Twenty year-old Stefanie Palmai of Allentown, NJ is not your ordinary girl. After working 6-9 hours at the “Create Yourself” salon, Palmai mixes her passion with hard work and determination as she races karts in the nighttime.
Out of cosmetology school and into a job at Allentown’s “Create Yourself” salon, Palmai enjoys working with her co-workers during the day. However, at night she races champ karts in the Tri-State Race Saver (TSRS) series Saturdays in April to October.
Palmai states that she has been racing for 10 years, starting in 2000 and got into the sport through her father and grandfather, who used to race. She said that a friend of her father’s was looking to sponsor somebody in go karts and she got her start from there.
Her father, Nandi Palmai III, is very supportive of his daughter participating in the sport and when asked to describe his daughter in three words (and why), he responded with, “Aggressive, determined, a winner. Because everything she does, she’s competitive at and she wants to be the best at whatever she does. Whether it’s work, school, racing, life.”
When asked the same question, her brother, Nandi Palmai IV, responded with, “Aggressive, relaxed and logical. She’s very aggressive, when somebody messes with her she doesn’t take any crap from anybody. She’s logical because, like, when she races she’ll wait to make the right move. [She’s] relaxed, because she just stays cool all the time and keeps her head in the right place.”
Although she has much love and support coming her way, Palmai isn’t the only racer in the family. Her sister, Erika, currently races as a teammate in her series and her father and grandfather are former racers themselves.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way! Racing keeps my family very close including my aunts, uncles, and cousins,” says Palmai when asked about being in a racing family. She states that “everyone has a job” in her family with her father as the crew chief and her brother working set-up, her mother and grandfather provide emotional support.
Her mother and grandfather are some of her “number one fans” and are “there every week in the grandstands along with the rest of the family.” Palmai adds that her boyfriend helps her along with the family, giving even more support as she races on the track each week.
Palmai currently races in the 305 division of sprints but would like to move up in divisions saying that “…eventually, I’d like to race 410 sprints, which is the best of the best sprint cars, their motors are bigger and faster, the cars are the same, they look exactly the same, they just go alot faster.”
Future goals aside, Palmai has accomplished much in the time that she’s been racing. Last season, Palmai placed 8th out of around 70 total competitors in the series. In 2011, she placed 7th and in the 2010 season, Palmai took 3rd place in overall championship points for the year, netting the “Rookie of the Year” award as well.
Palmai states that there is a “very big” guy to girl ratio in her current division with herself being one out of only three girls (with the added honor of being the first girl to join).
However, this ratio does not deter Palmai in the slightest as when asked if the ratio affects her, she explained that “it doesn’t matter”. She added that she doesn’t go out to race with an overly-competitive “All these men, I have to go out and beat them. Oh, it’s another girl, I need to beat her.” mindset, but with a mindset where she says “everyone is a racer and there’s always gonna be someone better than you and there’s always gonna be someone worse than you”. She adds that sometimes “there’s good weeks and there’s bad weeks” and that she just goes out and races as hard as she possibly can.
When asked about other’s first impressions of her when she races, Palmai said that everyone thinks “Heh, she’s a girl.” first and are not very intimidated. However, she explained that the guys that have been with the series for long and that have seen her race, know that she’s competitive and considers “first is first and second is last” when driving. “They know that I go to win and I’m not there to just mess around or say that I race cars or anything like that.” says Palmai.
Two of Palmai’s co-workers at “Create Yourself” salon, Tina Freiberger and Jenna Grygon, were asked what their first impression was when they heard that she races and if she fitted the stereotype of most girls. Freiberger said the fact that Palmai races was “surprising,” adding that “you would picture more of a tomboy and she’s not really like that” and “She’s like a girly girl, but she’s really tough on the race track.” Grygon said that Palmai racing was the “first time she ever heard of a girl that races” and “She is kinda girly, but then she’s not.”.
Palmai’s work on the track has also helped her generate business at the salon. She says that she can sometimes get clients to come in into the salon, recommending it at races. She also adds that the clients that come in and don’t know about her racing are described as “shocked” and think it’s “pretty awesome”.
Palmai can be seen racing Saturdays in April through October starting at 6pm until 9pm in the TSRS series. More information on the TSRS series and the 2013 season schedule can be found at http://www.tsrs1.com/.