Our woman of the Week is Jamie Moreno, a racer from Utah. She was raised as a petrolhead, and made her start in motorsport in 2010, after she had graduated from university. Jamie started in autocross, on the advice of a friend. She later moved to track competition, competing in the Global Time Attack series in 2017, and earning three podium finishes. Jamie and her photographer husband fell in love with the racing lifestyle, and now live on the road most of the year.
Bridget Schuil: What was your first memory of motorsport?
Jamie Moreno: I don’t have a specific one. My family is not a racing family, but my dad always loved supercars. He’d take me to car shows, and bought me hot wheel cars. I loved all that kind of stuff when I was little. I always loved fast cars.
BS What motivated you into the sport?
JM Actually, it was my car. I wanted to buy a fast car, but after college I couldn’t afford much. I was looking at the Subaru WRXs and STIs, and I knew the WRXs were known for rallying and off-road stuff and I thought that was really cool. Then I was talking to one of my friends, and he was like, “Oh, you don’t want to do stage rallying in your brand new car. I just ripped off both my bumpers. You should try autocross.” I didn’t want to ruin my brand new car, so I tried autocross, and it was pretty easy on the car. So yeah, that’s where I started, with autocross.
BS How did you get from there to where you are now?
JM I wanted to go faster. I’m addicted to speed. Autocross is pretty cool, it’s very technical, and gave me a lot of good skills. But the autocross course was right next to Miller Motorsports Park in Utah – well, that’s what it was called back then – and so I could see people on track from the parking lot. I wondered what they were doing, and thought it looked like a lot of fun. I figured out there was a group called NASA, and I liked the way NASA was organized. NASA has a HPDE program with 4 levels. In the first level you get instructor. I moved up the chain and got my TT license. Then I got bored racing at Utah Motorsports Park and wanted a challenge. After getting some advice from a fellow racer in what to do next he suggested racing in Global Time Attack. They mainly race at different tracks in California but they also race at Road Atlanta.
I just fell in love with being on track. It’s just an amazing feeling, being pulled by the G forces on the track. I was in heaven. I dedicated more and more time and money to it. The faster I went, the more I spent. I mean, not all cars were built to race, so pieces started breaking. You upgrade one piece, and that’s connected to something that’s factory spec, so then that one breaks and you gotta upgrade that too. It’s just a never-ending story. Race cars break all the time. It’s just what they do.
BS And when they don’t break, you dream up things to do to them to make them go faster…
JM Oh yeah! For example when my husband and I are at a restaurant we would take about how we can improve the car. “This would totally make the car faster,” or “We should really change that.” People probably think we’re nuts because we’re always talking about the car and what needs to be done to it.
BS Who’s been the most supportive of your racing thus far?
JM I’d have to say my husband, for sure. He’s always been there for me, cheering me on. That’s just how our relationship is. We’re always supportive of each other. I support his photography, and he supports my racing. On days when I’m not believing in myself, he’ll help bring me up so I can go out on track and kick ass.
BS How long has he been in your life – since before you started racing?
JM We were high school sweethearts, so we’ve been together for…gosh…it’s gotta be like fourteen years at least. He’s been there right from the very beginning of the racing. We know each other quite well, and we make a great team together. When we put our minds together, we’ll accomplish it.
BS So how involved are you in his photography, and how involved is he in your racing?
JM Sometimes he shoots me at the track, if he’s not helping me with something on the car. But most of his photographic work is landscape and abstract photography. He gets a lot of opportunities to take photos while we’re on the road. There’s a lot of cool stuff that we see. There are so many awesome little towns that we drive through on our way to races. The different people we meet, different cultures we experience from city to city. It’s awesome. We have fun together.
BS Would you like to talk a little bit about your workout regime?
JM Oh yeah. I actually work out in my trailer. I do a warm-up focussing on my glutes, because those are the muscles that need to be working really well. If my glutes are weak, my hip flexors start to kill me towards the end of a race, then the fatigue pain goes up to my psoas. I’ll do leg swings to warm up, and if it’s before a race I’ll do some yoga. Pigeon pose is my absolute favourite, because it stretches all of those out. I do arm swings for my shoulders, especially my right shoulder, because it’s the one doing the shifting and all of that. It gets tired and painful, and that comes up my traps.
I have to strengthen those areas in advance to prevent the pain. I do a lot of squats for the glutes, and rows to make sure my back muscles are activating. I’m still working on those. I had a racing accident that upset my back muscles, and that’s still an opportunity for growth. My back muscles are still weak, so they’re still not firing like they’re supposed to. I’ll get there; it just takes time.
BS Lots of locust and bow and bridge pose and those ones that really work the core?
