Classic Car Capital
Deborah Briscoe and her 1965 Ford Cortina
Deborah Briscoe and her 1965 Ford Cortina under the Paddock tent at Velocity Invitational.

Women in Motorsports at Velocity Invitational 2022

A chat with Wendy Epstein, Debbie Briscoe, and Erika Kindred on all things cars.

Photography by Kristina Cilia. Words by Amanda Quick.

Ah, the Velocity Invitational.

Birthed in 2019 and flourishing to the glorious renaissance it is today, the homage to our industry’s finest took place between October 14th and 16th at the WeatherTech Raceway in Laguna Seca.

It’s an event that gives auto addicts yet another reason to sign up and enter the kid-gloved veteran of choice (or simply attend and sip quality bubbly in support of some seriously styling scoots).

…and we mean it when we say these beauties are far from your hometown hooptie.

Deborah pilots the Ford Cortina through Rainey Curve
Deborah pilots the Ford Cortina through Rainey Curve behind several competitors. While not her greatest race, due to a plethora of mechanical issues all weekend long, Deborah remained positive and knows she will do better once the car is sorted.

With iconic models of the sixties (droolers like the nostalgic 1959 Ferrari 250 GT TDF and the anthemic 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta) hitting the track next to lineups of hypercars and vintage racers devoted to keeping the ‘Heroic Age’ of racing alive, the Velocity Invitational is the quintessential celebration of masterful automobiles and their drivers.

That also goes for the iconic women in attendance at this year’s iteration.

Brad, Deborah's husband
Brad, Deborah’s husband, has a little fun photo bombing her portrait session.

As a writer in the Powersports space, I rarely frequent the Willy-Wonka world of wonder-autos, so it was a fortunate series of events that had me sitting down with three gals that were present at Velocity – all of whom also had some kind of background in motorcycles!

Two of these ladies are professional racers and one, believe it or not, is an auto mechanic aficionado fresh out of high school with a boatload of experience and more than one way to get a lemon back in line.

Erika tightens the lug nuts on a 1968 Camaro.
Just one of her many duties, Erika tightens the lug nuts on a 1968 Camaro.

Together, this talented trifecta left me a sound impression of their experiences, legacies, and – most importantly – a love for their close-knit community; what it means to be a woman in the autosport space.

I’m nibbling my favorite pen in anticipation, so let’s give the poor thing a rest and dig in.

What got you into the racing industry/auto industry?

Wendy Epstein driving a 1966 Austin Mini
Wendy Epstein drove this 1966 Austin Mini at the 2022 Velocity Invitational. She is no stranger to racing and has participated in a variety of events to include the 1979 Cannonball Run where she drove a motorcycle and a more recent rally in the Moroccan desert.

Wendy Epstein

It was a 250 time trials against men! I got hooked immediately.

I mean, I had wanted to do it before, but my parents were not motorcyclists or racers, so I had to wait until I was 18 to sign myself off..after that, I just continued to race motorcycles, then cars.

I went pro in 1977, and I raced till 1982 when I had no more money. *chuckles*

Adam Carolla takes a moment to pose with Deborah Briscoe
Adam Carolla takes a moment to pose with Deborah Briscoe. Both race in the same group; Adam in his Datsun 510 and Deborah in her Ford Cortina.

Debbie Briscoe

I have been into cars and flight jets since I was 12 – but at that age, my parents put me on horses, and that was about as fast as I could go.

When I was older, I stole my brother’s Volkswagen Rabbit to go visit my boyfriend and kinda got hooked going fast around corners! *laughs*

Later in life, my hubby and I used to go to the track here and just kept seeing people racing. And then I discovered that there were a couple of women that were out there racing – and it was at our historics event, the 4th of July weekend about 10 years ago.

We were sitting up at the top of the stands, and we thought, ‘this is what we wanna do; we can do this’ – we’d seen other types of racing, but we really wanted to do the vintage racing because they appreciated the cars and the driving differently.

We took a couple of classes, waited until our son was 21 (to make sure that he was old enough to handle finances/responsibilities in case something happened to us), and met up with a gentleman by the name of Paul Reinhart for our very first Corvette race car.

That same car is now actually in the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green Kentucky!

