Gillian Kirkpatrick Ready For Success Back Home

Gillian Kirkpatrick is always all smiles when she's near her racecar.

It’s those wonderful days of summer in which students are enjoying the most of their vacation and plans with friends are about as important as a public relations representative coordinating their client’s schedule in advance at the races. For 16-year-old Gillian Kirkpatrick of Washingtonville, NY, it’s been a summer that can’t be summarized in short.

Kirkpatrick recently returned home to the Empire State after living in North Carolina from last summer through this past spring.  Although it’s a homecoming in which the places and people around her are likely the same as they were before her move, she’s also evolved with the times.

To say the least, she’s balancing her life on the track with that of being a normal high school student.  She’s growing up, finding confidence in the woman she’s becoming, and she offers no apologies for the changes that she’s making in her journey called growing up Gillian Kirkpatrick.

With all due respect, it’s a refreshing sight for those who’ve watched her from her early days on the track to those months in which she battled against some of the Southeast’s toughest young racing talents.  Despite her success in recent times, she’s still humble and has a chip on her shoulder to continually evolve and succeed like many NASCAR greats like Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

This summer, she’s been taking on racetracks like Bethel Motor Speedway and Chemung Speedrome which are proving ground venues in the Northeast for young racers to make the grade and climb that ladder up to stock cars or other professional motorsports divisions.  As you’ll see in this interview, Kirkpatrick, while relaxed and as humorous as ever, is a very determined, driven, cagey racer at heart.

From goals to her social media videos, Kirkpatrick is definitely the total package for the definitive young racer who has what it takes to be in this sport for the long haul.  Competitive, optimistic, and most of all, down to earth, this young gun racer is ready to win and also be a catalyst and leader to her younger peers at the track!

A TPF favorite since last year, it’s always a pleasure to catch up with Gillian Kirkpatrick so without further ado, let’s unwind and talk some racing with the young woman who’s always in a New York State of Mind!

Rob Tiongson :  Well, it’s been a while since we last spoke but here we are in late July. Tell the readers what you’ve been up to and how your summer has been on and off the track.

Taking on that asphalt arena!

Taking on that asphalt arena!

Gillian Kirkpatrick :  Heck yea, it’s been way too long! I’ve been enjoying my summer and just trying to settle in back home since I moved back to NY and relax as school starts back up in September. I’ve been racing a lot, trying to get at least 1-2 races in each week traveling a little with the team. We’ve been pretty solid, but there’s always room for improvement. Loving every second of it!

RT :  That’s good to hear and it sounds like you’re as busy as ever. I believe in addition to your racing, you’re also a mentor to some young drivers as well. Tell us a bit about that and how you’ve applied your experiences in the sport with them.

Gillian mentors local racers as a way of paying it forward back home.

Gillian mentors local racers as a way of paying it forward back home.

GK :  I’ve been mentoring a few of the younger drivers in the Bandolero divison at Bethel Motor Speedway. It’s a great experience being able to apply my leadership skills in a way that’s beneficial to the both of us. As much as I teach my 8-year-old driver, Nick, I’ve found I can learn a lot from him as well! It’s my pleasure to work with him on and off the track although I’m just starting. Having raced two years at Bethel in the bando, I give him tips and tricks about his car and the track.

He listens well and that shows through his improving results each week. I’m excited to take him through the ranks as it’s my pleasure to guide him at the beginning of his career. Simply, this is training for when I get older because I want to start my own driver development program in the higher ranks as well. On top of that, they’ve become part of my racing family so I’m lucky to have their help and support along with a lot of fun!

RT :  I think that’s awesome and wonderful of you to do. I imagine that when you started off in your career, you definitely appreciated the support you’d get from your peers on the track. Would you say it’s also helped with balancing the long days at the track too?

GK :  You have no clue. I don’t think I’d be able to survive race day without half the people at the track. They keep me sane to say the least when I’m stressed or upset because let’s be real, I am an emotional teenage girl trying to make it around the track! (laughs) It’s not as easy as outsiders may think. It is certainly not a one-woman show, that’s for sure.

RT :  But you’re doing a good job with it and pursuing your dreams! One question that I don’t think I’ve asked is indeed, you’re growing up as you’re racing. Does it become a bit of a challenge when you’re out there competing and learning as much as you can to excel while also growing up and more comfortable with yourself all around?

