Kate and Robin Dallenbach
The Dallenbach racing legacy continues with daughter and 2016 RCR driver, Kate Dallenbach.
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Up-and-comer Kate Dallenbach has the drive to succeed
Kate Dallenbach had received a piece of racing advice from her mom, former driver Robin McCall Dallenbach, that she'd taken to heart.
"If you go down into the corner and you have the line, you own that piece of pavement. If they come down on you, you don't lift."
Mom's point was that to earn respect, every race driver has to establish a willingness to crash rather than back down. The only problem was that on this particular night a couple of years ago at Florida's New Smyrna Speedway, Kate was racing her brother, Jake.
"He started first and I started third, so I was right behind him," Kate, now 19, recalled. "It wasn't very long into the race when I went to pass him. And, well, and my story is that he didn't give me any room and turned into me. We got together and wrecked each other and ended up in the wall at the same time."
The siblings wound up parked in front of where their parents were standing. Embarrassed and nervous.
"I was so mad," Robin remembered. "Wally was mad. I was like, 'Why?' And Kate goes, 'I did what you always told me to do. I owned that piece of pavement.' I said, 'but that's your brother!' "
With not one but two parents who were successful race drivers, a grandfather who's practically an icon of Indy car racing and older brothers who are drawn to speed, Kate Dallenbach wasn't going to end up chasing an office job.
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Robin Dallenbach's NASCAR legacy rolls on with daughter Kate
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Mother’s Day came early for Robin Dallenbach, on a cool late-April evening at a short track in Hickory, N.C. It was there that her 19-year-old daughter, Kate, an up-and-coming late models driver for a Mooresville-based development team called Lee Faulk Racing, surprised her with an awesome gift—one that she’s been working on from the moment she started chasing the NASCAR dream 11 years ago. It all came together in a 100-lap feature, Kate’s first race of this season—a make or break one for her, you might say.
A strong, silent type of competitor, Kate has been circling the late models scene for the past two years now, ever since her family moved to Mooresville from San Antonio to give her budding career a boost. That’s not to say that it hasn’t been going along at a decent clip for Kate, who not only can claim sponsorship help from Bass Pro Shops, but also development support from Richard Childress’s powerhouse NASCAR team. It’s that she still has many, many more hearts and minds to win over to get to where she wants to go. “We knew that if we were gonna do this, we’d have to move and get in front of the NASCAR crowd,” says her father, Wally. “Everybody’s here. We needed to be able to showcase her talent in front of the right people.”
While Kate has enjoyed many successes during her way through the lower ranks and was even named rookie of the year after a second-place late models points finish at New Smyrna (Fla.), late models racing in North Carolina is a whole different ballgame, like high school football in Texas. NASCAR team owner and Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs once told me, “It’s Friday and Saturday nights in small towns. You’ve got local heroes, and they go into these different places and work their way up. At some point a lot of ’em just don’t have the talent, can’t get it done and quit.”
Kate definitely has talent, comes by it naturally. Her grandfather, also named Wally, was a five-time open-wheel race winner and might’ve won the 1975 Indy 500 if his car hadn’t dropped a cylinder down the stretch. Her father has driven everything: stock cars, sports cars—still races sports cars when he’s not doing broadcast work at the track, actually.
But the real marvel in the Dallenbach family is Robin. She was going wheel-to-wheel with the boys—in late models, in sports cars, in NASCAR (where, as an 18-year-old in the early-80s, she became the youngest woman to qualify and race)—before women like IndyCar’s Sarah Fisher, NASCAR’s Danica Patrick, and F1’s Susie Wolff really started turning races into a girls’ club of sorts.
Of course, it wasn’t an easy ride for Robin, whose racing history is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit. “She told me one story where she was at a NASCAR race and at the time they didn’t let women into the garage,” Kate says. “She was actually racing in that race, and she had her driver’s suit on and everything. And they wouldn’t even let her in. She definitely got the worst of it.”
Even Robin’s relationship with Kate breaks the traditional mold—of a father and a son huddled around a race car, wrenches in hand, building and bonding away in the garage. Robin ferries Kate to her races, surveys them all from the pits. While Wally watches from the grandstand, or paces behind the grandstand if the action gets too tense, Robin looks on from on top of the team hauler with a radio hooked up to a headset so she can listen in on the chatter between Kate and Mike Faulk, Kate’s crew chief and spotter.
Kate gets her grit from Robin. She’s the person who tells Kate to not give up her line if another racer comes down on her going into a corner because “you own that piece of pavement.” And if Kate has to wreck that person to prove this point, as mom did back in the day, well so be it. When Kate did exactly that a couple years ago, while fighting for the lead during race in New Smyrna, Robin should’ve been beaming with pride. But she was livid, and perhaps rightly so. The guy in the other car was Kate’s older brother Jake.
“What were you two thinking?” Robin exclaimed.