Racer Erika Kindred
Erika Kindred just graduated from high school this year. She is one of the few, if not only female mechanic at many of the races she attends with the Impeccable Inc. team.

Erika Kindred

I have always been around cars and motorcycles, and I grew up being taught how to take care of (and maintain good condition of) all of my vehicles.

I could be be cleaning the air filter on my dirt bike, or doing brake and rotor replacements on my truck and car – doesn’t matter what I do, I always enjoyed working on machines.

How I fell into truly WORKING on cars, though, is through my Uncle Ray Raynal (from RKR Racing), who also works for Impeccable Inc.

I caught an injury when I was 14, which pulled me away from sports; I had free time, which for me is not a good idea…

To keep my brain from going crazy, I ended up spending all of my free time with my uncle, who taught me everything I know about working on cars.

I fell in love with it so much that I started spending weekends doing anything from putting lifts on trucks, to engine swaps.

Eventually I had the opportunity to assist him with working on the race cars on school breaks. Working on the cars is amazing in and of itself, but going to the races and seeing them perform at their peak is what truly hooked me.

Working on cars for events like Velocity…I don’t even wanna call it a hobby because I love it so much more than I love a hobby; for me, it’s an obsession.

It’s weird to me to say ‘crew members’ because we’re all family (Impeccable Inc. is a family business), but [working with cars and my crew members] is definitely one of my all-time favorite things.

What makes the winning car?

1966 Mini interior
Who said all racecars were sophisticated and shiny? Wendy raced this 1966 Mini with few creature comforts.

Wendy Epstein

Team organization – by far, yeah. Having the car prep before you get to the track and a strategy of who’s gonna go in, what time they come out fueling – it’s a strategy, very much like the professionals (the Formula One teams, and stuff like that).

A strategy always works better.

Cortina interior
The Cortina’s original interior was stripped long ago to reduce weight for racing and a modern racing seat has been substituted. The speedometer, read in kilometers, is the only original gauge.

Debbie Briscoe

Two different things come to mind. I’ll say lots of money and a determined driver – but a car put back on the hauler the same way it came off is a ‘winning’ car (in Vintage Racing) for sure!

For me, a race isn’t just who wins. All of the cars make up the race and all share in the victory.

Deborah's racing gloves
Deborah’s racing gloves lay across the top of the dash in preparation for the next race.

Erika Kindred

Hmmm.

For me, what makes a winning car is not always what place they come in…yes, while having a car place first is always a great feeling, there are more ways to win. 

When a machine puts on an amazing battle with another car or group, that’s still a winning car. When a spectator (or another member of a crew) comes up to me at an event and says something like: ‘this is the best presented car in the group’…that is literally one of the highest compliments you can get as someone who works on cars – so again, to me, that is a winning car.

A big one is when a car can have its original driver (from when it raced back in the day) in the bucket seat for the track. Even if riding passenger is all they can manage, its an unforgettable experience and would define a winning car. 

As for coming first…I mean, you never know what could happen during races. We always prepare to the best of our ability before, but they’re race cars. They’re gonna push hard anyways, it’s what they’re meant to do – and for the ones that really go for it, more things happen to them, haha! 

But that’s kinda the fun of it for me – especially when I’m just starting to get into it.

Anything exciting planned for the near future with Velocity now behind us?

1966 Austin Mini
Wendy Epstein’s competitive nature has put her behind the wheel or handle bars in a variety of competitions. Here she is driving a 1966 Austin Mini during the Velocity Invitational Mini vs. Mustang race at Laguna Seca.

Wendy Epstein

I drove an off-road rally in Tunisia in March, and we’re signed up to do Morocco next April!

For the Tunis Challenge, we had a mechanical failure the first couple of days, but we got with the program the last three days – so we didn’t place in the challenge, but we had a great time.

Coincidentally, we were the only Americans, and we were one of two all-female teams!

Cortina coming out of Turn 11 at Laguna Seca
The Cortina was repaired and Deborah was back on track later that day for the final session. She is seen here coming out of Turn 11 at Laguna Seca.

Debbie Briscoe

Definitely creating memories in the autospace with my family! Having my 13-month-old grandson there watching him soak in all of the smells, sights, and ‘vroom vrooms’ was the icing on the cake for me as a grandmother and a racecar driver!

