Shannon McIntosh: Living the dream on the Road to Indy

Shannon McIntosh Driver Diary Header

USAC driver and Road to Indy hopeful Shannon McIntosh joins Pop Off Valve this week as a recurring columnist. Shannon has amassed over 100 combined victories, is the highest ranking female on pavement in the Midwest, and was named "Asphalt Driver of the Year." She has also been awarded the coveted Kara Hendrick Memorial Scholarship while attending Lyn St. James’ Driver Development Program.

Hello! Where in the world do I start? This is blog entry #1 of many with Pop Off Valve. We'll explore the life I live as a 21 year old race car driver with 16 years of racing experience pursuing the ultimate career and climbing the ladder to the top. I hope you'll be able to experience the ups that this sport can bring, as well as understand the lows and what it takes to make it in this cutthroat business. I am flattered to have been asked to do this by Pop Off Valve, and am looking forward to sharing what lies ahead. If you're interested in some of my previous blogs to get to know me better, you can visit http://shannonmcintosh.blogspot.com/.

At this moment in time, I have no official road racing experience. So why am I in Indianapolis and pursuing a career in IndyCar? Well, many drivers will drive whatever they are given the opportunity to, and I must admit that I too, as a race car driver at heart, would do the same. BUT... there is something special about IndyCar racing.

Most of my career, I've followed in the footsteps of drivers like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart - driving Quarter Midgets, Micro Sprints, Mini Sprints and Midgets. The natural progression in this day and age would be NASCAR. But recently, I have been more deeply introduced to the rich heritage, history and passion that lies in IndyCar. Of course, The Indianapolis 500 in itself summarizes it all - but knowing what IndyCar once was, and what it is now... makes me so motivated to get it back to that.

It was a field of sprint car and midget drivers who came from USAC, the oldest open-wheel sanctioning body in history. All of the drivers were American, and they didn't pay to drive. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think there is a problem with culture and diversity, but of the 38 total drivers who have competed this year (in a series where 14 of 18 races are in America), 11 of them are American. What's wrong with this picture?

I am currently pursuing The Road to Indy ladder system with the goal of driving F2000 next year, and will be one American you can be sure to see lots of. We'll talk about the female factor another day. :)

So here goes the "real" entry for today.

"Living the Dream" is such a dry, overused term, but when I say that I am living the dream, I mean it in its entirety. Not many people can say they live everyday pursuing their dreams and making goals a reality. Facing challenges, making accomplishments, and exploring life.

I come from Miamisburg, Ohio - a city outside of Dayton with a population of about 20,000. It's not a big city but not a one stoplight town either. My working middle class income parents raised my younger sister and I modestly, in a two story, three bedroom home. My Dad has been a machinist for 25 years and my mom is a beautician turned elementary school teacher's aide.

I've been raised with amazing guidance, tough love, eternal support and the freedom to make my own choices. Naturally, I'm a competitive spirited, goal oriented, make-things-happen kind of person. From a very young age, my parents noticed a focus beyond my years and saw a kid who loved a challenge.

At the age of 3, the training wheels were off of my bicycle. At 5, I was undefeated at my home track in my first year of racing Quarter Midgets. At 11, I began racing against adult men over twice my age. I was oblivious to the fact that I was probably only 90lbs, a 6th grade cheerleader and was competing competitively (and I don't mean putting around) on dirt tracks up to nearly a half mile in length, reaching speeds 100+mph.

In 2006, my family took the last leap financially possible and moved up to USAC Ford Focus Midgets. A premier "affordable" spec series under the historical banner of USAC was sure to give us the exposure and competition needed to get the break I wanted.

I finished fifth in points as a rookie, had the most heat race wins (five), fifteen top-tens, two top-fives, a podium and the highest ranked female in the Midwest. I was named Dayton Auto Race Fans Asphalt Driver of the Year, graduated Lyn St. James' Driver Development program where I received the Kara Hendrick Memorial Scholarship Award for outstanding performance and was a recipient of the PitFit Training Scholarship.

2007 rolled around, and we didn't race a single race. The funds were bone dry and we didn't get any sponsors on board. Before I knew it, I had graduated from high school and was heading to Charlotte, North Carolina for my first year of college at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

While in school, I made connections and did the best I could to secure something for the 2008. I worked at Richard Petty Driving Experience and Best Impressions Catering. The plan was to race a Dirt Super Late Model for the entire season and it ended up falling through-maybe I'll write a side blog on this one. We were supposed to run a few Sprint Car races too which ended up falling through as well.. So I got an opportunity from owner Jerry Wald of Chicago to race 4 Dirt Super Late Model races at Kamp Motor Speedway in Boswell, Indiana. (Special thanks to Jerry, John and crew)

So, long story short - 2007 and 2008 ended up being bad years for us. I decided that I would take 2009 year off school and focus on getting myself back on the map and finding funding for racing.

In 2009, I raced 3 USAC Ford Focus Midget races. In my first race back in 2 years, I finished 3rd after racing my way up from the back of the pack.

After the season, I decided I was going to move to Indianapolis to be "where it's at"! As usual, when I put my mind to something, I make it happen. So where we end up, is here, right now in Speedway, Indiana.

I've secured a Partnership for this race season with www.GlassHammerRacing.com and have done 4 USAC Regional Midget races driving for Bob East. I raced three nights at Speedrome and finished 7th, 4th, and 3rd as well as a heat race win. Then, I finished 2nd at Plymouth in my most recent race at the end of July!

So next blog up... will recap this season and tell you about where I am now in my career and life. I hope you enjoy the ride. :)

Leaving you with THE recurring theme of my life, and what gets me from each opportunity or obstacle to the next open door:

Never, never, never give up. Live by NinTai.

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