Another year goes by, and another AMA Pro Racing season kicks off at Daytona. There are several plot lines to follow, as riders will try to foil Josh Hayes’ fourth consecutive SuperBike title. New faces on new teams and new bikes… But not to be overlooked are two familiar faces that return to action, Elena Myers and Shayna Texter. These women grid up for their season openers after breaking barriers in 2012.
Myers will race the Daytona 200 aboard a Triumph Daytona 675R for the Latus Motors Racing. She is not the first woman to contest the Daytona 200, in fact Mr. Hayes’ wife, Melissa Paris, is also on the entry list and a regular D200 competitor. However, Myers competes in the prestigious D200 as the first-ever woman to win a motorsport contest at Daytona International Speedway – claiming the second AMA SuperSport win last season (see embed video below).
Texter returns to campaign the AMA Flat Track Pro Singles Championship. The 21-year-old (22 tomorrow) made waves in the Pro Singles class winning the main event at Knoxville, a repeat of her first-ever Pro Singles victory at Knoxville the year prior. Her Knoxville win was one of three 2012 victories, en route to fifth in the final championship standings.
The two young riders share similarities. Both are in the early stages of their careers, and both are pint-sized blondes who can hang it out with the boys. But most importantly, Texter and Myers are winning.
Myers’ Daytona win was perhaps the most headline-grabbing story of the 2012 AMA Pro Racing paddock. Though overshadowed by the rookie NASCAR efforts of Danica Patrick a week earlier, the 2012 SuperSport victory did merit some coverage from the mainstream press (check out AP feature on Myers on Sports Illustrated). Myers slowed down somewhat after her Daytona win, as she had to recover from a wrist injury that required surgery early in the season. However, her third-place finish in the SuperSport West series was a solid result.
This year Myers graduates from SuperSport to the Daytona SportBike ranks, making her D200 debut a formidable one. It is unclear if she will campaign the remainder of the season beyond her Daytona performance. If not, this will be a shameful development for AMA racing – a talent as marketable and critical to growing the sport as Myers warrants a full-time ride at all costs.
Shayna Texter celebrates her AMA Pro Singles Flat Track victory at Knoxville, a repeat of her first-ever Pro Singles win at the same venue in 2011.
Texter will look to contend for the Pro Singles title, improving off her breakout 2012 season. And though AMA Flat Track doesn’t generate as much media coverage (not that AMA road racing does…natch!), it is driven by grass-roots enthusiasts. Getting Texter and the likes of fellow female racers, like Nichole Cheza, turning hot laps with the boys is inspiring.
Myers and Texter, like WMX champion Ashley Fiolek, naturally generate interest as anomalies in a male-dominated sport – even more so when they can score a win. These women foster motorcycle racing to grow beyond its specialized niche. They follow in the footsteps of other two-wheeled racers, most notably NHRA Pro Stock Bike champion Angelle Sampey. A three-time NHRA champion, Sampey is second on the all-time Pro Stock Bike career win list at 41.
It’s not difficult to editorialize on the importance of Myers and Texter to motorcycle racing in particular and women’s sports in general. All three are easy to root for, and positive role models. I first rode with Myers at a trackday at Infineon. She was 14 years old and making a name for herself in the West Coast WERA and AFM series. Taking to the track on her race-prepped Ninja 650 she humbled more advanced journalists than I, who were piloting the latest ZX-6R and other sportbikes.
Myers’ success got personal for me, when my four-year-old daughter saw her on the winning Daytona podium. She wanted to know why that girl was wearing a racing suit. I explained that she not only raced with the boys, she beat them fair and square. My daughter’s eyes lit up as I saw her connecting the dots… girls can race too.
In a sport where women are often relegated to the role of pretty umbrella stands or podium eye-candy, Myers and Texter challenge conventions. And they aren’t just a feel-good novelty act. Elena Myers and Shayna Texter are proving the girls aren’t just fast, they are true competitors in their respective disciplines. It is an encouraging development to watch in 2013 and beyond, as an entire generation of young racing fans see women as true participants in the sport.
Good luck at Daytona.