|Junior knows her way around auto track
RELEASED: Sept. 30, 2004
DANVILLE, KYIt's been her little secret since she arrived at Centre three years ago. But if you ask Shannon Mockler about her past life as a racecar driver, her eyes light up and she'll wax poetic about the sport in a way that would make any gearhead proud.
Though few of her friends at Centre are aware of it, Mockler, a junior from Westfield, Ind., has an impressive auto racing background.
"It's a surprise to people who know me as a swimmer and sorority girl," she says.
Mockler is pursuing a self-designed major in European studies. She's a diver on the Centre swim team, a member of the Colonel Corps (student volunteers who assist the admission office), treasurer of the German Club and a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority. She plans to attend law school or graduate school. Before attending Centre, however, she put the pedal to the metal.
Her father, Warren Mockler, is a former professional auto racer. He competed against the likes of Jeff Gordon, Ken Schrader and Mario Andretti.
When she was 8, Mockler began racing midget cars in the United States Auto Club (USAC) Series. Midgets can go up to 90 mph and races last from 10 minutes up to a few hours.
"It's brutal in the summer," Mockler says. "We wear gear just like the NASCAR guys.
"It was always a challenge. You were competing against yourself, other people and the track."
She raced in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, California and Indiana. She initially drove quarter midgets, built for children ages 5 to 15. She was often the only female on the track.
"My dad said that when you put your helmet on that you're no longer a boy or a girlyou're a racer and a competitor," Mockler says. "The older I got the more normal it was. I was no different than the guys."
She also became increasingly crafty behind the wheel. Mockler graduated to race micro midgets. She set a track record at one course and a few weeks later won the Robbie Stanley Memorial in Indianapolis, a prestigious racing event for upcoming drivers.
Her younger sister, Stephanie, also became involved on the circuit, making it a trifecta family affair. (In addition, mother Lynda was also present, working on cars and helping score races.)
'My sister and I did 95 percent of the work on our own cars," Mockler says. "We changed the tires, changed the oil and did a lot of the maintenance. That made us more informed drivers."
Though she was highly successful, racing was becoming expensive and time-consuming. In high school Mockler was a three-sport varsity athlete and a member of the band.
"I just wasn't willing to sacrifice everything else I was doing," Mockler says. "My education was very important to me and I understood that I'd need to be really involved in school to help land a [college] scholarship. I have a scholarship at Centre, so it worked out for the best."
She has raced only a handful of times since her junior year of high school.
"I miss it a lot," she says. "When I talk about it or go see my sister race, I realize how much so."
She hasn't given up the thought of racing again someday. If she has children in the future, Mockler would like them to be involved in racing.
"I can't think of a more exciting experience growing up."
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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