JM Yeah, yoga is my best friend! That and my foam roller, massage stick, and lacross ball. They help me roll out all the knots and stay loose. My acupuncturist is always telling me “The looser your muscles, the faster you react out on the track.” I always remember that.
BS On that theme, do you have a mindfulness practice to help you stay loose?
JM Yeah. The night before a race, I’ll lie in shavassana on my yoga mat, and just breathe while listening to meditation music. I’ll just sit in that space. I won’t think of anything particular, just be there, present in my body in the moment. If I’m struggling during a race day, I’ll go to my trailer during lunch time and do the same thing. It’s just to kinda reset myself. There’s an engery modality called vortex healing. I do that for myself, and it just kinda calms the system down. It sounds crazy, but it works.
BS In your bouquet of self-care practices, is there anything that you do specifically for your mental and emotional health?
JM Actually, I find that racing kinda helps my mental health. It’s a way for me to forget about everything. Racing’s almost like an open-eye meditation, because I have to be there in that present moment. There’s no, “Oh, I gotta do this tomorrow, and I forgot to do that…” There’s none of that. That’s just gone. That’s just wiped off the plate. So for me, racing is how I keep my sanity. When I don’t race, I get anxious and itchy like I just need to go race. It definitely helps chill me out. After a race, I’m so chill and loving life.
BS It helps you to block everything else out?
JM Oh yeah. Especially the pain. I don’t realise how sore I am until like the next day. I wake up the next morning aching, wanting to ask for help to get up out of my chair.
BS Do you feel that there’s a physical disadvantage for you racing as a woman?
JM You know what, I think it’s the same for either party. Actually I took a course at Bondurant and all of students were talking about that pain the morning after. I was the only woman in the class. It was funny to hear the guys on the course – who were between about 21 and 65 – complaining about their lower backs hurting, and ask me if my back was hurting. I was like, “Why yes, yes it is!” We were all having the same symptoms, and I realised I wasn’t weaker than them. It’s just that race cars punish your body, that’s just what they do. Especially the Formula Mazdas! They are not kind. You end up with bruises and cuts and everything.
I don’t see a difference between me and the guys. Everyone’s dealing with the same G forces and stuff; everyone’s working out a lot to build strength. Now I’m working out more than when I started, I feel I’m in less pain later. I hate when people say that racing doesn’t take much physicality. Oh yes it does! Your neck, arms, legs, glutes, core, back, everything is stressed. Heck yeah, it’s physical.
BS And how has the fundraising side worked for you? Do you have mostly sponsors, or do you do more entrepreneurship to raise money? What’s the balance of that aspect?
JM I got a little bit of both. On the one side, I have a few sponsors. It’s been a little difficult, because you have to be your best self to raise sponsorship. I find it really hard to boast about myself and my achievements, but not sound narcissistic. But, the more podium finishes I get, the easier it is to show my progress, the easier it is to find people to fund me. I have two partial sponsors right now, and two full sponsorships. They’re car parts sponsorships, rather than cash. It’s baby steps to get to cash sponsors.
On the business side, I started selling t-shirts and tank tops and hats to help. That offsets a little bit of the racing costs. Our first batch sold really well. The second was a bit slower. We just gotta keep at it. We recently rented out our house to turn that into an asset and reduce our debt as much as we could. We got an equity loan to bundle up most of it. Living in the mobile home has reduced our cost of living and freed up more money for the racing. It just sucks to be money-dry. It’s difficult because things break all the time, and you don’t necessarily expect them to. I’m like, “Great! Now what do I do about that?”
BS Do you feel like you’ve experienced discrimination as a woman in motorsport?
JM I think the only inappropriate thing someone has ever said to me was…I’ll back up a bit. In autocross, there was another Latina racer, and the one day she was telling me that some older men made a comment about her cleavage. I was shocked. I was like, “Are you shitting me? Really?” She didn’t seem that bothered by it, but I would’ve been absolutely pissed about that!
Fast forward a few months, and the grid master was this older guy, standing by the cars, being really nice and just chatting. Then he told me that he’d told a woman she had really nice cleavage. I was like, “That was you?” I told him he shouldn’t be saying that kind of shit to random strangers. I was so pissed at him. He started getting angry with me, so I went to the race director at the time, who was a woman. I told her this was why women didn’t go racing, because they didn’t want to deal with shit like that. Like, when you’re racing, it should just be about racing. That put me off so bad. Like, why do we need to talk about my boobs? There’s no reason. I’m here to race. I don’t know if he got me confused with her, like all the brown women look the same to him, or I have no idea. That kinda stood out.
