. ISVP™ is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) educational organization.

16 Jan, 2014  |  Written by  |  under Uncategorized

Cover The Demons Dozen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 George Poteet, owner of the Speed Demon streamliner, commissioned “LandSpeed” Louise Ann Noeth  to chronicle the 2012 racing season of the land speed racing team whose dedicated work allowed Poteet to drive in excess of 400MPH a dozen times during two speed meets on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The timed runs on the surveyed course resulted in the certification of 1 National and 2 World Land Speed Records. This unprecedented achievement surpasses the remarkable speed demonstration by Californian Al Teague driving his Spirit of 76 streamliner in excess of 400MPH eight times in one season.

Introduction Page 300x222 The Demons Dozen

Click Speed Demon to Enlarge

Hours of  personal interview time with Poteet were combined with Noeth’s historical archive reference materials as well as that of the team to write the text, select photographs and collect appropriate descriptive art before designing the  cover as well producing the complete print-ready layout in a record 43 days.

FIA Certificates 300x223 The Demons Dozen

Click Certificates to Enlarge

 

 

 

The limited print production run included 22 personalized editions, one for each member of the Speed Demon Racing Team that was comprised of a dedicated photo page and a biographical page for each respective team member.

 

Poteet’s goal for the project was to herald each team’s member’s role on the team and added his personal  observation emphasizing his appreciation for their well-focused work. 

Team Roster 300x222 The Demons Dozen

Speed Demon team member Betty Howard was a critical liaison partner in the project providing, in addition to her exceptional interpersonal skills and dozens of snapshots used in the book.

Click the Roster to Enlarge

 Aerodynamics 300x223 The Demons Dozen

Click Text to Enlarge
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