Race Car Driver and Environmental Activist Leilani Münter (Wiki Commons)
Leilani Maaja Munter is the beautiful daughter of a Hawaiian mother and German father. Born in Rochester, Minnesota on the 18th February 1976 she was rather a tom boy when she was growing up, preferring to ride horses, skateboard or play football than to play with dolls or girly things. While she was still at school she worked part-time as a model, did voluntary work for a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre and did some racing on the SCCA (Sports Car Circuit of America) race circuit. She completed her education at the University of California in San Diego, gaining a BSc. Degree in Biology, specialising in ecology, behaviour and evolution, before going to Hollywood where she found jobs as stand in for Catherine Zeta-Jones in Traffic and America's Sweethearts, and as Kelly Hu's stunt double in the film The Scorpion King.
When she wasn’t working Leilani went to the track to improve her driving skills, she also volunteered to be crew member for a NASCAR Southwest Tour team. 2001 saw Leilani begin her racing career when she debuted in the Allison Legacy Series, a series that offers a professional to intermediate racing program that attracts old or new drivers with or without experience and is stepping stone for drivers looking to further a racing career. She had a seventh place finish. After moving to Mooresville, North Carolina she had her first start in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series at South Boston Speedway in 2003 where she finished in ninth place. She set a new record for the fastest qualifying woman at Texas Motor Speedway in 2004 when she finished in fourth place. Driving in her first super late model race she finished in seventh place.
Her first full-time season came in 2006 and in her fifth race of the season she had one of her best races of her career when she finished fourth and set a new record at the Speedway for the highest finish of all time for a woman driver at the track and later that same year at Illiana Speedway, Indiana, she was the first woman to qualify in the forty five year history of the Bettenhausen Classic. In thirty nine starts she acquired nineteen Top ten’s, nine Top five’s finishes and finished 92% of the time. She was then preparing to take the next step into the ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America – a stepping stone into NASCAR’s top three series). In December, 2006 she passed her rookie test at 24th out of 59 contestants at Daytona and shortly after she was asked by an Indy team if she would be interested in racing open wheel cars. She completed her Indy Pro rookie test driving an ARCA car at Daytona International Speedway before May was out, returning to ARCA testing in December of that year to drive the #59 Nextra Energy Resources Dodge for Mark Gibson Racing. Leilani, in the final practice, had the seventh fastest lap at 181.77 mph, just 69 one thousandths of a second behind Danica Patrick who finished fifth. She became just the fourth woman in history to compete in the Indy Pro Series, the development league of IndyCar, in 2007.
2007 saw her complete her rookie test at Kentucky Speedway and in August she made a deal with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, (three time championship team). Her debut at Kentucky Speedway was on August the 11th 2007 saw her qualify in 5th position, then have trouble with the restart she dropped back to 13th only to race her way back to the front of the field. Passing five cars in a lap and a half with a speed of 192.399 mph, she was about to pass for fourth place when there was a multi-car accident. Champions such as four-time Indy 500, Rick Mears and IndyCar driver Jacques Lazier spoke very highly of her performance during her debut. These days she lives in North Carolina and lives for NASCAR. She drives the cars, works as a crew member and is a correspondent for NASCAR.com
Having said that Leilani isn’t afraid to call herself a "tree hugger" or a "Vegetarian hippie chick" because her real passion in life is environmentalism. Leilani is trying to create a balance between racing and green living and is intent on changing the public’s perception of eco-friendly behaviour. She uses racing as a tool to voice her opinions on these issues and to encourage fans and people involved in racing to become more environmentally aware and address their carbon footprint. Not only does she use only sponsors that are working hard to be environmentally responsible but also those who try to spread environmental awareness to the millions of race fans in the USA she also adopts an acre of rainforest every time she drives and she promotes green companies on her car. This is her passion! Leilani ‘s accomplishments have led to many features in top journals such as USA Today, Reader’s Digest and Glamour has been named "America's Sexiest Race Car Driver" by Men's Journal magazine as well as "The Hottest Woman in NASCAR" by FHM. This woman has no plans to slow down and is committed to the track. She married Craig Davidson in a seaside wedding on New Zealand’s Cathedral Cove beach on the 17th of March 2009. Incidentally, her middle name is Maaja and according to Greek mythology it means "the mother of the god of speed" when spelt "Maia". Were her parents psychic?
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