Doing this with people you love? It doesn’t get any better than that – and the vintage racing community felt like home because it’s all one big family. You definitely don’t do it for the money…they say that the quickest way to make a million dollars in vintage auto racing is to start with $10 million and then when you’re done you have a million, haha!

Erika Kindred
Erika Kindred is a mechanic with Impeccable Inc. She travels with the vintage racing team and helps maintain the vehicles.

Erika Kindred

My future goal…

I don’t know if it’ll go completely career-level – but you never know.

Right now, I’m aiming to be at as many events as possible, supporting the cars – and then if I have any downtime, taking it to help out at the shop doing whatever needs to be done.

Being able to go to the events and be with the cars and be with my family that’s working on the cars…doing that as often as I can really is the goal – for as much as I can, for as long as I can…but there’s no specific goal or time limit or anything.

Things that resound for you as a woman in this industry – fun, inspiring, or otherwise?

Mini oil topping off
Track preparation includes topping off the oil before a race.

Wendy Epstein

Actually, I love this question because I wish I had been groomed properly for the big leagues –  I’m a real grassroots gal; I swear like a sailor, I am NOT ready for prime time! *laughs*

If I was going to do this again, I would want somebody to say, ‘Okay, act like this when you’re off the track and say these things and always look nice’ –  don’t run into it like a bull as I did.

I hope girls can get further with some of that advice.

Back when I was coming up through the amateur ranks of AMA Superbike, I ran into challenges with men who were not happy about a woman being there, beating them.

Then, I got to the pros.

These guys were not just the best in the country; they ended up being world champions – and they were so nice to me! So giving – and at the time, I was shoestring racing, where we would have factories giving us parts and tires and things like that to keep going.

So the pros were really a great time. The guys were great.

Cortina and Datsun 510
Deborah is seen here coming out of Turn 11 being chased by a Datsun 510.

Debbie Briscoe

Just do it.

Don’t be afraid, don’t be embarrassed; and hey, there are classes out there that you can take if you want to take a class with just women.

Just know everybody can do it; it’s not that hard, but you have to be committed to it.

And once you finally do it – you sit in a car, a real race car and you’re able to feel that engine, feel the machine when you hit an apex, the rumble gets in your soul – after that, you can’t NOT do it.

So just don’t be afraid. Just everybody’s out there to have fun.

“I’ll say this; you can ask any of the women there. Once you put your helmet on, you’re just the same as everybody else – you’re out there racing.

Then you can come off the track with your loud BMW, getting people’s attention as you back it into your paddock, and people come by taking pictures…you get outta the car, you take your helmet off, and they go, ‘WHOA. It’s a chick,’ haha!

Just do it.

1968 Camaro
Erika Kindred, 18, checks the oil in this 1968 Camaro once driven by racer Rusty Jowett in the Trans-Am series. She has worked several years for Impeccable Inc. who helps maintain the car.

Erika Kindred

…If you do ever find yourself in a position where you are able to have a position, definitely take in all that you can. Soak it all up.

Don’t let someone’s disrespect get in the way of how much you care about it and how much you wanna further your career; it’ll come to a point where you’ll be able to show them how much you really do know, or how much you really do care about your craft.

I’ve learned over the course of the last three years that people who might not have given me the time of day, will eventually come around – and at the end of the day, I enjoy talking with them and being around them.

So yeah, it takes a bit of effort – being a female in a male-dominated industry – but don’t let your disappointments affect your drive, and don’t let them affect how far you wanna go.

No matter where or what your goal is, keep pushing.

1965 Cortina GT badge
The 1965 Cortina GT retains its period correct taillights, badging, and trim.

Suffice it to say, after meeting with Wendy, Debbie and Erika, I have found myself drawn to Velocity; who knows, maybe y’all will see me timing gear shifts with my caboose in a bucket set next time.

For now, though, we bid you adieu, and a huge thanks to Jeff O’Neill, whose brainchild brought these three women together to celebrate the beauty of speed on four wheels.

Be sure to check back for updates, as we are always refreshing our archives with the best of the latest.

Hope you all get in a good airing in your machine of choice, and as ever.

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