All-women team leaves mark on Grand Prix of Baltimore

Mazda MX-5 Cup SCCA Pro Driver Emilee Tominovich (left), sister Allie Tominovich (crew) and mom Fran Becker.
Mazda MX-5 Cup SCCA Pro Driver Emilee Tominovich (left), sister Allie Tominovich (crew) and mom Fran Becker.(Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun)

While Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas and swimmer Katie Ledecky proved to the world what a little girl power could do in London this summer, a group of women racecar drivers prepared to show the Grand Prix of Baltimore what they could do with a little horsepower.

Emilee Tominovich of Clarksville and her TrueCar Racing teammates are the only all-female team to compete in six different racing series, including two featured in the city's stop along the Mazda Road to Indy.

Mont Brownlee's 5-year-old daughter, Adella, smiled when she learned about the women drivers, as she fought a losing battle with her melting ice cream. The little girl, who lives with her family in Roland Park, had been enthralled by the female Olympians, her father said. But to Brownlee's son, Teb, 10, the all-women team didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary.

"I think it's pretty fair to have boys and girls," he said.

Danica Patrick — who recently switched from IndyCar to NASCAR — may have raised the profile of women in racing everywhere, but sports buffs say female drivers are still rare.

Tominovich, a 2010 graduate of Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, said she is thrilled to be part of a team that works to empower women. TrueCar assembled the team in December 2011 after scouting the nation for talent.

"The cars know no gender, so I think a lot of us just think of ourselves as drivers, not women drivers," she said.

Tominovich, 19, started racing when she was a high school senior. After playing soccer for 13 years, she jumped into the driver's seat of a racecar for fun at New Jersey Motorsports Park with the encouragement of her racecar enthusiast father, Joey.

"I had always enjoyed soccer, but I had much more fun racing: the sounds, the smells, the people, being in the car," she said.

Tominovich, who is also a junior nursing major at Catholic University in Washington, isn't participating at the Grand Prix of Baltimore, because her series, the Mazda MX-5 Cup, is not part of the race here. She said she wanted to be at the race to support her teammates.

TrueCar Racer Ashley Freiberg, 20, took sixth place in Saturday's Star Mazda Series, her best finish of the season.

Freiberg, of Bondville, Vt., said she came to Baltimore last year, but, without a sponsor, she couldn't race.

"I remember how badly I wished I was out there," Freiberg said. "The track looked like so much fun. There was so many fans here. The energy surrounding this event was amazing.

"And, it turns out, the track's amazing."

Another teammate, Shannon McIntosh, 23, said she loves racing in an urban setting, especially in a place like Baltimore that has a skyline, which can help the drivers study the course and pinpoint places to accelerate or slow down.

McIntosh, of St. Petersburg, Fla., was caught up in a first-lap pileup in the USF2000 Series and her car was damaged, according to team spokeswoman Susan Bradshaw Crowther. She ended on lap nine in 24th place.

McIntosh hasn't always paid much attention to the gender barrier she was helping to break in the racing world.

"I have always been so naive to the fact that I am a girl in a man's world," she said. "I think the older I get and the further up I move, the more I am aware of it. But I love it, because it's more motivating to me."

Fans Teresa Simonait of Canton and her friends Ashley Novelli and Tiffany Knappenberger, both of Philadelphia, said they were impressed by the all-women team, although they admittedly had come out to check out the "hot guys and fast cars."

"I hope they kick butt and show those men who's boss!" Simonait said.