“I just did what you told me to,” Kate shot back. “I owned that piece of pavement!”
Still, for all of her confidence, Kate has never felt especially possessive about Hickory Motor Speedway, a .363-mile oval with an exceptionally high learning curve. More than once, she’s been tempted to “never go back there again,” she says. “I’ve had some really, really bad luck there. Got wrecked by people so many times. It’s a really hard, really old track. But a lot of people say that if you can win at Hickory, you can win anywhere.”
Junior Johnson, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. are just a few who have cut their teeth there. Kate yearns to follow in their wake. So for the first time since her season ended five months ago, Kate climbed back inside her car, a black Chevrolet bearing the number 25, and tried yet again.
After qualifying fourth, she quickly moved up to third and hung back there for most of the race while the first and second position cars duked it out. Finally, around lap 95, they came together in a spectacular collision that yellow-flagged the race. When the smoke cleared, Kate was all alone up front, with a pack of snarling rivals just behind, and fighting her nerves like never before. Over the radio, Faulk, the crew chief and spotter, coached her up for the restart, urging her to “hit your marks, be smooth and don’t burn up your tires.”
She heeded those instructions when the green flag flew again, and was immediately struck in the left rear. She was pushed so hard that at least one of her rear wheels lost contact with the tarmac for two turns. Wally watched it all happen from the grandstand, his worst nightmare seemingly about to come true. “I was just waiting for her to get turned,” he says. “Like, OK, here it comes. Who’s gonna take her out?”
But sure enough, Kate owned her piece of payment and hung on to her Chevy until she had opened a gap that the field had no chance of closing. After a few more spins around, the checkered flag flew. And with that she had won her first late models race, at last. “That,” she says, “was pretty exciting.”
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Kate Dallenbach Scores First Career Win at Hickory
It seemed inevitable after the strong performances Kate Dallenbach had at the end of the 2015 season and, on Saturday night, the inevitable happened.
Dallenbach, 19, scored her first career Late Model Stock Car victory on Saturday night at the famed Hickory Motor Speedway in Newton, North Carolina. Dallenbach started fourth in the race and battled with Dexter Canipe and Matt Piercy, until Canipe and Piercy got together in the closing laps, handing the lead, and the win, to Dallenbach.
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Robin at Krieghoff International with Nick Boerboon and Mr. Dieter Krieghoff .
Excited to order my K-80 Trap Special!
All smiles after 4th place finish in 200 lapper at Hickory Speedway
After Impressive SNMP Run, Dallenbach Focuses on CARS Debut
Kate Dallenbach has emerged as one of the hottest up-and-comers in the Late Model Stock Car scene.
After an impressive performance at Southern National Motorsports Park on Sunday, the third generation driver is now looking ahead her first appearance in the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) Late Model Stock Tour when the series heads to Myrtle Beach Speedway on Saturday night.
Dallenbach, 18, enters that race with a new found state of confidence following a pair of hard fought third place finishes in Sunday’s races at Southern National Motorsports Park.
“We ran Myrtle Beach a few times and I feel pretty good about it,” Dallenbach said. “I guess I’m really just treating it like any other race I guess.”
Dallenbach’s performance on Sunday served as an introductory act in many ways.
Prior to that race, she had never been viewed as a legitimate contender but that she certainly created a new image for herself after joining Lee Pulliam and Bradley McCaskill in a battle for the win.
“It felt really good to be side-by-side with the national champion and being able to keep up so that was fun,” Dallenbach said after Sunday’s race.
She not only showed that she can be competitive, she also showed she will not roll over. Her impressive performance almost came to an end after being on the receiving end of contact from Jonathan Findley. Dallenbach steered out of what should have been a wreck and, in the next corner, leaned on Findley’s car before getting back around.
“I mean, someone’s going to try to spin me around then I’m going to give it back a little bit,” Dallenbach remarked.
Tire management, not speed, will be the key on Saturday night. Myrtle Beach Speedway is known for a rough, abrasive racing surface that abuses tires.
“That’s always the toughest part there especially Myrtle Beach,” Dallenbach explained. “It’s about who’s there at the end and track wise, it’s a pretty rough track like the asphalt is made up, it has a lot of shells in it and wears the tires down faster so that’s going to be a big thing to be aware of to be there at the end of the race.”
Having shown improvement throughout the season, Dallenbach hopes a victory is on the horizon.
“I definitely feel like a win is coming,” Dallenbach commented. “We’ve been getting better and better every weekend so I have a really good feeling that, in the near future, we’re going to get a win.”
Dallenbach Dynasty: Kate Hopes to Join Cup Ranks
Both of Kate Dallenbach’s parents raced in what is now called the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and now the 18-year-old is hoping to follow in their footsteps.
