Race car driver Nicole Lyons gives a whole new meaning to what it means to be driven. Talented as she is beautiful, she’s carving a name for herself as one of the rarest entities in drag racing: an African-American woman. Madame Noire caught up with her as she opened up about drag racing, her pro football husband’s injuries, and her undying love for her parents.
Madame Noire: Describe what a pro race car driver does.
Nicole Lyons: There are several different [race car competitions], NASCAR, NHRA, Indy. You have to be licensed in a particular field of racing. You definitely have to be making money…Danica Patrick, for example, makes upwards of 20 to 30 million a year…Ways to make money [include] winning races, getting sponsors, getting paid as a driver. The money [you can make] is endless when it comes to winnings, sponsorships…
MN: How much do you make?
NL: I probably pocket upwards of $500,000 to one million a year…
MN: How in the world did you get started? You’re a rare gem, so who was your role model?
NL: Old school women racers who were white women; my dad was a race car driver himself… My father passed away a week before my 1st NHRA season opener in 2005. And right off the bat, I’d beat the #3 person from the year before. I feel like he’s there—we can literally talk to each other. My mom was in the pic…she didn’t race but she cheered.
MN: How do you interact with cars in your pastime?
NL: I own 13 muscle cars, besides my race cars. [My husband and I] probably own a $2,000,000 collection; I also own Cole Muscle Cars, a muscle car restoration shop… I believe a driver’s role should not just be as a driver, but you should be able to do anything that’s needed on your car as well.
MN: How does the NHRA treat African American women in the business?
NL: They have some pride there; you’re not hearing scrutinizing from heads of NHRA—the scrutinizing comments come from corporations. A big motor vehicle company [that was considering sponsoring me] said, we’d really love to sponsor you, but we’re concerned that if we part ways, black people would stop buying our vehicles. [Some also] feel like women are going to take time to have kids—you’ve just gotten millions, and you’re going to say, ‘oh guess what I’m pregnant,’ and you’re going to want a family and not want to do this anymore…