BS And as a Latina? Do you feel like you’ve been treated differently because you’re a different ethnicity to most of the paddock?
JM I haven’t experienced overt racism in racing. In life, sure, but not in motorsport. Other than that guy getting me confused with the only other brown lady on the grid, it’s been really positive for me. In life in general, yeah, it’s happened more than once, definitely. Especially in Utah, which is like…well, there isn’t much diversity there, period. Mormonism kinda dictates everything that happens in the state. I guess I stand out more in that kind of crowd. But other than that, I’ve been fortunate. I haven’t seen…well, you know, covert racism is so hard to see, so I haven’t picked up on too much of it. I haven’t had any overt racism. Like, at races, I’m the usually the only Latina and the only woman, so it’s hard for anyone to mix me up with anyone else.
BS How do you find your work environments? Do you think people are generally supportive of you, or is there subtle discrimination like people underestimating you or diminishing your skills and abilities?
JM Oh yeah, especially in IT. I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s in Information Systems. I found that in IT they like to treat you can’t do your job if you’re a woman. Whenever there’s a big project or anything like that, they always seem to skip me, even when I ask to be on a team. I want to take on the bigger challenges for the opportunities, but I still get skipped over. It’s so frustrating, because it feels like I’m treated like a child. Like, “Oh, poor Jamie, she can’t do that,” when I really can if you give me a chance.
BS That’s not just IT; it seems to be tech and engineering generally. I read a study a few years ago that found that when engineers were divided up and assigned a task in single-gender groups, the women had a fair distribution of tasks, but when they had mixed-gender groups, the men assigned the administrative tasks to the women engineers. Like, it’s probably unconscious bias – I don’t think they’re doing it intentionally – it’s just that their beliefs about women’s abilities lead them to treat us differently.
JM Oh my gosh. That’s insane! Wow. Great job there, guys! I haven’t heard of anything like that in racing. The one story I’ve heard…there was a woman in Utah NASA who was an instructor there. She was instructing a guy, and he refused to get in the car with her because she was a woman. She’s an excellent driver and coach – she races a freaking Lambo – but he wouldn’t. I’m just like, “Are you kidding, dude?” Like, I’ll get in her car and learn from her if he doesn’t want to! Shit! Don’t pass up good coaching! I have no problem with her gender.
BS When we were arranging this call, we discussed consent, and that you and your husband had been chatting about it. Do you think motorsport has a culture of consent? Do you think we could do some work to have clearer boundaries?
JM It was actually before the Weinstein scandal. We were bingeing on Netflix, and whenever there’s a character that’s like the quintessential heterosexual, narcissistic, white guy – well, they don’t have to be white, but they usually are in the stories – treating the women in the show like they’re there for his pleasure. Like, the way they talk to the women characters just kills me! My husband is always like, “He doesn’t know anything about consent.” I’m like, “Yes! Thank you! You see it too!” And then you see the character’s father, and it explains where it all comes from.
BS Do you think there’s a way to improve the situation? I mean, obviously, it’s not just a problem in motorsport, it’s everywhere, but this is our front porch, so we care more.
JM I think parents should be teaching their kids about consent, and what it’s all about. It should start from really young. That way, when they hit puberty and their hormones are raging and stuff, and they’re trying to figure out who they are, they don’t sacrifice respect. Like, we don’t only see it in the movies. In my high school, like, wow. My dad always taught me to stand up for myself if someone was touching me when I didn’t want to be touched. He told me to kick them in the balls. But the message was clear: it was my choice whether I wanted to be touched.
My husband’s the same. We’re good at communicating to each other when we don’t want to be touched, and it works for both of us. I don’t think one gender needs to hear the message more than the others, because there are times when all of us just want to be alone. It’s a very personal thing, getting up in someone’s space, and I think people need to respect that. People need to respect personal space.
It kinda bugs me when men say, “I have a daughter, so I understand.” And I’m like, why does it take having a daughter to understand? If you have a son, why don’t you teach them to be respectful of all humans? Again, it’s that personal space. I don’t think they think about how women feel when they’re close by us, touching us without asking.
BS Obviously, your husband goes to the track with you, and you’re obviously coupled. Do you think that has an effect on how you’re treated?
JM [Laughs] I think my resting bitch face scares most men off. I have RBF when I’m thinking. Most people are pretty respectful. I don’t mind being tapped on the shoulder and asked for a photo or an autograph or whatever. That’s normal. I watch how people interact with other people, how friendly they are. Some people are just really touchy-feely, and that’s just how they are. Some people aren’t. I guess it depends on the person, but it’s all pretty normal. I haven’t ever felt scared or uncomfortable in those situations. If I do, I’ll say something to the person, like, “Would you mind taking a step back?” There are some people who like to stand super-close, and I’ve had to tell a few of them that I need my space, but it’s not been a problem for me in racing.
