TOLEDO, Ohio (Jan. 23, 2017) - On this day Leilani Munter was doing what you might expect any girl to do...she was going shopping. But it wasn't for pretty things or perfume...it was for new racing gloves and new racing shoes. As it turned out, she was the only female racer that participated in the recent ARCA open test at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
"Just shopping for new gloves and racing shoes," said Munter. "I haven't raced for a couple years and my gloves and shoes don't match my new suit. I've got to have something that doesn't clash so much with my new outfit...gotta get it coordinated."
Munter, in the No. 15 Vegan Powered-Venturini Motorsports Toyota, seemed rather well "coordinated" in the recent open test, coming in 16th quickest among the 63 drivers total.
"We never really got any good drafting in...it was mostly single-car runs. We intended to do a little more drafting, but a couple cars got in between my teammates and me leaving pit road. Fortunately, my Venturini Motorsports team got to try a lot of different things in single-car runs.
"I feel really good about the test. Obviously, the Venturinis always have good cars, and we certainly weren't too far off my teammates in single-car comparisons, so, all in all, it was very beneficial. I haven't been in a car for two years, so, for me, it was all about getting the feel of things. I'm really looking forward to getting back out there. I absolutely love my paint theme and I've been dreaming about racing this car at Daytona. It's important to get out in front of race fans with this cause."
And if it wasn't for that "cause" - her firm belief in animal rights - she wouldn't be in a race car at Daytona. Munter is partnered with A Well-Fed World, which made it happen.
Munter recently received the Vegan Athlete of the Year Award at the Animal Rights National Conference.
"In the acceptance speech, I spoke about bringing the vegan message to the racing world. Shortly afterward, I got a call from the non-profit to inform me that they had the funding in place to get me in the car and on the track at Daytona. A Well-Fed World put the funding together for the Vegan car."
Munter's not the only driver who's gone vegan either.
"I'm not the only one; that's for sure. Andy Lally is vegan...so is Spencer Pumpelly and Landon Cassill...there are more. I'm just the only one who has it plastered on my race car."
With funding in place, Munter will return to the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards team that she considers home.
"I have a home with Venturini Motorsports because they get me."
It seems like an unlikely matchup...a self-proclaimed "vegan hippie chick" with a gritty, good-ole-boys Venturini Motorsports knuckle-busting bad boys club. Whatever it is, or isn't, it works.
"I've never been with a team that was more on board with what I'm trying to accomplish. They know I'm an activist. My whole life is not just driving race cars. There are a lot of causes that are near and dear to me, and they understand that.
"They're open-minded...not stuck in their ways. I feel a kindred spirit with them, and they're on board with the causes I'm involved with. Venturini Motorsports is my racing family."
Possibly, the grittiest of them all is Munter's crew-chief Jeff McClure, who seems to make for an unlikely pairing, yet the two really seem to click.
"Jeff's a racer. He's been behind the wheel...he's been in my shoes, and he gives me a lot of support, and those things really help with your confidence. I have a ton of respect for Jeff...he's a proven winner. If he's talking, I'm listening. But everyone in the shop at Venturini Motorsports has been so supportive."
McClure, who you might expect to see gnawing on one of those oversized state fair-style deep-fried turkey drums with animal grease coming off his chin, after he unloaded the chew between his gums, is also apparently open to some vegan options.
"I'm cooking a vegan meal for he, his wife and family this weekend...taking it over to his house as a gift for him to try some vegan options."
Once they've had their fill of veggies, it's back to the business of racing.
"It's going to be so much fun getting back in a race car. I've missed it...to remember what's it's like to be in a race car...it's been that long.
"I haven't done a lot of ARCA racing...one race here, one there, but over the last half-dozen years, what racing I have done has been with the Venturinis. I totally feel like I have a good home with the Venturinis...they're the only regular ride that I've had here."
How will Munter get back to Daytona for the race in February? In her super-charged, all-electric Tesla Model S of course.