For Julia Landauer, a blossoming career in NASCAR has its roots in family quality time. For five years starting from when she was 10, Landauer’s parents took the family to a go-kart track two hours from their New York City home almost every weekend. Landauer says she started to win “right away” against her siblings, and she fell in love with racing. She made up her mind at 12 that she wanted to be a race car driver.
Two years later, Landauer became the first female champion in the Skip Barber Racing Series.
But despite her early success, the 25-year-old says being a woman in a male-dominated sport presents a challenge both on the track and in business. “I think there are expectations that women might not be successful or there’s this assumption that she’s not going to be great,” the 2017 30 Under 30 list member explains. “Driver coaches have pointed out that the guys race me harder than they race other guys. Hearing my driving coach recognize that was really powerful and shows the importance of having allies — especially male allies.”
Winning is one way to erase preconceived notions about her racing ability, but racing is an expensive sport that requires more than just driving talent. To compete, Landauer needs funding. “I learned that I was going to have to make myself a brand and make myself attractive to potential partners and sponsors,” she says.
She admits that when people first meet her, they aren’t expecting a NASCAR driver. “It’s really cool to see someone’s reaction and maybe be a little judge-y or try to figure out where it all comes together,” Julia says.
At Stanford, where she earned a B.S. in an interdisciplinary major called science, technology and society, Landauer says she learned what’s under the hood of a brand, from illustrating her ROI for potential sponsors to how to behave in a boardroom. “Every racer is a startup and you have to think about the marketing, the funding, the brand development and the people you have around you,” she elaborates. She practices what she preaches: she says she spends a great deal of time drafting proposals to companies, following up on press and taking interviews.
Landauer placed fourth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series championship in 2016, the highest finish by a woman ever, and is a member of NASCAR’s Next Class, which honors the most promising racers around the world. She says that as a female driver, “any little success I have will be amplified.”
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