Amber Fleeman sees a future in racing; in NASCAR, ideally with Rick Hendrick signing her paychecks. Her dream isn’t what you might expect: think less Danica and more mechanic-a.
“I knew I couldn't make a life for myself in racing unless I chose a different path rather than traditional driving,” said Fleeman.
Fleeman is earning her stripes as a driver in Legends cars at Atlanta Motor Speedway after working her way up from other types of cars. The Georgia Tech mechanical engineering major’s goal, however, is to one day be a racecar engineer, working in a race shop on designing the best and fastest cars.
“I would prefer to have a more Monday-Friday, 9-to-5 kind of job so I can still have a family one day just like any other person,” said Fleeman. “It's hard to do that, those crew chiefs and drivers who have their family on the road all the time, that's hard.”
To prepare, Fleeman not only races in her downtime, but she gets the cars ready. Her father Russell Fleeman has a race shop at their home in Dacula. He’s been racing since he was younger, often working with his father, and is proud his passion project attracted his daughter.
“It's different being a parent, standing there and watching your child do what you and your family love doing,” said Russell Fleeman.
Becoming a NASCAR race engineer isn’t easy by any means; it’s certainly more rare, if not more challenging, as a female. Fleeman says she occasionally faces some less than ideal treatment around the track because of her gender.
“There's times when it's still difficult,” said Fleeman. “There's some people who can't accept the fact and I can probably understand it if I was used to a sport that's not typically for females
There are some female engineers in NASCAR, and Fleeman says she hopes it becomes more common one day.
“It's more of a, just, you don't get the same respect, or you are treated a little nicer because it's a girl, or they can't have conversations with you. I get that a lot. There's a lot of males who can't have a conversation with you, a knowledgeable conversation with you just because you're a female.”
Fleeman has a knack for the engineering side of things, even teaching her father a thing or two she picked up in class at Tech. Her particular area of interest is the suspension system, and she says many race engineers specialize when they get further along in racing.
Talking to Fleeman, you can tell there’s a part of her that still wants to race. She’ll continue getting behind the wheel as long as she can; but more important than ending up in victory lane is motivating the people that come after her.
“I want to set a path for somebody and say, hey, you can follow behind me and do just this, or you can do something even better,” said Fleeman. “You do what you want to do.”