Written by Aneela Nasir and Termeria Taper
Julia Landauer, the highest-finishing female in NASCAR K&N Pro Series championship and Forbes 2017 30 under 30 recipient, is speaking as part of Mount Mary University’s Voices of Leadership Stage Series tomorrow, March 14th.
Although there is a considerable amount of information available about her online (the 26-year-old race car driver has numerous accomplishments under belt, pun intended), we had the opportunity to ask her some more personal questions. Read on to discover some interesting facts about Landauer that you may not find elsewhere, such as current obsessions, weird campus traditions at her alma mater, Stanford, and the legacy she hopes to leave behind.
Is there anything you constantly wear or carry with you when racing?
My wardrobe is pretty straight forward in that it has to be all fire-resistant. I have fire-resistant long underwear, pants, and shirt, shoes, sock, helmet and gloves. There is very little variation when it comes to racing attire. I try not to have anything that isn’t fire-resistant on me. The only thing is that I have my ear pierced with earrings I can’t take out myself, so that’s the one thing I have. But God forbid, if you catch on fire, that’s the last thing you want to have is metal on you. So unfortunately, I don’t have a very exciting answer to that question.
What are you obsessed with right now?
I have recently started working with a new trainer, so I’m pretty excited. We’re doing a lot of work with head and neck strength, which helps with strengthening the driver against concussions. It’s really exciting just from a safety standpoint and there’s a lot of research about it.
I am also learning how to cook better. I’m definitely getting a little more adventurous and trying new things, which is great.
And the last one is, I’m moving soon, so interior design, setting up the new apartment to be my haven, looking at wall colors, and how can I use the furniture I already have. That’s been fun in the off-season.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given you?
I forget who said this to me — or maybe I read it — but it’s this idea that no one is going to be able to be a bigger cheerleader for you than you. Therefore, you need to believe in yourself, and if you believe in yourself, then that’s contagious, right? Other people will then be more likely to believe in you. More importantly, if you don’t believe in yourself or you don’t believe you can do it, then why should other people believe it?
You need to set the example of how you want people to think of you. You don’t have to be cocky to do that. Having confidence, purpose, direction, or can-do attitude that you’re going to figure it out, that’s really attractive to people. And if you ask for help and have that mentality, then you’re more likely to have people be on your side.
You’ve talked about “the feeling of being deeply in the zone and like an extension of the vehicle you’re driving”. What exactly does that feel like?
When I think of “the zone”, and I think you can get this feeling from multiple different things, like there were some essays that I’d write in college and I felt like I was in the zone. But it’s this idea that you’re really prepared, so you feel confident in that regard. And, you are so one-dimensionally focused on what you’re doing and incredibly present in the moment that you almost don’t have to think about it. Your body and mind just do whatever they have to together to accomplish the goal really well. And, it’s kind of elevating you to the level of operation where you don’t have to think about each step. It makes the whole process seamless and subconscious. It’s an out-of-body experience.
In a previous interview you had, you mentioned that NASCAR has an almost 40% female base, but the sponsorships available don’t represent that. What do you think can be done to increase the brands that cater to the female population?
I think part of it comes from the fact that even though it has a female fan base, I just think that because there’s so few women racers that a lot of it doesn’t get thought about. And racing is tough because sponsorship and partnership are so difficult and racing is so expensive that there are a lot of uphill battles to secure a sponsor who’s going to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars for racing. But I think part of what is really great is that we keep having that conversation. We pitch a lot of companies —me and my manager — and we have a lot of conversations. I think I mentioned that at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women.
So for me, when I have these audiences, to be able to say that is really cool. Because there were a lot of brands in the audience that were like “Oh my goodness, I didn’t know that so many women watched NASCAR”. 80 million people consume NASCAR on the race weekend. So to kind of show what a big pool it is of women, fans and consumers, it’s just important to be eye-opening like that.
So from this point forward, [while] I think it would be a little inorganic to have a women’s product on their car, but I consider it a goldmine to showcase those [products] and to bring that visual. It’s going to be baby steps and it’s going to take more women getting into the sport, but hopefully there will be more in the years to come.
So, you’re a Stanford grad. Were there any special campus traditions that you took part in there? If so, what were they?
They’ve got a lot of weird traditions. One of them is, at midnight during finals week, we have this thing called primal scream, and so right at midnight, a lot of people would scream out these blood-curdling shrieks. The first time it happens, you don’t know it’s going to happen, so it’s terrifying and you think someone is dying. I took part in that too, because when else are you able to scream at the top of your lungs?
Also, during our football games against UC-Berkeley, since Berkeley’s mascot is a bear, we kind of symbolize that we’ve killed the bear and all of our water fountains are filled with red water. I didn’t take part in that, but I can appreciate it.
How do you develop your voice in male-dominated spaces?
It’s taken a lot of work is the first answer. Growing up, I got a lot of unsolicited advice on how to behave and how to represent myself. I think that also be raised as a New Yorker and racing made me different, going to Stanford made me different, and being female made me different. I found that I didn’t feel like I was standing for anything when I was taking advice and trying to fit a certain mold. So part of it comes with age, comes with practice, comfort and kind of showing who you are, what your true colors are and seeing that there’s some receptivity to that. But it also comes with me in my gut when I see people, especially women getting treated unfairly, it’s like a twist of a knife. It’s really unpleasant.
So whether it’s with my team if they make senseless jokes, I don’t call people out because I don’t want to make people uncomfortable because I think that’s a bit defensive, but pointing out that it’s not funny or not laughing along with the jokes is huge. I think that also pointing out some of the unique gender-specific obstacles that I, as a female racer [go through], pointing those out to the men at the race track who I know have daughters, I find to be really powerful. When you find the guys who are raising daughters and they see that you can do [racing] and they realize that there are some burdens to being female, I think they think about it more and it’s up to them to bring it up to other people. But I think once you get used to having the discussion and making it a routine not to accept misogyny and sexist behavior, then it becomes more comfortable.
When you win a race, how long does it take for the victory to “hit you” and how long does the excitement last after winning, before you move on to your next aspiration?
It does depend. After I graduated from Stanford, my next racing season was my first full-time season back in a race car. It was a Nascar-sanctioned series. I hadn’t raced full-time in four or five years at that point and I went out and won the first race. That one took a few days to really sink in. Six weeks later, I won the second race of the season. By the time I won the third race that season, I started to get a little more accustomed to the fact that I had really gotten it down and it became, not any less exciting, but less shocking. You’re only as good as your last race and what’s so interesting about racing is that there’s one winner and 20-40 losers. There’s such a low percentage and likelihood of winning, but then you could race every week, so you always have another opportunity. It makes you very competitive and hungry to give it your all, every race.
What do you hope your legacy will be?
I hope my legacy will be that I grabbed life by the horns and really lived in the moment, lived big, lived large and went after the dreams and the things that I found important. But then also, gave back and inspired other people to go after their dreams, even if it’s uncomfortable. That it’s okay to be the underdog and it’s okay not to fit the mold. Because at the end of the day, if you’re doing something with conviction, then that’s all you can ask of yourself. And to help spread that message. If I can accomplish that, and hopefully win a lot of races and be a very decorated race car driver, I’ll be pretty pleased.