Behind The Wheel - #13 - Cara Hepler

Sticking to one area within the automotive industry, just wasn’t her thing. Cara Helper has found motivation in trying new things and never fitting inside just one box. The lifespan of her car has seen car shows, autocross racing, and now drag racing. Cara has worked in optometry for 10 years and has found herself moving around within that space as well, always finding the next position that would teach her more and provide more opportunities. Currently, she is a technical coordinator, but she hopes to find herself as a practice manager, and even would like to purchase a practice one day.

Cara’s introduction into the automotive industry wasn’t through her family when she was young, like a lot of people. It was from a passion for horses when she was younger, that turned into a passion for “Mustangs” and it grew larger from there. “Growing up I had hot wheels, and a Barbie Mustang, and I just loved horses. I was a horse-crazy girl and I never grew out of it”, Cara told me. She mentioned to me that her first vehicle was a Nissan Frontier, but since she was in high school and didn’t have a lot of disposable income, she was only able to get a stereo system installed. Cara knew after the years that her truck was starting to have some issues, so she saved up, and worked extra hours to get what she considered her dream car at the time, a V6 Mustang. “That car really started everything for me. My parents weren’t supportive of the car because they thought I should get something practical and reliable”, she tells me. She found herself installing small modifications like wheels, quarter window louvers, a cold-air intake, and spending a lot of her time taking pictures of it since photography was another one of her hobbies.

Cara eventually got rid of her V6 Mustang and found herself in a 2017 Mustang GT. This S550 is the car that has been used as a show car, autocross car, and now drag car. She placed 3rd in Rocky Mountain Mustang Round-up her first year competing, and won 1st place her second year competing. She was also able to win her first drag racing win in the DOT class at Fun Ford series. Her current personal best is a 10.1 at 135MPH and she hopes to be in the 9’s this year since she just installed an E-85 fuel system. It is wrapped purple, has a Procharger, Kooks Headers, airbags, full Steeda suspension on every component that is not an airbag, and a GT350 intake manifold.

Her role models are women who have shown what can be done with the S550 platform. Her role model in autocross is Ryan Cheek, who does SCCA time trials but started in autocross. Cara’s role model in drag racing is JoAnna Iacobelli, who has a 8-second S550 Mustang. She has been able to ask both of these women question that have been super helpful to someone just getting involved in a specific type of racing. Cara’s number one supported is her boyfriend, Cameron. “When I first met him, he thought it was cool I liked cars, we went from installing cosmetics on my V6 Mustang, to installing almost everything ourselves on my S550, and we learned as we went. I don’t think I would’ve found the number of resources to do what I do now without him”, she tells me.

Cara has competed in 2 of the Women & Wheels classes this year in both the Oklahoma City event in May, and the Denver class. “I wanted to compete because my biggest passion is to inspire future generations. Growing up, being into cars wasn’t necessarily cool. I thought the goal of Women & Wheels is amazing and the scholarship opportunities would’ve been vital growing up. Being around all of these women has gotten me out of my shell more”, Cara told me. Cara finds herself having more fun racing other women, “I think there’s a stigma in other races and I put extra pressure on myself. But in this class, some of these women have raced before and some haven’t, I’m not worried because there’s another girl that just wants the same thing as me”.

Cara has seen firsthand, the opportunities that Women & Wheels has given women, and new-comers as she got to support her best-friend, Nicki, who had never raced before and placed 2nd in Denver. “There’s a lot of women that I don’t think would have gotten the courage to race without Women & Wheels. From social media people might be worried they only have a V6, nut you don’t have to be fast, you just have to know your car, it’s bracket racing”, Cara says. Her advice for women would be “Just jump into it. Comparative from years ago to now, there are so many resources, and so many women that want to help you”.

Cara is proof you don’t necessarily fit in only one box and you can find yourself successful in different areas you may not have known you were good at.

You can find Cara on IG @chaos_gt_premium.