The third generation driver is the daughter of Wally Dallenbach Jr. and Robin Dallenbach. While father and son combinations are common in racing, father-daughter combinations are significantly rarer. As for a father-mother-daughter combination? Kate, 18, is the only driver who has seen both parents race in NASCAR.
“I have not only one parent who can give me advice and help me out, but I have two,” Kate said. “So that kind of gives me two extra perspectives whenever I need a helping hand.”
Despite having a pair of parents with Sprint Cup experience, Kate says she doesn’t feel any additional pressure to excel nor does she feel nervous about failure.
“When I’m driving, I don’t really think about anything other than what I’m doing in that moment. I’m just getting extra advice before I get in the car — the little things.
Kate Dallenbach is the third in a line of siblings to take up racing. Her brothers, Jake and Wyatt, both competed in sports car racing — a discipline Wally enjoyed a great deal of success in. Kate is the first to take up oval racing, racing in both Late Models on dirt and asphalt.
“I’m really proud of her and the progress she has made,” Robin said. “She started racing quarter-midgets when she was eight. I was able to help her a lot with that, my dad and I, because Wally was gone a lot with his racing and his TV stuff. Then she graduated to the Allison Legacy program and ran that in Texas for my dad, Bob McCall.
“We just took the steps. It’s been a lot of fun coaching her and helping her, and I’m really proud of what she’s accomplished so far, and I know there’s a lot more to come.”
Kate feels as though she is knocking on the door of a win and has shown glimpses of greatness racing asphalt Late Models for Michael Faulk.
During a race at Southern National Motorsports Park back in August, Dallenbach led laps and finished third. Prior to that race, she was running second and in contention for a win in a Late Model Stock race at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson, North Carolina before mechanical problems sidelined her effort.
Over recent years, women have had a lot more success in oval racing than in previous decades, including the one Robin tried to tackle. Much of that is attributed to an increase in female competitors in the sport, which NASCAR has made an active push to achieve through the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program.
Dallenbach joins names such as Haley Moody, Amber Colvin, Annabeth Barnes and Taylor Nesbitt to have success in asphalt Late Model racing in the Southeast region. Dallenbach doesn’t see herself as another woman in racing but does see herself as a racer.
“The way I look at it, I’m just another driver,” Kate commented. “I guess it doesn’t really matter whether I’m a guy or a girl.”
While women have had a presence in racing for decades, the presence of Danica Patrick has become a source of inspiration for female drivers. Both Robin and Kate look up to the third year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver as a trailblazer.
“I think Danica is great for the sport, and she does a great job,” Robin stated. “Because of that, it does help other young females coming up in the sport.”
It’s a stance her daughter agrees with as well.
“I agree with what she said,” Kate explained. “She is a role model for a lot of young girl drivers.She opened that up. Now little girls, young girls can say, ‘Oh, I want to do that when I get older,’ and they can now.”
Robin, who competed in NASCAR under the name Robin McCall prior to meeting Wally, feels fortunate that women have additional opportunities now. She recalled when she raced in NASCAR in the 1980s which were, in her words, a different time.
“I think that was before my time. Being 18, I think I was the youngest female to ever qualify for a Cup race. It was a lot different back then than now. I’m just glad that the opportunities are there now for women drivers. That’s helped Kate for sure.”
Robin’s racing experience also helps her bond with Kate at the track – but she is still a mother and often feels the motherly instincts throughout the duration of a race
“I know what they’re going through on the track,” Robin remarked. “I know the emotions of it. I do get nervous watching them, all the kids, so that never goes away. I think they all do a really good job.”
Robin feels her daughter has a bright future in the sport. Kate is signed on a development deal with Richard Childress Racing — the NASCAR team that fielded entries for Dale Earnhardt and Kevin Harvick in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“I think the next step is for her to start testing a truck and do some [NASCAR Camping World Truck Series] races. I know she was so excited to sign with RCR — with Richard Childress. We appreciate that opportunity, and we’ll see where that goes. She’d like to stay with them.”
Kate doesn’t just appeal to young women on the track but off the track as well. The Dallenbach family is actively involved in outdoors living so it should be no big surprise that Bass Pro Shops and SHE Outdoor are Kate’s primary sponsors.
“SHE Outdoor advertises only to women,” Kate said. “I think they are one of the only hunting lines that are just women.”
“It’s nice to have a women’s clothing line in the sport of auto racing,” Robin explained. “SHE Outdoor is hunting and fishing apparel for women. Back in my time, they did not have specific clothing for women hunting and fishing and outdoor things, so I had to wear men’s. Now, it’s just great to see these sponsors coming into the sport that have products that are tailored for women.”
Dallenbach gained positive attention with her August 1, 2015 performance at Southern National Motorsports Parrk in North Carolina when she scored a fourth place finish. She backed that impressive effort up with a third place finish in a second race. Now all that remains is for the talented youngster to make that final step — towards Victory Lane and NASCAR national touring.
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