Girl Go-Karter Chases Her NASCAR Dreams

In the new film Racing Dreams, eleven-year-old go-kart racer and NASCAR hopeful Annabeth Barnes shows what it's like to be a girl in fast-paced sport still dominated by boys.

Barnes's dad calls her "the next Danica Patrick," and the go-kart races depicted in the film (currently playing in select theaters) are higher-stakes than outsiders might assume. The go-karts reach speeds of 80 mph, and the best kart drivers often go on to become NASCAR stars. That's why Barnes spends all her weekends racing — including, she says, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. Barnes comes off as charming, smart, and dedicated, and her peers clearly respect her. When the two boys also profiled by director Marshall Curry — Josh Hobson and Brandon Warren — are caught on camera joshing about Barnes, one asks, "do you think she's pretty?" Says the other, "I think she's a good driver."

But it's clear that on the go-kart circuit Barnes is, in some ways, The Girl. She explains why potential sponsors might want her to use their equipment: if it could help a girl win, the thinking goes, it would be even better for a boy. Barnes acknowledges that this is "completely sexist," but she needs all the sponsorship she can get, since go-kart racing can be expensive. Money isn't the only issue — Barnes seems more troubled by the conflict between social life and racing life than the boys in the movie, and complains at one point about all the birthday parties she's missing to compete.

Spending your weekends on sports, especially sports that involve gasoline and 80 mph speeds, is still a bit more acceptable for boys than for girls, but Barnes has stuck with it since the film wrapped. And NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program could help her, as well as other female and minority drivers who want to break into the sport. Maybe someday Barnes won't be an anomaly — and rather than "the next Danica Patrick," she'll just be the next winner.

Image via Racing Dreams.

Racing Dreams [Official Site]