BS Where do you stand on the grid girls debate?
JM I can see the pros. I can see both sides. The women are working, and it’s a job for them. But then I see the downside – the stereotype of women seen as sexual objects is there. It’s kind of a toss-up for me. I think that, as women, we should feel empowered to feel sexy about ourselves. Why should we hide it? Why should we be ashamed of our bodies? It’s this whole duality thing, like, if they’re comfortable then it’s not my place to judge. If they feel uncomfortable, they should get out of there. It’s kinda “damned if you do; damned if you don’t.”
BS I read a paper (Ariely and Loewenstein, 2006) about the effects of sexual arousal on sexual decision-making, in which they talked about how marketers used pretty women to stimulate the arousal response in straight men and shift more product because their judgement is affected. Do you think grid girls plays to this end, or do you think it’s unrelated?
JM I think it’s more complicated than that. They’re there because they like racing, so they’re not going there for just the women. But I guess it’s an added bonus for them, because the environment is very masculine and the grid girls is what they’re used to. That’s complicated, but I see where you’re going with that. It makes sense, though, because we have import models on imported cars all the time.
BS Male fans have expressed that they see femme fans and other women around the paddock as “grid girls we can talk to,” with the implication being that they’re also just there for male pleasure. Do you think that’s true of how you’ve been treated?
JM I think that depends on how they were brought up, to be honest. If they’re brought up to be a douchebag, they’re going to be a douchebag. That’s a hard one, because everybody’s different. Honestly, it depends how they were brought up, and how they were taught to view women. Maybe they were taught to view this particular set of women as sexual objects, but other women not. Some men, it might be all women. It totally depends.
BS Another paper I read (Griffin, 1995) talked about the pressure on female athletes to be what she called “heterosexy” – needing to appeal to the male gaze. Some women racers have said they’ve needed to become more femme to get sponsors. Have you experienced that?
JM I haven’t gotten that from my sponsors, but growing up, definitely yeah. I feel like women are expected to have all these different roles. Like, you have to be sexy, but you also have to be smart, but you also have to know how to cook and clean and all that. As it got older, though, I’ve started to wonder why I need to fulfil other people’s…not fantasies, but, like…why do I have to please anyone other than myself? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a little wiser. Now I’m like “Wait a minute, why do I have to play into these stereotypes? What’s the point?” You see all these commercials and movies where women are gorgeous and thin as a stick, but that’s their business – to look good.
The fashion industry is just crazy on women’s bodies and all that. So yeah, I’ve felt that pressure, especially as a teenager. When you’re growing up, you’re trying to figure out who you are, and think, “Oh wow, I need to look just as good as that…” Like, my skin colour isn’t really represented. You never see anyone like me on the cover of Vogue. So then there’s a load of added pressure of “Wow, I really don’t fit in.” As time’s gone by, I’ve learned to really love my skin colour, and that the magazines are crazy. I will never be a freaking size double zero ever in my life. That’s just how it is. My body’s different. But, I’ve totally been there. It sucks!
BS Where do you think the sport is going in terms of environmental friendliness?
JM I’ve thought about this, because I’ve learned at the race track that the big racing companies will use a set of tires once and then toss them. I’m like, “Are you serious?!” I understand the need to be competitive, but if they’re not going to use those tires, why not donate them to someone who’s racing on a smaller budget? Hell, I’ll take the tires! I use my tires until they’re completely done. Yes, that’s crazy to people who’re super competitive. I’m competitive, but I feel like I need to use the rubber down to when it’s done done. Something in me, I just can’t throw them away if they’re still good.
Also I learned the racing teams…and this happened at Miller Motorsports a few years ago, Miller would take the used tires from the teams and store them in their tire waste area…people were going into the garbage area and taking the tires, because they’re still good. So racing teams started drilling holes in the tires so nobody could use them. I’m like, “why do they care?” Like, let those tires have some more use if they’ve got enough rubber to be safe.
It’s a hard subject, because we’re not being eco-friendly out on the race track. We are burning fossil fuels like crazy – gas, tires, oil, brakes. It’s difficult to find the balance. The battery power still isn’t there for cars. They don’t last well on the race track, so fuel it is for now.
BS Do you think we need to offset our carbon with tree planting to make up for our racing habits? It’s a bit of a loaded question, land use, especially in countries who have issues with poverty and starvation and want to use that land for agriculture. Do you think that’s a possible avenue?
