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September 23. 2012 12:21AM

Girl Scouts meet possible mentor at track


Race car driver Taylor Martin, 15, of Windham, speaks to a group of New Hampshire and Vermont Girl Scouts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday. (DAN SEUFERT/Union Leader Correspondent)

LOUDON — About 30 Girl Scouts from New Hampshire and Vermont sat in awe as 15-year-old race car driver Taylor Martin walked down the aisle between them in a suite above the seats at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Saturday morning.

The Scouts, members of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, were brought to the track as part of the Scouts' “It's Your Story, Tell It” program, which encourages girls to have career goals in the fields of their choice, even in traditionally male-dominated lines of work.

Martin, who isn't old enough to get a driver's license, has won several junior racing titles and was the first female and the youngest driver ever to race at NHMS. She was set to race Saturday in a U.S. Legend Cars competition.

Standing in her bright orange and blue driving suit with “Taylor Martin Racing” decals and No. 20 on it, Martin found a captive audience in what she explained was her first public speaking appearance.

The Scouts were all eyes and ears, even though only a few said they knew what NASCAR and racing is all about.

“The guys think it's a man's sport, but you need to show them that you're better,” she said. “The first time you beat a guy, it's the best feeling in the world.”

Martin, of Windham, told the Scouts she was born to be a race driver, something her parents realized when, at age 2, she escaped her babysitter, opened the garage door and drove her child-sized electric car on the street until she was stopped by a neighbor.

Growing up, “I always loved speed,” she said.

Now, her father is her chief sponsor, though she has a few business sponsors, too. She and her family are about to buy her a fourth racing car.

She's a student at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, Mass., but is on a junior racing circuit that takes much of her time, so she has to do a lot of school work between races and practices. Since starting her race career, at age 8 in the Quarter Midgets class, she's won more than 50 races at tracks in Meriden, Conn., Charlotte, N.C., and elsewhere.

She's hoping to follow in the steps of NASCAR racer Joey Logano, her idol and friend, who won his first NASCAR race at age 18.

The Scouts' eyes widened when Martin described how her car slammed head-on into a wall at 90 mph in a race last year and that she has driven as fast as 109 mph.

When Martin was done talking and took questions, one could see her charisma had left quite an impression, though much of what she said went over the Scouts' heads.

“Is racing as easy as just turning left at the corners?” asked one little girl.

“That's what a lot of people think, but it's really hard,” she said, chuckling.

“Do you do more than one lap?” another asked.

One Scout, Erin Holloran, 10, of Ashland, wants to follow in Martin's steps.

“I've followed NASCAR since I was, like, a baby,” Holloran said, adding that her great-grandfather was a race car driver. “I want to drive, too.”

Also speaking at the event was Christina Davidson, “Miss ZMAX,” who told of her success as a company spokesman and who also is a former Girl Scout. After her brief speech, she led the Scouts in reciting the Girl Scout Law.

Mary Ellen Hettinger, communications manager for the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, says the chapter serves 15,600 girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont with help from more than 5,300 trained volunteers. She thanked NHMS for providing the venue and access to the racing industry.

Martin's mother, Valerie Martin, said the racing industry needs more young women. “Racing, period, is always looking for more girls,” she said.

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Dan Seufert may be reached at dseufert@newstote.com.


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