Emilee Tominovich knows how to put the pedal to the metal. As a professional driver in the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup SCCA Pro Series, the Clarksville resident has a knowledge of motor vehicles that can only be learned by driving them around precise turns at more than 100 miles per hour.
So it is somewhat ironic that Tominovich is sponsored by TrueCar — an automotive marketplace web site designed to assist inexperienced auto buyers — as part of its "women empowered initiative."
Tominovich is one of six women from around the country sponsored by TrueCar as professional racers.
It "really helped me out and allowed me to race on the professional series, and it's awesome because it's never been done before," she said. "They're not only helping me, but also these five other women really develop ourselves and take our skills to the next level."
Tominovich has only been racing professionally for two years, but she got her first taste two years before that, when she was still a high school student playing soccer at Archbishop Spalding.
Sidelined with an injury, she decided to tag along with her racing-enthusiast father, Joey, to the New Jersey Motorsports Park.
"(Before that) the only racer I knew was Danica Patrick and that's because everybody knows the name at least," she said. "(But) I got in the car and knew that I wanted to race instead of play soccer. I was hooked. People describe when they play their sport, everything else that they're thinking just goes away. Soccer was fun but that never really happened. But once I got in the race car that's the only thing I focused on."
Two years later Emilee's parents gave her a gift certificate to attend a five-day racing school, the completion of which made her eligible to apply for a regional racing license.
Her first race was in the fall of 2010, and she has kept a busy schedule ever since. Some of the highlights of her young racing career include driving in a support race in front of 150,000 fans at the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida and attending the Indianapolis 500 this year in support of one of her TrueCar teammates.
She also had the opportunity to meet Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson, who happens to own C.J. Wilson Racing, the team Tominovich races for in the MX-5 Cup series.
"He's really down to earth, really mellow, super nice, and really easy to have a conversation with," she said.
Moving forward, Tominovich has two races in September, one at the Virginia International Raceway and one on Coronado Island near San Diego. In October, she'll race in Atlanta at the Petit La Mans.
And in the meantime, Tominovich is studying nursing and marketing as a sophomore at Catholic University.
"It's difficult ... but luckily my school and professors have been really helpful with letting me take (tests) early or late or letting me miss classes," she said. "I just get treated like another athlete at the school. If I have to miss something I just have to make it up."
But while Tominovich is doing the responsible thing by developing a back-up plan, she would like to turn professional racing into a career, eventually moving on to NASCAR's Grand-Am series.
"I think motor sports is one of the only, if not the only, sport where men and women can compete equally," she said. "It's kind of cool because you can't be like 'Oh, I'm stronger than you so I'm going to be faster than you.' ... there's an advantage to being a woman in motor sports and a disadvantage, because you get looked at more. If somebody sees that there's a woman racing they're going to say, 'Oh! How did she do?' so if you do really well it looks really good, but if you don't do well people notice that, too."