Player's Own Voice podcast: Canadian Amber Balcaen on the NASCAR circuit
Manitoba racer blazes trail at 300 km/h
NASCAR drivers generally have a lot in common. For starters, they are overwhelmingly American, male, and coming from seriously wealthy backgrounds.
Winnipeg's own Amber Balcaen has got her "outsider" bases covered.
As the only Canadian racing fulltime in NASCAR's ARCA circuit, she's overcoming challenges left, right and centre. Luckily, Balcaen is used to fighting for what she wants. Her background in Canadian dirt track racing only allowed her to drive a few months a year, while her competition in the southern U.S., enjoyed tracks that were open year-round.
Sponsorship, the keys to the castle in this incredibly expensive sport, doesn't come easy for a Canadian either. Why would a Canadian company get behind a sport that is overwhelmingly popular in the U.S., but hit and miss north of the 49th? And why would Americans put money behind a Canadian racer?
That's where Balcaen's business background, and limitless hustle, made the difference. She noticed that race tracks were always ringed with RVs full of fans, so she started building a business case around that, then courted a Canadian-based, North American firm making RV parts. A winning partnership was formed, and she's racing in a custom red and white rocket to prove it.
As a woman among Good Ole Boys, nothing came easy for Balcaen. She had to win respect the only way you can in racing: weekend after weekend of high finishes, quality performances, and fearless competition.
Everybody loves an underdog story. The only trouble there is she's so fast on the track that the "underdog" label doesn't fit the bill anymore.
Despite focusing on her race this coming Saturday at the super speedway in Talledega, Balcaen found time with Player's Own Voice podcast host Anastasia Bucsis to talk about her unlikely journey from Manitoba dirt tracks to the heartland of American racing.
Like the CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective.
Transcripts are provided for our hard of hearing audience. To listen to Amber Balcaen, any guests from earlier episodes, and more Canadian athletes from the Tokyo and Beijing Olympics and Paralympics, head to CBC Listen — or wherever else you get your podcasts.