Teen race car driver encourages girls to live their dreams

Heather Hadley, 17, reads to children at the Vallejo Springstowne Library, for a Women's History Month event on Monday, March 4, 2019. Hadley is a race car driver. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD — Legend Car race driver Heather “The Heat” Hadley struggled her first time on the Driven Raceway track.

The 9-year-old was getting passed by other drivers and was trying to keep up with their speed.

When her time was up, she told her father, Damon Hadley, she didn’t want to go back on the track. After a hot dog and ICEE, she gave it a second try and was hooked.

The pair made trips to Driven nearly every Friday. Within six months, the now-17-year-old had won 104 of 107 races.

Next up for Heather Hadley was indoor kart racing, competing in the World Karting Association championship, and earning fifth-place in her first season. Hadley also competed simultaneously in two classes.

After earning two championships, Mazda began marketing Hadley, featuring her on the back covers of two publications.

The Vallejo resident followed that with speaking to children at area engagements. She spoke at one Monday as the second event in the Solano County Library’s monthlong celebration of Women’s History.

Hadley, who began Legend Car racing in October 2016, read stories, shared pictures and answered questions about life on the race track.

She finished first in the nation in the semi-pro division for road course racing her first season.

The teen also received a scholarship from the Lindsey Vonn Foundation and is now an instructor the National Auto Sport Association.

Carlos Pagan-Stewart attended the event with his twin daughters, Ana and Isabela Pagan-Stewart. The twins are 2.

He had previously met Damon Hadley and heard about his daughter’s racing career. “I remember him telling me how talented she was,” he said.

What if his girls would like to follow in Heather Hadelys’ footsteps? Pagan-Stewart said he would be there to support them.

Damon Hadley said his daughter’s passion for racing was very obvious. When weekends rolled around and he offered a bevy of activities for her to choose from, the answer was, “Dad, I want to race,” he said. “I couldn’t help but support it.”

There have been numerous times he has thanked her for the sunrise as the two were up at the crack of dawn to travel to go kart tracks.

Ask him how he’s doing and Damon Hadley is likely to respond, “I’m fine” and then begin talking about his daughter who races.

“I can’t stop talking about Heather,” he said.

Her father introduced her to a variety of sports, she said. And, at the same time, was always her biggest fan.

Heather Hadley hopes to finish high school early. She will continue to race and may take online college courses, majoring in business.

Legend Cars are 5/8-scale fiberglass full-fendered versions of the NASCAR modifieds driven by drivers such as Fireball Roberts, Buck Baker, Curtis Turner, Speedy Thompson and Banjo Matthews.

Hadley’s goes up to 130 miles per hour.

There are some male racers who don’t like to lose to a female on the track, she said. “I’m pretty used to it,” Hadley said of being a woman in a male-dominated sport. “It doesn’t really faze me.

“We all wear a helmet and race a car. It comes down to an ego thing.”

Hadley hopes her stories inspire other young females to find their passion and pursue it.

“It’s not hard for a girl to do anything these days,” she said. “There are no rules against it. If we can chase our dreams, why not do it?”

She will race at Sonoma Raceway on March 16-17. On March 19, locals can meet Hadley for Storytime: Girl Power at the Fairfield Civic Center Library, 1050 Kentucky St.

You can learn more about her at www.heathertheheat.com.

For a complete list of Solano County Library Women’s History Month events, visit http://solanolibrary.com.

Daily Republic - Amy Maginnis-Honey - March 6, 2019