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Never Underestimate a Vegetarian Hippie Chick with a Race Car
The Sporting News: Leilani Münter
Fifty Most Beautiful People in Racing - October 2009 
Author: Jeff Droke 
(August 15, 2009)

On any given weekend, the button-downed drivers of both the NASCAR and ARCA circuits are busy providing a countless number of interviews to the media. The press representatives of each race team are also busy creating an endless stream of statements for both broadcast and written media outlets. A common thread runs through both driver interviews and press representatives’ statements - avoid controversy at any cost.

During NASCAR’s early years, there were a few drivers that didn’t avoid controversy. Among them were union organizers Curtis Turner and Tim Flock in the sixties and independent driver advocate James Hylton in the early seventies. During the seventies, corporate dollars had poured into the sport and drivers had to become spokesmen for their sponsors. Drivers had to focus on promoting their sponsor and in turn avoid any activism or controversy. Hylton’s vocal objections to the 1972 Winston Cup Winners Circle Plan and its negative effect on independent owner operators would basically be the last stand for driver activism. 

Fate would have it that in 2009, stock car racing’s last maverick, James Hylton, would help introduce another driver to the sport that would also not be afraid to take a stand on important issues, Leilani Münter. In 2006, Münter created a section on her racing website dedicated to environmental news and also maintains a blog where she writes about green initiatives. The enthusiastic Münter is prepared to help transform NASCAR to a more eco-friendly sport by using biofuels and recycled tires. In 2007 Münter made the commitment to adopt an acre of endangered tropical rainforest for protection from the World Land Trust to offset her carbon footprint for each of her races.

Münter tested with Hylton Motorsports for participation in the February 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series Lucas Slick Oil Mist 200 at Daytona International Speedway. The team went to Daytona with a short track 2005 Ford Taurus equipped with a well-worn motor. The determined Münter proceeded to run a 50.125 second (179.551 mph) lap around the 2.5 mile legendary superspeedway. The lap would have been good enough to qualify Münter in 16th position for the February 7th event but unfortunately lack of sponsorship funds kept Münter from attempting the race.

Leilani Münter has been racing since 2001 and last year became the fourth woman in history to race in the Indy Pro Series, the development league of IndyCar. Prior to running in the Indy Pro Series, she spent six years in stock car racing, earning 19 top-ten finishes and 9 top-five finishes in 39 starts. In 2004, Münter also sat the record at Texas Motor Speedway for the highest finish for a female driver at the 1.5 mile speedway with a fourth place finish. In 2007, Leilani moved into the Indy Pro Series and the open wheel community quickly took notice when she qualified fifth and had a very impressive run in her debut at Kentucky Speedway. This performance earned her praise from the IndyCar garage, including four-time Indy 500 Champion Rick Mears who stated, "Leilani did a great job, I am looking forward to seeing her race some more."

During her career, Münter has been able to successfully achieve acclaim from both her on track and off track actives. While she is known to those in motorsports as an up and coming young driver, she is also known to the environmentally conscious as a committed advocate. This was exemplified to me in July 2009, when my 17 year daughter and I visited a Lucky Brand Jeans store in Honolulu. While in the store, I noticed a poster of Münter and informed the two store workers that I was friends with her. The two sales associates, both females in their early twenties, stated that they were big fans of Münter and admired her for her efforts to protect the environment. While they were not quite as familiar with her racing accomplishments, they did understand that she was a driver that was not afraid to speak her mind on an issue that many young people find very important. As Münter has stated in numerous interviews “never underestimate a vegetarian hippie chick with a race car”.