Different from other sports, NASCAR requires all its ‘players’ to be mentally strong. This is because racing stresses the mind and the body. A stable mentality also helps when coming back from injuries and bad finishes.
Natalie Sather is an example of mental toughness. After breaking her leg in 3 places and a broken wrist, she has never given up. At a young age, she began racing go-karts and immediately proved her talent, winning multiple championships. She jumped up to Sprint cars, following in the footsteps of World of Outlaws champ Donny Schatz.
The fact that she is a woman in a man’s sport is another reason why she keeps going. With The Drive For Diversity calling her in 2009, she has made sure that her talent is the first thing people notice. Though Natalie does enjoy baking and reading the Twilight Saga.
Her mentality was something that interested me, so I interviewed the NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series driver about her background, dirt racing, and overcoming challenges.
1. Can you tell us how you started racing?
Growing up in Fargo, ND, I liked going to our local sprint car race track Red River Valley Speedway. Growing up watching World of Outlaw Champion Donny Schatz, I always said that one day I would race against him. At nine years old, after lots of convincing, my parents finally bought me a go-kart. We started racing at our local go-kart track and continued to move up and travel over the next few years. Winning multiple races, Track Championships, State Championships, and I became the first girl to win a International Karting Federation Grand National Championship on Asphalt. The following year, I moved up to a sprint car and went back to the track where I would watch Donny Schatz. After only 3 races, I was involved in a bad accident that broke my leg in 3 places. I had to have surgery placing a rod and 3 screws in my leg. I was told that I would not be racing that year. Despite Dr’s orders, after lots of physical therapy and hard work, I was back in my sprint car 4 months later. It was very hard to get back into a race car, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do, and wasn’t giving up. The following season I kept on pursuing my dream and moved to Oklahoma to race with the American Sprint Car Series. Kenny Woodruff would be the man guiding me through my sprint car years. We raced together successfully for 5 years. The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program came calling in 2009, the only thing I had ever driven on asphalt was a go-kart back when I was 17. I flew down to Finish Line Racing School in Florida where I had a 3 day test session before flying to South Boston, VA to try out for the biggest opportunity at the time in my career. I was very nervous, after a weekend of testing and showing the skills I had to drive a race car in front of some of the best in the business in VA I was selected by a team out of Monroe, Washington. I packed by bags and moved across the country, I raced there for a season then again moved across the country to race in Virginia for the following 2 seasons. Now I am currently racing in the Camping World Truck Series.
2. Despite the obstacles you’ve been through [ i.e., your wrist injury at South Boston Speedway in 2010], you still have a passion to get to the top level of NASCAR. Why is that? How do you deal with adversities, and how do you attempt to cope with them off the track?
I have faced many obstacles in my career some physical like breaking my leg in 3 places, having a rod and 3 screws, requiring 7 surgeries throughout the years, and then breaking my wrist, also requiring surgery putting a screw in. Then there are the obstacles that you can’t necessarily see. I have had my fair share of critics, people who put me down, told me that I didn’t belong in racing, I belonged in a kitchen which my reply was I can bake a delicious chocolate chip cookie and drive a race car. I have had an amazing support system my family and friends have always encouraged me to keep pursuing my dreams. I have a motto Never, ever give up!
3. What skills have you gained while racing on dirt tracks that have helped you become a stock car talent?
Growing up racing on dirt has helped me tremendously with driving on asphalt. Throttle control from racing on dry slick dirt tracks, being able to as they would say “drive by the seat of your pants”, have all played an important part. I am able to really keep my car controlled and if it does start to get sideways I am able to catch it due to my dirt background.
4. What are your racing superstitions, and do you have any pre-race rituals?
I always pray before I race. I have a lucky piggie that is always in my car with me. Also a very kind note that is taped that I read before I go out for every race. I do some yoga stretches and try to relax/focus as much as I can before climbing into my race vehicle.