JM It feels like a cop-out to me. Those fossil fuels are done, and we’re never getting them back. Ever. No matter how many trees we pant, that resource is gone, and there’s no re-making that. Unless someone can figure out a cool way to use a resource that is replicatable but sustainable at the same time. But planting trees is always good. I understand planting trees for cleaner air.
(A few years ago, someone came up with a machine that turned air and sunlight into petrol, but it doesn’t seem to have caught on.)
BS Okay, favourite track, car, weekend, etc.?
JM My favourite track is Road Atlanta, it’s insane! The last turn, oh my gosh, it’s crazy! Before the last turn the hill goes up high, you can’t see the other side and then comes back down to an off-camber right hander. Wow. After applying 100% throttle through that turn like you are supposed to I got out of the car shaking. It was incredible. Forza really doesn’t do it justice. In the simulator, I would crash all the time when I first started driving there. I discovered that you don’t brake during the turn nor lift. You also can’t turn in late, or you end up in the wall. There’s literally nowhere to go if you mess up. There’s a lot of incentive to not make a mistake on the last turn. If you ever get a chance, drive that one.
BS Do you think the sport is safe enough these days, too safe, or neither? Is the halo a good safety solution?
JM I think racing is just dangerous. I think of the drivers who get hit with random debris in F1and Indy. It’s awful. I don’t even have a good solution to that. How do you protect yourself from that? Like, the F1 cars have a bar that’s right in the middle of the driver’s face. How do they see for racing? Is that safe for racing, or has it become a hazard on its own? That’s a big blind spot. Racing’s just dangerous.
BS Given that ad sales are down across the internet, do you think sponsorship is a good economic model, post-2008, or do you think we need to rethink how we go about funding racing?
JM It’s tough. I don’t think we’re going to have that kind of economic prosperity again – the kind we had in the years leading up to the 08 crash. As a business, the sport and sponsorship should evolve to keep up. Maybe branding individual teams and racers? That’s where my business model is right now. I’m focussed on making more of a brand for myself. I noticed that ad sales and sponsorship were down, which is why I started the t-shirts to offset that. But it’s funny. Racing’s kind of an antique sport in the way they run things, the culture, all of that. I think they need to catch up with the times.
I actually got a new brakes sponsor not too long ago. I’m trying to get more exposure and build my personal brand to get more sponsorship. I need to show sponsors that I’m more than just a pretty face. I’m a multifaceted person. I can do a lot of different things, so I’m trying to get exposure and sell my products and hopefully show other women that they can do this too. It gives me a lot of joy, talking to young girls about becoming a racing driver. I think we need more women getting results, not just token figures.
BS Do you think motorsport needs to focus on its diversity? If it does, how do you think that will affect you and your racing?
JM I often feel like, because racing is such a male-dominated sport that we have to be more of a man than a man off the race track. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that movie “Selena”. My favourite scene in that film is when the dad says that you have to prove to the Mexicans how Mexican you are, you have to prove to the Americans how American you are. I feel that pressure constantly as a Latino-American, as a woman, and as a racer.
BS As a Latinx-American, how do you feel about Trump and his wall plans? Is this making you nervous about long-term plans?
JM I can’t listen to him speak for very long. His rhetoric is just so…yeah. I can pretty much only handle him from…who was the guy who took over the Daily Show from John Stewart? Trevor someone? [Trevor Noah, a South African comedian.] But other than that, I try to avoid him as much as possible.
BS What’s your favourite brand of race gear?
JM [Laughs] It’s actually funny. I don’t even have a suit. It’s just been too expensive to buy that on top of running the car. I race in 100% cotton clothes. I have been looking at the Sparco suit, which looks really nice. It’s on my vision board for this year.
BS Have you heard of fireproof bras? Is that also on your list of things to buy for racing this year?
JM Oh wow, I’ve never seen fireproof bras! I did wonder if they made fireproof bras.
BS There’s a few brands that I’ve found. There’s Chicane Racewear in New Zealand, who’re a racing brand and do S-XL, and Lady Eagle in the States, who started out serving fighter pilots with breasts and have now started serving electricians and racers.
JM Oh wow, that sounds perfect. Lady Eagle, right? I’m just looking them up. Sweet. That’s going on my list! I’m running a little risky at the moment. I need a HANS device as well.
BS So, where to from here? What are your plans for the next few years?
JM This year, I want to continue the Global Time Attack to get more experience. Eventually, I want to get into open wheel. I want to try to climb the Indy ladder. That’s a steep ladder, but I really, really enjoy the open wheel cars. They’re so fast! They feel like I’m riding a motorcycle, but not. You’re so low to the ground. It’s so intimate. There’s also not many women in open wheel like Formula 1 and Indy.