If you aren’t familiar with professional race car driver Leilani Munter, it’s about time you hopped on the fandom wagon with the rest of us. Not only does Munter excel in a sport that is heavily dominated by boys, she also pretty much bucks every race car driving stereotype out there. Munter is a self-described “vegan hippie chick with a race car,” and if that doesn’t make you want to hug her (or be her) than I really don’t know what to say.
In addition to being a professional race car driver, Munter is a steadfast vegan who is passionate about animal rights, environmental activism and, most recently, has spearheaded a fight for renewable energy and electric cars by 2050.
Wait, what? Someone who drives a race car for a living is also concerned with their carbon footprint?
Yep. And she doesn’t care what other people think.
Munter, a biology major with a degree from UC San Diego, started racing cars in 2001 and became especially vocal about her environmental viewpoints back in 2006 (which was also her first full-time season driving a race car). “I knew it was gonna ruffle some feathers,” Munter told Fusion. “And I definitely, you know, got calls from people in marketing saying ‘You need to shut up about this stuff. You just need to drive the race car, plug your sponsor, and you need to be quiet about all this stuff you’re saying about oil and climate change.'” But Munter did not stop talking. Instead she became the first Ambassador of the National Wildlife Federation, you know, in between her car racing duties.
Munter has kept up her commitments and recently collaborated with The Solutions Project to form Energy Freedom, which is endeavoring to make renewable energy a feasible and accessible option for consumers by 2050. As part of this campaign, Munter made a trip last year from Charlotte, North Carolina, to her race at the Chicagoland Speedway in an electric car. “This is the first time I’ve gotten to my race oil-free,” she remarked. Not only was this feat a first for Munter, it was a first for any NASCAR or ARCA driver.
Munter has taken her environmental beliefs even further by adopting an acre of rainforest every time she drives her race car in an attempt to offset her carbon footprint (she was the first carbon neutral race car driver ever).
“For some reason, I think people respond well when the message is coming from somebody they least expect it from. It’s an unusual combination,” Munter said in an interview. “I get their attention with the race car, and then when I have their time, I talk to them about the things I think are the most important things to talk about right now, which is the environmental issues we’re facing.”
So, basically: she’s a kick-ass race car driver who regularly drives over 150mph. She cares about animals and the environment so much that she’s doing everything she can to change her industry’s stance on it. She’s not afraid to be vocal about her thoughts and opinions even when people tell her to STFU. AND she’s out to change the world for the better.
Yep, we’re pretty much in love.