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Racecar driver inspires on and off the track

At the Vado Speedway, Drew Cassidy is driving in her first race of the night. Nights like these have been common for her since she started racing in 2018, but her passion can be traced back to high school.

“I always wanted to learn more about cars, like when I was young I didn't come from a family that even knew how to change the oil so I took automotive classes at night when I was in high school and when I was in engineering school I joined Mini Baja and then it just took off,” Cassidy said.

Drew endured the loss of her father while in college, it was then that she found the Mini Baja competition. Mini Baja is an international engineering competition where one hundred contestants build an off-road vehicle and compete in a series of competitions. After driving for the maneuverability and endurance competitions, Drew became hooked on racing and Mini Baja advisor Ken Ruble says he saw she had what it takes to continue racing.

“So, at that time all I had was a mini sprint which is a miniature version of a sprint car and I told her it’s not a beginner’s car but if you want to give it a try we will see how it goes. She goes out and wins the point championship that year and it just took off from there,” Ruble said.

This is not Ken’s first experience with racing. He has raced everything from motocross to drag racers.

“My senior year of high school, a good friend of mine raced motocross so I started with motocross and then from there, we moved to circle track racing. I did that for probably about 5 or 6 years and when I got out of racing I got out totally. I couldn't even go watch a race for almost 20 years,” Ruble said.

Drew doesn't just work on race cars. She also works at the White Sands Rocket Testing Facility helping test rockets and providing propellant for the tests. But she says working in two male-dominated fields has come with its own challenges.

“I just think that you kinda get second-guessed,” Cassidy said.

Winning races is not the only thing Drew says she wants to accomplish at Vado. She also says she wants to help inspire young girls to get involved in STEM and she does this in unique ways.

“We have an all-female pit crew that is very young. I think it is an instant connection when you do meet girls that like the same thing because it is more rare.”

One of those pit crew members is Kailynn Hudson who even got her own race car after working with Drew.

“My little cousin wanted to go see her favorite driver which was Drew. We helped out. We torqued her car, we did air pressure, we fielded the car, and everything then after the night was over I asked her if I could be her permanent pit crew,” Hudson said.
Drew and her team competed in the final race of the season. After having her pit crew get everything ready she hit the track with her mentor Ken watching on.

“It’s the best feeling in the world. It’s like watching my own daughter drive. She’s so inspiring and she’s always trying. I remember one night she was so sick she could barely walk and she still raced that race car,” Ruble said.

After every race, Drew and her pit crew head into the stands to hand candy out to the children that were there to watch.

“I just want the possibility to be there and to not be written off. I think that as we were kids if you were a boy you get handed Legos and if you are a girl you get handed barbies and there is nothing wrong with barbies. I just want an opportunity for everyone,” Cassidy said.

Drew and her team say they are hopeful they can complete a new car by next season as they compete to win and continue this inspiring career.

Noah Raess, an NMSU Journalism major, has produced many feature news stories for television, radio, and the web that have covered housing, public safety, climate, school safety, and issues facing refugees.