GK :  That’s for sure. As much as I love racing, I’ve found that it is not all there is to life. It sure is a huge part of mine, but I still have personal struggles as we all do. Once again, I’m just a normal teenage girl, living my dreams at the race track week in and week out although I do my best to balance it and not let that get the best of me or my racing.

Despite me making sure to be mature and professional in all aspects, it’s not that easy as I’m sure we can all agree. We all have our different day to day experiences that we deal with on our own. We can’t be strong and tough all the time and I’ve found accepting that is a lot easier than denying it.

While pursuing my career, I’m also pursuing myself. I am only human and a work in progress to say the least. Being happy is the goal and being able to do what I love in that state of mind is even more satisfying. I’m trying to find comfort in my own body while excelling and competing which can be a struggle, but that’s life. Nobody’s perfect. I’m trying to be the perfect me that I can be and that’s good enough. No one can take that away.

RT :  I like that about you – you are so determined, balanced, and driven. Going back to your experiences as a mentor, what are some of the nice things that the younger racers have taught or shared with you that’s helped you on and off the track?

Gillian sharing a fun selfie with her prodigy racer!

Gillian sharing a fun selfie with her prodigy racer!

GK : (laughs) Oh boy. Honestly, Nick has taught me to have more fun. I tend to be a really serious person in general, no matter what. I’ve learned to enjoy the moment more. Friendship has become extremely important to me along with teamwork. It all goes hand in hand and I’m grateful to learn things like this from them.

They’re comical and awesome at lightening up the mood when things get tense. I’ve also found myself being more patient. My crew chief can be a tough cookie, but Nick has made me put myself in his shoes because I’ve been there. It’s definitely not easy so I’m learning to work with him like he is with me.

RT :  You know, that’s interesting you mention about having more fun with racing. I was talking about a similar matter with Kenzie Ruston and she mentioned that there’s not a lot of moments to be funny or have fun at times. I’ve seen some of those good changes with you with your videos. I love how you’ve embraced video posts to bring race fans closer to the action. What would you say prompted you to shoot your quick videos whether it’s you at the track or waiting out rain delays?

GK :  At first, it was just a marketing strategy to show a little bit of my personal side and get some more viewers since videos catch the eye. However, after doing a few, fans asked for me to continue because it made their day a little brighter. That warmed my heart on top of me having a big sense of humor as well! I find a way to laugh at just about anything- even myself- as long as it’s the right time and place. Sometimes you’ve got to loosen up and I think people respect that. It gives me something to do as oppose to the typical write-up and I enjoy it!

RT :  I really enjoy seeing them and it does indeed show a new side to you for those who may be learning about your story. I have to say that you’ve been having a big year in spite of all the changes you’ve had. When you won your races, did it feel validating knowing that you hard work and effort catalyzed you to be standing tall in Victory Lane and would you say those win changed you some as a racer and as yourself when you’re not in the racecar?

Winning never gets old.

Winning never gets old.

GK :  Eh, I was really humble about that win although it felt good to finally be rewarded per say for all the hard work that we do put in, especially with the tough start we had this season. I don’t think the win changed me that much, as I’m still same old little me and always will be! I’m not the type to let things like that change. It was a confidence boost at the time, but we’re back on the grind looking hard for another one. It did make me feel better in the car since this is my rookie year and I call it “the superwoman effect.” I can do anything with a race car!

RT :  Superwoman effect! I love it! Speaking of your race car, what’s the rest of 2015 looking like for you?

GK :  Hmm, time will tell! I’m taking it day by day right now. We’ll continue to travel to different tracks across the northeast so we can hopefully get a top-ten in the country and another state championship. Despite the major goals, I’m just trying to finish races and get seat time. It can only get better from here with lots and lots of fun coming up!

RT :  That sounds super fun and cool! Any particular tracks that’s on your radar in the near future?

GK :  I for sure want to get back to Chemung. We went there last Friday night and that was the most fun I’ve ever had in a Legend car. It was some real racing on a big track with huge car count. I didn’t want to leave! (laughs) So we’re definitely going to continue with that. I’d like to get back down south, but traveling sure is expensive! (chuckles) Other than that, I’ll go where the wind takes me!

