Behind The Wheel - #22 - Heather Swihart
Heather Swihart’s upbringing wasn't surrounded by car-lovers and drag-racers, but somehow, she still found her passion in drag racing and owning the world’s fastest woman driven ATS-V. Heather is 39, currently lives in the Atlanta, Georgia area, is married, and has 3 fur-babies. From a young age Heather set out to be self-sufficient and knew she wanted to be able to afford “cool things”, like her car, so she found herself working in healthcare and told me about how much she enjoys her career.
From an early age, Heather had an appreciation for cars and watched the small things her dad did with them. She learned quickly to take pride in her own vehicles and that simple maintenance was something you could do yourself and didn’t have to pay someone to do for her. She eventually met her husband and found herself at car meets, watching street racing, and realized she wanted to deep dive into the world we call cars. She told me how she was originally a Honda chick, “You know when you’re growing up and you think you have the coolest car, and you look back and you’re like ‘absolutely not.’? That’s how I was”. From that time on, she decided she wanted to eventually get involved in racing.
Heather obtained her 2016 Cadillac ATS-V coupe, started street racing it, and then realized that she could legally race it on the track without the risk of getting in trouble. “I didn’t know just anyone could go to the track, normal people. I always assumed only professionals could go out there and race”, she told me. She finds support from her husband trackside and although she finds pride in her independence of her car-modification journey, she told me, “I 100% would not be successful without the support of my husband at the track”.
As mentioned, Heather currently owns the world’s fastest woman-driven ATS-V. She has piloted it to a 9.95 and has plans to continuously go faster. Heather’s ATS-V is currently upgraded with a cold air intake, flex fuel system, upgraded low- and high-pressure fuel pumps, downpipes, ported throttle body, fuel cam, and is tuned by Tapout Tuning. Her next round of upgrades will include valve springs and cams, and “I’ll upgrade the turbo’s if I get desperate enough”, she said. Her next goal is for her car to wheelie, “I think I may have done a small wheelie before, but I want there to be no doubt I wheelied, I want it proven on camera!”.
Her husband is actually the reason she decided to participate in the Women & Wheels class in Atlanta, “he told me I should jump in and try it, but I was like no, women are intimidating. We all have that common fear of not being accepted, not knowing what to say, worrying people won’t like you. I decided to do it and it was a confidence booster after realizing how easy it was to talk to the other ladies”. Although she went out first round, she told me about how she felt leading up to it, “I drew Jamie Flora. I was like ‘I’m going to go out first round!’, but out of all people to lose to- I’m glad it was her. She was so nice and not at all arrogant. You’re not going to get better without seat time, so it was just more practice for me!”.
She told me what she sees Women & Wheels has done for women, “Normally at races if women are there, it’s not many, and it’s not congregated. It helped developed relationships with women with common interests especially for people intimidated in groups, and it’s honestly not as intimidating as you make it out to be”, she said. She also sees the benefits of bracket racing other women, “They always say women have faster reaction times, so we are bettering ourselves racing other women with fast reaction times”. Heather’s biggest piece of advice would be “Go and find a test-n-tune event near you, bring out ANY car you want, get in it and just do it, start practicing!”.
Heather is a prime example of how independence and enthusiasm can turn into living your dream and knocking down goals!
You can find her on Instagram @atsv_chic.