THEN AND NOW: SARAH MONTGOMERY
Jan 18, 2018 09:43AM ● Published by Caitlin Marshall
In 2013, Sarah Montgomery had recently graduated from Lafayette High School and was already well on her way to fulfilling her dream of becoming a professional race car driver. She and her Mazda race car (affectionately named Nemo) had been speeding through races, winning titles and continuing to make a name for herself in the racing world—all while beginning her college career at ULL. Nearly five years after our initial meeting with her [Sarah], now 23, has earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Despite her strenuous and demanding racing schedule, Sarah managed to finish school in four years while maintaining good grades, happy friendships, and a healthy home life all while pursuing her a career in racing.
When we last spoke to Sarah in spring 2013, she had yet to receive her professional license, but in 2014, after years of hard work, she clinched her certification. Sarah became Louisiana's first (and only) female professional race car driver and still, to this day, holds that title.
“It takes a lot of experience and name recognition to get a pro license, so it’s kind of an honor in itself,” Sarah admitted, beaming with pride over her achievements behind the wheel.
“You have to grow up very quickly,” Sarah explained. It is important to be well behaved and aware of social media, especially when she is in the limelight, representing different organizations and companies.
“You won’t find any unflattering photos of me on social media,” she added. Sponsors keep an eye on potential partners’ social media feeds. In fact, Sarah mentioned Lafayette Travel, a long-time partner, had watched Sarah’s accounts for a year before they ever made contact with her. “I had no idea.”
In 2017, Sarah participated in her first nationally televised race on CBS Sports. “It was so cool to finally see myself race on TV!” she said with a huge smile on her face. Races are almost always live-streamed online, so people are able to watch from home. But Sarah said it’s much more exciting to be on the big screen for a change, even if the races are recorded in advance of their broadcasting.
A few months after her television debut, Sarah was on track to mark the fastest times she had ever clocked in a race when in a heartbeat, she was involved in a crash that rolled her car several times and totaled her $40,000 car. “It was my first big wreck—I got banged up a bit, and financially—it was a big blow.,” the racer admitted.
Despite the damage to the car and broken ribs, her determination and drive to get behind the wheel again never wavered, so as soon as she was cleared to drive, she was behind the wheel again completing in 25-hour race with a team of co-drivers. Sarah explained that the average racer can only handle being in the car for around two-and-a-half hours at most; during the 25-hour race, she volunteered to drive a four-hour slot from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” she laughed, shaking her head. In order to prepare for races, Sarah said she reads a lot of books about strengthening her ability to remain focused and strengthen her mentality. “You can’t daydream even for a second,” Sarah said heavily. “You’re going so fast, anything can happen in the blink of an eye.”
A little-known aspect of racing is the extreme physical and mental challenge racing presents. A race car driver’s average heartbeat matches that of marathon runners. “My heart rate is usually 160 in the race car, which is flying,” said Sarah. “You’re going well over a hundred miles an hour and you have cars on both ends of you touching and bumping as you all fight for the perfect position.”
While behind the wheel, a race car driver’s heartbeat naturally accelerates as the car does, as adrenaline levels send the driver cruising despite remaining physically stationary. Temperatures inside of race cars also reach excruciatingly hot temperatures. Many drivers often wear special shirts under their gear that pushes ice cold water through a tube system to keep their drivers cool under their several layers of clothing and safety gear.
What Now? Trading in her old racing car, Sarah has upgraded to an Audio RS3 LMS, which has more than double the horsepower and can reach maximum speeds of 160 mph. It is white and sports a vibrant red stripe which goes over the driver's side door. “It’s a big step from what I was doing and I love it—my new car is badass!” she explains.
Later this year, Sarah will be competing in Dayton Beach, Florida, in the IMSA Continental Tire Challenge alongside a co-driver, Ashton Harrison, another female racer whom she has raced alongside with before. However, this is the first time they will team up for a competitive race. An all-female team is uncommon in the racing world and Sarah knows the two women will garner a lot of attention for that reason alone, but she isn’t worried because she’s in it to win it.
With around 10 racing weekends in 2018, Sarah is thankful for her many sponsors. She prefers to call them Partners, as they are the ones who provide her with the money necessary to keep racing.
Lemons of Love, a Chicago-based charity focused on helping and providing assistance to adults battling cancer, is one of her partners. Lemons of Love donates care packages containing lemon-based items to help soothe the pains post-chemotherapy.
At the end of the day, despite her countless accomplishments and growing fame in the racing world, Sarah is no different than the rest of us. When she isn’t racing, she is the sales and marketing manager at Fresh Air Systems Technologies (F.A.S.T. for short.)
“Even when I’m not racing, I’m thinking about it,” Sarah said. Her job at F.A.S.T. allows her to continue to work with the racing community given the company works directly with race car driving. In the rare opportunity where Sarah has some downtime, she loves lying down and binge-watching Netflix shows, her favorite show is “The Crown.”
As Sarah prepares to hit the asphalt, Acadiana is eagerly watching her career as she accelerates to the top. Geaux Sarah Geaux!!!
To follow Sarah Montgomery visit www.sarahmontgomeryracing.com
Read Sarah's original cover article at https://issuu.com/FACEACADIANA/docs/face_march2013_issuu_pdfs