RT :  (laughter) Gone with the wind with Gillian! Chemung is a great track to get some seat time at as that’s where the Bodine brothers cut their teeth. Would you say that those experiences racing in the South helped you with your competitive fire behind the wheel?

Gillian has more than 25 reasons to be smiling about her racing potential!GK :  It definitely was worth the move! I learned so much from the move, but it was time to get back to my home roots. It gave me a better idea of my abilities behind the wheel and toughened me up. I give a lot of credit to the southerners, they know how to wheel! My time there is something I always reference back to during my current racing up here. I miss it a lot and look forward to going back!

RT :  I bet so and I wonder, did you pick up some of the Southern lingo during the months you lived there?

GK :  I sure did! (laughs) When I came back to school up here, so many people were confused by what I was saying and couldn’t understand. I picked up “southern twang” and terminology very quickly and loved it. I think I’m a Southerner at heart!

RT :  I could only imagine. What’s some of the stuff from down there that you’ve said in recent times? Bless their hearts! (laughs)

Gillian with her current car and her inspiration's car!

Gillian with her current car and her inspiration’s car!

GK :  Hmm, I use y’all, ain’t, ought to, fixin’ to, gosh dang, gosh darn, etc. I’m sure I’ve got a few more aside from those left in me! (laughter)

RT :  You never cease to surprise me! Here’s something that I’ve never asked you – what you say are some of your bucket list goals?

GK :  That’s a tough one. I never really had a bucket list. Everything and anything I’ve really wanted to do, I’ve been able to at least try. I never really thought about it as I just want to race although skydiving could be really cool..

RT :  You’ve got a daredevil side to you, don’t you?

GK :  Always! A need for speed, adventure, anything! I try to do the impossible and challenge myself!

RT :  Maybe we won’t be surprised if we one day read about “Gillian Kirkpatrick, X Games Athlete,” eh?

GK :  Heck yeah! I’m up to try just about anything.

RT :  Now one thing we’ve seen lately int he past few weeks in racing is the physical toll that drivers go through after a long hot day at the track. How as a racer do you prepare for those races where it’s going to be an absolute test physically for you and peers?

Gillian Kirkpatrick with her sights set on winning!

Gillian Kirkpatrick with her sights set on winning!

GK :  As always, I keep a healthy diet going with a daily workout although my biggest problem is getting dehydrated. I don’t drink as much as I should on a regular day. Specifically on race day, my team pushes me to drink, drink, drink water all day especially with the temperatures and humidity that we’ve been getting. I find strength and endurance to be a huge role in these races so I’m always keeping that in mind as well.

RT :  At least you’re learning now rather than later! What’s been one of the most physically demanding races that you’ve competed in during recent times?

GK :  Hmm, I haven’t done many big races as of yet although this past weekend, I ran Legendstock at Bethel Motor Speedway last Saturday in a 50-lap race as opposed to the usual 20 so that should be interesting! I’m looking forward to it.

RT :  That sounded very fun and interesting even it’s a very long but exciting race for you.

GL :  For sure, we had the car and driver in place and I was ready for battle to say the least!

RT :  Any particular songs to get you pumped up for a race?

Can't take a girl away from her racecar.

Can’t take a girl away from her racecar.

GK :  Hmm…my top-two to get me pumped are “We Own It” from Fast & Furious 6 and “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. Those are going to by my theme songs for race day! One of my all-time favorites is “Something in the Water” by Carrie Underwood. It’s hard to pick just one.

RT :  Very awesome and eclectic set of songs! Do you sing those while you race?

GK :  (laughs) I sure do! Whatever one’s stuck in my head that race is my choice. I somehow make it work with the car!

RT :  Sounds like I’ve given you a future video idea!

Too cool for school.

Too cool for school.

GK :  There we go! I gotta check if you can hear me sing in the videos of my races I take on my GoPro! (laughs)

RT :  Maybe people will have a request setlist for you if this works! (laughter)

GK :  That’d be even better!

Author’s Notes :  Special thanks as always to Gillian for letting me interview her as well as for the photos accompanying the article!  If you’d like keep track of this wonderful young racer, “Follow” her on Twitter, “Like” her Facebook page, “Visit” her new official and “Add” her on Instagram at gillian_kirkpatrick!  Best of luck to Gillian for this season – stay tuned to the latest racing news stories with the Empire State native!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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