Behind The Wheel - #31 - Danielle Stanke
From southeast Michigan, the automotive capital, meet Danielle Stanke. Danielle is in her 30’s, married and works in the software industry. She of course, spends some of her free time drag racing in the Women & Wheels series, but when she's not doing that you might find her shooting, scrapbooking, or hanging out with her husband and two dogs Gizmo and Poppi.
When you live in Michigan, it's pretty hard to avoid cars. Danielle’s parents and grandparents all retired from GM, so as she said, “cars have always been a part of my fabric”. She went on to tell me about her first attempt at getting her drivers license and how she almost.. didn’t get it. “I have always had a lead foot. When I was taking my drivers test, I started to speed to pass and semi, and they had to tell me to slow down I still wasn't allowed to speed even to pass”, she told me.
In 2016, Danielle got to attempt drag racing for the very first time at a private track rental on street tires. “When I first attempted to drag race, I pulled up like right on the tree. The guy had to tell me to back up about 20 feet. I hot lapped it, didn’t do a burnout, I was on street tires, I told my husband it wasn't for me it was too much”, she said. From then, she discovered half mile racing and enjoyed it, telling me that she loved that there was no pressure and you were essentially racing yourself.
November of 2021, Danielle and her husband made the trip to Oklahoma City for her first ever Women & Wheels class race, and her first ever competitive drag race. When I asked her how she found her way back to drag racing she told me, “My husband has always been partial to ¼ mile racing. He knew about it and told me I should try it once more.. We had just lost one of our dogs so he thought it would be good to go on a trip and get me out of the house and I hesitantly agreed”. She went on to tell me about how the event went, how she kept going rounds and every time she was called back up and told she won her race, she couldn't believe it. She eventually ran through the class, making it to the finals and placing 2nd in her first ever competitive drag race!
Her car of choice is her 2014 Cadillac CTS-V that she bought on January 27th of 2014, her and her husbands dating anniversary. Her CTS-V coupe is equipped with full bolt-ons and runs on E-85 with her fastest pass so far has been a 10.3. She told me about how she is continuously learning more and more and going faster, with the support of Jeremy, her husband, at the track.
In recent times, her and her husband have acquired a TBSS and they are currently repairing the transmission in it. She told me that Jeremy wants her to try racing it but she still hasn't signed off on that. I asked her about goals and she told me she's not a specific goal-setter. She has a want to do better every time and told me her unspecified goal would probably be to work on her reaction time as it's still not as great as she thinks it can be, but has for sure gotten better. I asked her what Women & Wheels might be doing for ladies in this industry and she told me, “The sport feels less intimidating and I appreciate that. In a male dominated industry you worry about how you compete, it's the same in my career where you worry about over compensating or changing your personality to make it work. Racing in the class is not only a place to learn, but it's still competitive”.
I concluded our conversation asking Danielle what advice she would give any lady in this space and she told me, “If it’s something you want to do- try it. But try it a couple of times. My first experience wasn't awesome but I learned to relax and got more and more comfortable every-time. If you're not having fun, it's not worth it and if you go out there every time to win, you'll be disappointed. Find a local test-n-tune and talk to a guy at the track, they know everything about drag racing and will talk you through it all, it happened with us!”.
Danielle is the perfect example that just because your first experience wasn't perfect, doesn't mean your second one won't be better. From the woman who had only ever taken her car down the track at a private rental to placing 2nd in her first competitive drag race, it goes to show you might not even know what you're capable of!
You can find her on Instagram @ her_qik_v