“I spent three years driving coast to coast and sleeping in truck stops across the country. I gained a lot of respect for truck drivers and now through this green awareness campaign I have the opportunity to recognize those men and women on the roads.” --Caitlin Shaw, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver
It’s not every day that you encounter a NASCAR driver getting behind a “green” campaign aimed at the trucking community – much less a rookie female NASCAR driver at that.
And, in a way, it’s more than a little ironic to be promoting “environmentally-friendly” behavior among truckers from behind the wheel of a fuel-guzzling, emission-producing racing vehicle.
Yet that’s what Caitlin Shaw (at right), a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver at all of 21 years of age, is doing in conjunction with her sponsor – a company called The Oil Medics, which seeks to get truckers to select long-life engine oil to not only preserve the health and longevity of their engines but reduce oil consumption as well through longer drain intervals, thus reducing the flow of “waste oil” produced by big rig engines every year.
Shaw doesn’t see this as “ironic,” though, and for good reason. A motorsports competitor since she was just 9 years old, Shaw’s experienced the trucking lifestyle first hand after criss-crossing the U.S. towing her race vehicles.
[You can see Shaw talk about some of the reasons why she’s involved in racing from an interview two years ago.]
“When I was 16, I decided I wanted to make a career out of racing,” she told me by phone from Charlotte, NC, where she’s going to college and working as an intern at Michael Waltrip’s racing shop.
“So my dad and I would drive go out on the road for three or four months at a time in our RV towing my race car,” Shaw said. “We slept in our truck and stayed many a time at truck stops like Flying J and even Wal-Mart parking lots. Also, lot of truck drivers came over to us to talk about racing and get autographs at many of the places we stayed.”
[She also credits very understanding high school teachers, who emailed her homework and study assignments while out on her long racing sojourns.]
Shaw’s father also explained to her “road etiquette,” in terms of passing only on the left and flashing one’s lights to help a trucker know when it’s safe to merge. “I gained a lot of respect for truck drivers from that time on the road,” she told me. “A few times, we traveled from California to Utah between races. Once, we had to drive from California to Indiana. It gave me a taste of what a trucker’s life is like out on the highway.”
Racing for a living, though, is not a cheap endeavor. Even competition in NASCAR’s Truck Series – considered the “minor leagues” of NASCAR racing – is expensive, with a team costing $3 million to fund for one season of racing. That’s one reason she’s glad to have The Oil Medics as a sponsor.
But she also believes in their message: that every lit bit a trucker does to run “greener” helps the environment in the long run. “Originally, we figured we’d just pick a ‘fan of the week’ and promote them on my web page,” Shaw told me. “But we decided we really needed to do something more; to really recognize truckers that take that extra ‘green’ step.”
As a result, her campaign will highlight one trucker each week that has made an environmentally friendly initiative via their truck – be it from using biodiesel fuel, bypass oil filtration, anything that helps save fuel and reduce pollution – and display them on her fan page as well as The Oil Medics web site.
[All submissions, by the way, need to include the driver or owner name, a photo, and a short description of their green initiatives and be sent to [email protected]]
“Our ‘core mission’ is to increase fuel economy and prolong engine life, while reducing oil purchases by up to 90%,” stressed Bill Jewell, owner of The Oil Medics. “Caitlin’s NASCAR platform reaches a high audience to gain awareness for this campaign and we are proud to be working with her to gain awareness for truckers and for our environment.”
The campaign will run from Sept. 15 through Nov. 9 leading up to Shaw’s race at Phoenix International Raceway, with winners announced each Monday during that time period.
Right now, Shaw is only racing once a year as she’s still in the process of building up enough sponsors to fund a team. She goes to school Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm, spends time on developing sponsorships and other marketing efforts from 2:30 pm to 6:30 pm, then hits the gym for a grueling upper body workout.
“I work my upper body and ‘core’ muscles every day,” Shaw explained to me. “Racing is really tough on those muscles.”
I know a little something about that after going four laps at 165 mph as a race car passenger a few years back down at the Texas International Speedway – a terrifying and physically brutal experience, with the G-forces of each turn putting a ton of pressure on my upper body muscles.
None of that fazes Shaw, however. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday she works 9-to-5 for Michael Waltrip’s racing company as an intern, handling a variety marketing and public relation duties but also hopping into “pit cars” when she gets a chance to keep her driving skills and reaction times razor sharp. “I’m getting a lot of good business experience as well as a chance to train as well,” she told me.
She also sees herself as a role model for women, as well: hoping to convince girls of all ages that don’t have to limit themselves to being spectators at racing events – that they can get in and drive with the best of them out on the track if that’s something they want to do.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Shaw told me. “But I really enjoy what I do.”