Back on July 5th, Emily Packard captured the crowd while making history as the first female in ten years to take the checkers at Thunder Road. "It was amazing. I've never been on a track with such a large crowd," says the 15-year-old.
But don't ask this East Montpelier native about that whole "female driver" thing. "Honestly, I want to stop making everybody think of us as female racecar drivers. I just want them to think of us as other drivers, "says Packard. "Once the helmets are on you can barely tell the difference."
Emily's dream of being a racecar driver started at a very young age. Her father Ellery Packard recalls a memory of how this all got started. "Emily was sitting on the stairs at the front of the house and I said, 'hi, how are you doing?' And she said, 'Dad, let's go go-kart racing.' And that's how it really started."
And she's had the green flag on racing ever since. Packard started in a Kart touring series at age nine and raced around New England for three years. Then she took her first steps towards a rear-wheel racing vehicle, a 3/4 size Late Model, known as an Allison Legacy car. In that series, she's raced for the last three years. Last year she won three races and came in third overall in the points.
Packard raced Legacy cars full-time for three years until this season. Racing weekly in a street stock at Thunder Road, and a Late Model at Canaan Fair Speedway in New Hampshire, where she's fifth in points. Two very different cars on two very different tracks, giving Packard a ton of experience.
"A lot of people just look at me as a street stock driver," says Emily. "They don't understand that I'm also racing another car. It's been difficult to switch back and forth, but all in all, I think this season's been really good."
Packard's crew chief Neal Woodward believes in Emily's abilities and he should know. Woodward steered the ship for Brian Hoar's ACT crew for many years.
"I think she has a lot of talent, it's just whether or not she can harness it and can everything fall in line for her to make it happen," says Woodward. "I certainly believe she has enough talent to make it happen."
At just 15 years of age, Emily was too young to race her late model at Thunder Road full-time this season, but after seeing her potential grow through seven years of racing, track president and co-owner Tom Curley is making an exception. Packard will take her first turns on the high banks this Thursday night. Curley also made this exception for a 15-year old driver who's now a successful 23-year old, 2010 Milk Bowl Champion and this year's Oxford 250 winner, Joey Polewarczyk. Others see the potential as well.
Nick Sweet is the current points leader at Thunder Road. Sweet says, "This place is a really tough place to get around and I feel that she's gonna do that. She's a really smart girl and as long as she just keeps her head about her, it's gonna be a good week for her."
With the support of drivers like Sweet, her crew, and her family... Emily Packard takes the next turn in her seven-year racing career as the 9x rolls out for her Thunder Road debut on Thursday.
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