Through the whine of the engines and the squealing of tires, Sonoma Raceway on a raceday is a chaotic scene. Taking part in this chaos is Sophomore Heather Hadley, nicknamed “The Heat”, with her helmet on her head and her hand on the wheel. Hadley lives a life that many of her friends and peers are not aware of, one that involves racing cars professionally at only 15 years old.
As the youngest on the track by a long shot and the only girl driving in her event, Hadley sometimes feels the pressure from her older male counterparts.
“It’s hard on the track, because men – or boys – don’t exactly like it when a girl beats them, so they try their hardest to not let me beat them,” Hadley said.
This has been Hadley’s experience since she began racing go-karts six years ago. On the track, it is hard to distinguish her as the outlier due to the fast pace of the sport, but off the track she has gained plenty of respect from her peers. She is often approached by other participants and often receives appreciation and applicable critique from those who are more experienced.
According to Hadley, her family members are her biggest fans. Her father, Damon Hadley, is his daughter’s most avid supporter.
“One part of me is nervous, because she’s on a race track, but the other part of me is jumping up and down doing cartwheels, screaming and yelling and going nuts,” Damon said.
In this video, we see Heather on the track, hear about her life in racing and get insight from her father on Heather’s career and experiences in the sport.