Racing Is Bumpy For Drivers, But Canadian Amber Balcaen Has Big Challenges

Racing is expensive. The price to keep a car and driver racetrack-ready is terrifying. For the right company, it is worth the cost. By sponsoring a driver, you get two to three hours of engaged marketing each week on a massive billboard. More importantly, you get a brand ambassador.

These are the points that Amber Balcaen is currently making to businesses and persons of interest in her daily pleas and pitches for funding to get back on the racetrack.

"In order for me to be on the racetrack, I need to find sponsorship -- it costs a lot of money to race NASCAR," Balcean said. "To race in general it costs a lot of money, and I cannot be racing without the help of sponsors. So as of right now I don't have the sponsorship, so I'm not racing. Considering that it's my job and it's the only way I can make money because I'm a Canadian and living in the States on an athlete visa, it makes things very difficult."

Balcaen had a sponsor sign on the first race of the season, and a second sponsor came on board to fund the rest of the year. After her first race, the second sponsor did not come forth with its promised funding, causing her to miss the second and third races of the season -- so far.


Balcaen was Rookie of the Year in the Whelen All-American Series last season. She accomplished this in her first year racing pavement while also claiming the honor of being the first Canadian female racer to win a NASCAR-sanctioned race in the United States. Balcaen is a third-generation racer but the first to leave dirt for pavement. Her success in the All-American Series led her to move up to K&N East NASCAR's regional series, putting her on a similar but different path than her father and grandfather.

"I'm now at the place where I'm making a name for myself and not in the shadows of my grandfather and my father," she said.

After the success of last season, Balcaen expected more sponsorship opportunities to be pouring in for this season.

"I expected from my on-track success and off-track presence that I would have a lot easier of a time getting a sponsor this year," she said. "I actually was quite optimistic about it. So the fact that I don't currently have one kind of surprises me. I know how difficult the racing industry is and I was definitely warned that this wasn't going to be easy, but I also didn't expect it to be this challenging, especially coming off last season."

Balcaen sees what makes her different in the field as a big opportunity for sponsors.

"I think it's a positive and an advantage because I stand out -- I'm something different," she said. "The marketability factor has increased, because I am different, being Canadian and being a female."


Despite her financial woes, Balcaen does not regret leaving dirt sprints to race pavement. She also has some advice to those young girls and guys who are considering the same path.

"Ask a lot of questions, do a lot of research, and just try to get as much seat time as possible," Balcaen said. "Try to get in the race car as much as you can. I think just the more questions you ask and the more research you do is the best. That's kind of what I did; it's kind of like taking on any new project or starting a new business. A lot of it is trial and error but you try to set yourself up for the change as much as possible.

"You have to roll with the negatives and the positives."

Balcaen is aching to get back to the track and continue to pursue her passion. If funding comes up, she'll be back on the track in less than two weeks. Balcaen is in her 14th year racing and understands that the industry can be fickle and is willing to wait for her chance.


H4: Women in Racing
Sarah Cornett-Ching
McKenna Haase

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