When Julia Landauer was the runner-up in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Meridian Speedway in Idaho in September, she made history. She matched the highest-finish for a woman driver in K&N Pro Series West history. She was joined by another woman driver on the podium. Nicole Behar was third, marking the first time in NASCAR K&N Pro Series West history two women drivers finished on the podium.
Julia Landauer was runner-up in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Meridian Speedway in Idaho.
Landauer, a driver for Bill McAnally Racing and the only women in the NASCAR Next program, posted her best result of her rookie season at Meridian Speedway. She benefited from some late crashes in the race, but was able to maneuver around the mayhem and work her way to second place.
The significance of having Behar finish behind her did not escape Landauer. She and Behar are in a select group of women drivers in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. Landauer is the only woman driver in the NASCAR Next program. Behar is a NASCAR Next alum, one of the few women to be selected for that program.
“It’s really showing. You’re seeing more women in the developmental series who are being supported by their parents – that’s the big thing right? – your parents let you do it or not,” Landauer said. “Seeing more women do that, it’s just so cool. I don’t race the women any differently. My job and my goal is to beat everybody. It doesn’t matter. But it is just really, it’s encouraging to see that women are being competitive.”
Landauer is in an even more select group than NASCAR women drivers. She has a degree from Stanford in science technology and put her NASCAR career on hold until she finished college. The 24-year-old is back in a race car and resuming her climb up the NASCAR ladder.
“My story is a little different,” Landauer said. “I’m from New York City. I don’t come from a racing family. But my parents always liked racing. They really wanted to find an activity that their two girls could compete against boys in. They got us started in go-karts. I fell in love with it right away. It told them, ‘Whether or not you like it I really want to be a race car driver when I grow up.’”
She switched from go-karts to stock cars and oval racing when she was 16. After she graduated from Stanford, she won the Limited Late Models championship at Motor Mile Speedway in Virginia, the first woman to accomplish that feat, and started racing in the K&N Pro Series West.
“Regardless of how you view women racers, it’s a question of who’s the best,” Landauer said. “There are so few of us. Now we can safely say we are as good if not better than the competition out there.”
With one race remaining in the K&N Pro Series West schedule, Landauer is fifth in the series standings and second in the rookie of the year standings. She has six top-five finishes in 13 races. In addition to her runner-up finish at Meridian Speedway, she was fourth in one of the K&N Pro Series West road course races at the Utah Motorsports Campus in September.
Julia Landauer is one of the NASCAR Next drivers and currently fifth in the standings.
“I really didn’t know what to expect going into K&N,” Landauer said. “It’s such a big jump up from what I raced last year. The number of races, the races are three times the distance. It’s a heavier car, it’s a faster car. The competition was definitely more stout than last year. I didn’t quite know what to expect. I wanted to finish in the top 10 as much as I can, get a few podiums and I really wanted to get a win. I definitely thought I was capable of getting top five.
“For the season we’ve been back and forth. I think we’re right on the cusp of doing what we set out to do this year. Obviously, I really want to win. I am going to do everything in my power come Roseville to get that last goal checked off.”
The K&N Pro Series West season ends at All-American Speedway in Roseville on Oct. 15. Meridian Speedway is similar to All-American Speedway in that they are both short track ovals with not a lot of space to pass. Landauer said she expects her team to be just as strong in Roseville as it was at Meridian.
“My crew chief and I, we’ve been communicating a lot all year, trying to figure out what we really need to be the best, what he needs to be the best, what I need,” Landauer said. “We just went in strong, had a good practice. All season, we have been struggling a little bit with qualifying. At Meridian, I qualified eighth.
“We just started picking off drivers one-by-one. I got into a real comfortable position in third or fourth. It was really great to better our best finish. It’s always really cool to tie for history.”
One of the things Landauer says she has been working on this season is her aggressiveness on the race track. At the beginning of the year, she said she played it safe. But as the season wore on, she learned how to work her way through the field and put herself in position to win races.
“Something I have been working on all season is aggression,” Landauer said. “In the beginning of the season I think I was probably not aggressive enough. Finding out how to really muscle my way to the front, I felt like at Roseburg, that was a really good showing of being an aggressive driver. Our road course at Utah was really good, showed really strong racing to get fourth.”
Landauer has taken advantage of being a NASCAR Next driver. She has met with some people in NASCAR who have been helpful in furthering her career. She said she is grateful for making those connections.
“To not only get the public recognition that NASCAR sees my potential, that they want to help me, that in of itself is really cool and great confidence-building,” Landauer said. “It’s incredible the amount of exposure, the ability I’ve had to meet people in the industry, especially as a New Yorker, in particular, I’ve had a lot of things to learn. Being able to tap another resource, and be able to go to a large group of people at NASCAR, and just ask for help, bounce ideas off of them, get tools from them to help me with my career has been really very powerful.”
Julia Landauer is second in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series Rookie of the Year standings.
Having K&N as a sponsor in the Pro Series West has also been helpful. Landauer said being able to race at tracks on the same weekends as Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series races puts her team and other K&N Pro Series West teams and drivers in contact with NASCAR supporters.
“K&N has been with the series for a long time now,” Landauer said. “The fact that we got such a dependable, established program supporting our series is really cool. To be able to have such an admirable company really invest in the grassroots level of racing and us younger racers who really want to put on a good show for a good series, it really helps provide that. They really put on a good show for a development series. It helps us get a sense of what it’s like to go racing big time. The fact they have faith in us to make it worth their while, it says a lot. It seems like a really great relationship.”