Saturday night’s World of Outlaws sprint-car races at Knoxville will feature a driver who just graduated from college last year, at an engineering school in New York. But the main reason that Erin Crocker’s sponsors include her alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic, is her work as a role model for girls. She says all along she knew she was more interested in how things work than in writing papers and “the whole English thing,” so when she got to school she chose the industrial engineering field as it also included some management training as well as the core engineering classes she wanted. Crocker drives sprint cars and the 23-year-old from Massachusetts has competed since she was a sophomore in college. When she returns as a guest lecturer, however, she says she doesn’t advise young girls to grow up and become racecar drivers. She says she tells them to follow their dreams “with everything you got,” and says it was her first priority to get her engineering degree and “the racing came second.” Still, Crocker says it was natural that she’d go into racing. She says her father was always into cars and had her brothers racing quarter-midgets as long as she could remember. The whole family packed up and went to racetracks every weekend, so Crocker couldn’t wait to take her turn. Her team’s in Iowa today for the “World of Outlaws” racing series tonight and Saturday at the Knoxville Raceway. Last year Crocker was nominated for the “Rookie of the Year” and took home two Wild Card awards in the Sprint Car Poll at Knoxville. Erin Crocker says even with her alma mater and a few other businesses sponsoring the team, her fledgling racing career is operating on a shoestring. They’re doing this schedule on a limited budget, as she says a lot of the teams she races against have a lot more financing. For now Crocker says she puts everything she winds back into the race team, but says she “definitely” expects to “make a nice living from it.” She says she’d like to make it as a driver at least until she’s thirty or so and then own and run a race team herself. Crocker and her team have come to Iowa for Knoxville’s World of Outlaws series. She says they’re following that series this year, with tonight’s (Friday) preliminaries and Saturday’s main event including drivers from all over the country in what she calls “kind of a preview to the Knoxville nationals.” Crocker graduated in 2003 with a degree in industrial engineering, but says she has no interest right now in any job other than driving her sprint car. She’s returned to her college to lecture students on engineering as a career choice for women.
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