Our newest participant for the ChicMoto Influencer Interview Series, Amber Balcaen was born in Canada and dreams of making it big in NASCAR. How big you ask? “My goal is to be the first Canadian woman to win a NASCAR Series race.” Pretty big! With high dreams comes much-needed determination; which Amber definitely portrays! ChicMoto was so happy to have Amber on board for an interview!! But first, let’s learn a little bit more about Amber.
Like we mentioned, Amber is from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Amber quickly realized that she wanted to make a career in the racing industry after racing karts when she was younger. As she worked hard and started winning, her dream of taking racing to the next level became her reality. “After my first win I realized wow, this is something I could be really good at. But I always think I can do better and be better. You can never stop improving as a race car driver.”
Amber continues to improve and succeed. Currently racing for Lee Pulliam Performance in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series where she sits 3rd in overall points, Amber aims high and has accomplished a lot. Just to name a few great successes, Amber was the first woman to win a dirt track racing championship in Manitoba. She has won 75% of her completed races in 2013 (that is awesome!) and has earned the 2014 NOSA Spring Car Rookie Of The Year Award, according to her website Amber Balcaen Racing.
Phew, that is a lot of big wins! No wonder she dreams of winning NASCAR! When this girl puts her mind to something, I think it is safe to say she succeeds. Which brings us to our outstanding interview with Amber! ChicMoto wanted to know more about this Canadian Speedster; what her greatest accomplishments were, what her first car was, how she got into racing, and so much more. You’ll just have to keep reading for the full thing.
And with that, let’s welcome Amber Balcaen!
Q & A With NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Racer, Amber Balcaen
CM: What were you like as a child? Were you cautious or a risk-taker? Is your family surprised that you’ve built a career in the racing world?
AB: I was definitely more of a risk taker. I’ve never really had a lot of fear. I had all boy cousins so we would always be racing bikes against each other or doing ridiculous stunts. When I was young I also did gymnastics, cheer leading, dance, taekwondo, horseback riding, and volleyball but racing was always #1 to me and came before everything else, and its obviously what I stuck with! My parents weren’t overly surprised that I wanted to build a career in racing because I was born into this sport and it has been my greatest passion since I was a child.
CM: When you first started off in racing, what was the turning point for you where you knew you were “in”, as they say?
AB: I don’t know if I ever really felt like I was “in”. After my first win I realized wow, this is something I could be really good at. But I always think I can do better and be better. You can never stop improving as a race car driver. There isn’t a real feeling of job security in racing because of both the financial factors, and the fact that you can win one week, and not finish the race the next week. Because of that, I don’t know if I will ever really feel like i am completely “in”, but I will definitely try to be the best driver I can be and represent my marketing partners the best I can.
CM: What was your first car and some great memories from it?
AB: My first “race car” was a go-kart. and as goofy as it sounds my favorite memories from go-kart racing was learning how to clean the bearings in the race shop with my dad, and skipping Wednesday afternoons of school to drive to North Dakota in an old pick up truck with my dad to race against my “American friends”. those really were the good ol’ days!
CM: As a female driver, what are some biggest changes in the racing world that you’ve seen come around? How have these changes impacted your experience as a racer?
AB: We went from women not even being allowed in the pits 50 years ago to having females in the top series of NASCAR. I think diversity in the racing world is becoming a lot more common which is definitely a huge positive for our sport. Ive had some challenges in the past with being a female in this sport but I believe it has made me the person I am today and wouldn’t change a thing about it! Being a female hinders you in the way that it is more difficult to be taken seriously but is a positive because if you are talented, it is easier to get noticed.
CM: What was your proudest victory? And what did you gain from it?
AB: There are 2 victory’s that come to mind that i am especially proud of. One was when I raced lightening sprints and was having a successful season, a lot of the drivers I raced against accused me of cheating and was treating me very unfairly. Another one of my competitors saw this and decided to let me race his car to prove to others that I wasn’t cheating. I won in his car, and not only that but it was the most dominating race I had had. It felt good to prove to others that I could win in any car. My other victory was putting a 410 sprint car team together. It was always my dream to race 410 sprint cars but never thought I would financially be able to do it. I tried anyways and succeeded and got crowned as rookie of the year.
CM: What was your greatest defeat? And what did you learn from it?
AB: My greatest defeat has always been lack of financial backing. What I learn from lack of funding was; how to create a brand, how to create new relationships with marketing partners, how to maintain current relationships with sponsors, how to market my brand and create value to potential sponsors. If I was given everything I would not have the understand of motorsports marketing. It has taught me real work ethic and tested my character as a person. in 2015 I was told I would no longer drive my 410 sprint car I went through an entire year without a full ride and this was shortly after I made the decision to make racing my full-blown career. I had given up everything to race and not racing was the hardest thing I have ever went through. What I learned from it was to never give up. I continued to work on sponsorship and by the following year I had raised enough funding to do a full season in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (2016).
CM: What advice would you give women interested in starting their own careers in the racing world?
AB: I would tell them to not let anyone ever bring you down. Do not listen to any negativity being thrown your way, and if you do use it as motivation to keep pushing forward. If racing is what you are passionate about and you are willing to put in the work, then the possibilities are endless. Also, ALWAYS appreciate your fans. Without fans, there is no racing!
CM: If you were talking to your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?
AB: Any struggles or hardships that you are going to go through will only build your character and make you a better person. Some things won’t work out how you planned, but its usually for the better. Finding your passion and purpose in life and run with it. It may be a lot harder than expected but it will be worth it. If you have the passion, determination and are willing to do the work than you will achieve your dreams. Have confidence in your abilities and believe in yourself. You control the outcomes of your life, just always stay positive.
CM: Have you been supported by a mentor during your career? Who were / are they? And what value have they brought to your career?
AB: I have had so many people help me throughout the years. Started with my dad, I always looked up to him in racing, both for his work ethic and talent. He was my major mentor in my dirt racing career, along with my grandfather Lou Kennedy Sr. I have also had a lot of people that I have turned to for advice in the NASCAR world when I switched over from dirt to pavement. One of those people being Steve Arpin, another Canadian born dirt race who currently races for Chip Ganassi. The NASCAR world is a completely different industry than dirt racing, I have had to reach out to many for advice, and Steve Arpin is always someone I could trust for the truth!
CM: Being a race car driver you have to know your car inside and out. ChicMoto was created with the idea of helping women learn more about the automotive industry to gain better confidence in what they were driving. In your opinion, what is the most important thing any person should know about their vehicle and why?
AB: I think everyone should know the basics of a vehicle because you never know when you are going to get stuck on the side of the road. Know how to check your oil, change your oil, check tire pressures and change a tire. But most importantly just pay attention to what your vehicle is doing! Pay attention to your dashboard lights – know what they mean. If you hear a funny noise under the hood, or feel a vibration of any kind, something is most likely wrong so don’t ignore it – get it checked out! Will save you some trouble (and probably money) in the future 🙂
Along with racing, Amber stays busy helping to motivate others who want to make a career in this fast environment. “My main objective as a race driver (aside from winning races) is to use NASCAR as a platform to help others reach their full potential and to motivate others to be their best selves.” And that just about sums it up! Amber is not only great at racing but wants to help inspire others around her to be great at what they do! We hope to see this rookie winning NASCAR soon! Best of luck with your amazing career Amber and thanks for the interview 🙂