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Busch launches Accelerate Her programme to support female NASCAR drivers

Anheuser-Busch has been a NASCAR partner for over four decades, and now the beer producer wants to uplift a small demographic in the racing world. On Monday, Busch Beer announced the launch of the Busch Light Accelerate Her programme, which intends to invest money into sponsoring female drivers over the age of 21 (the legal alcohol drinking age in the United States) to assist them in their careers.

It is no secret across virtually every motorsport discipline that women make up a tiny sliver in many positions, especially drivers. Entering the 2022 season, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Hailie Deegan of the Camping World Truck Series are the only full-time drivers in a NASCAR national series; Cobb is a member of Accelerate Her, while Deegan is underage at 20 so she is ineligible. The top-level Cup Series has not had a regular female driver since Danica Patrick retired after six seasons in 2017.

Efforts to narrow the gender gap have taken place in various divisions of racing, from the open-wheel W Series to Extreme E having teams of one male and one female each. Since 2004, NASCAR has run the Drive for Diversity programme which seeks to give racial minorities and women opportunities in stock car racing.

“In racing, sponsorship is not just the key to success, but what it takes to even get a spot on the track,” begins a statement on the Busch website. “That’s why we’re making a first-of-its-kind commitment to sponsor every woman driver (21+) in NASCAR today–and for years to come. Through the Busch Light Accelerate Her program, we’re promising to provide access to more track time, more media exposure and more training for up-and-coming talent.

“Every driver will receive a direct sponsorship grant from Busch Light, but that’s not all. We’ve redirected 25% of our yearly NASCAR budget to solely support marketing resources and brand support for our women drivers. We’re committed to paving a lane for women on and off the track, and the Busch Light Accelerate Her program is our first step towards a future with more women drivers.”

Accelerate Her will get $10 million in funding to allocate to seven drivers: Cobb, Amber Balcaen, Toni Brieidinger, Natalie Decker, Melissa Fifield, Stephanie Moyer, and Brittney Zamora. While Cobb is the only driver of the group who is competing regularly in a NASCAR national division, Breidinger and Balcaen are running the full 2022 ARCA Menards Series season to mark the first year in which the series had multiple female racers.

Cobb has been an owner/driver in the Truck Series since 2010, mainly driving the #10 Chevrolet for her Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing organisation. Being a small team, steady funding and strong finishes are rare to come by; in 230 career Truck starts, her best finish is sixth at Daytona in 2011, while her highest points placement is sixteenth in 2014. The 48-year-old also has starts in the Xfinity Series and nearly made her Cup début in 2021 before she was disapproved.

Hailing from Canada, Balcaen is set to race in ARCA for Rette Jones Racing. She has four starts in the ARCA Menards Series West, including three for Bill McAnally Racing in 2021 with a best finish of eleventh as a member of the BMR Drivers Academy. In 2016, she became the first Canadian woman to win a NASCAR-sanctioned race when she claimed a weekly series victory at Motor Mile Speedway.

Breidinger will run the ARCA schedule for Venturini Motorsports. She has the most wins by a woman in United States Auto Club (USAC) history with nineteen, and won the USAC Speed2 Western Pavement Midget Series in 2018. She has twelve career ARCA starts since 2018, with a nine-race schedule in 2021 that saw a pair of top tens. Plans of racing in the Truck Series in 2021 were dropped when she left Young’s Motorsports, though if she did, she would have been the first female driver of Arab descent (Lebanese) to race in a national series.

Decker, a 2015 Drive for Diversity programme member, has Truck and Xfinity experience. In 2020, she became the highest-finishing female Truck driver when she placed fifth in the season opener at Daytona. She ran five Xfinity races in 2021 for Reaume Brothers Racing and Our Motorsports when the latter purchased the former’s #23 car, and will return to RBR for the 2022 Daytona race.

Fifield is a three-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Most Popular Driver from 2014 to 2016. She has raced full-time in the series for her family-run team since 2014, with a best race finish of fifteenth at Wall Stadium in 2019. 2017 saw her highest standings finish of fifteenth.

Moyer joins Accelerate Her as she gets ready for a full campaign in the ARCA Menards Series East. She began racing in ARCA in 2021 for Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing, making four starts in the national series and six in the East with two top tens in her first runs in the latter.

Zamora was an ARCA Menards Series West full-timer for BMR, during which she finished fifth in points with top tens in all but three races and two poles. However, she was replaced by another female driver in Gracie Trotter for 2020, and instead only did a one-off. The same applied in 2021 when she ran the ARCA national series race at Daytona for Rette Jones Racing. Later in the year, she won a pro late model race at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedawy to become the first woman to win in one of the historic track’s top series.

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