Welcome to RacingJunk’s Women in Racing series in celebration of both Women’s History Month and the amazing women who work and play in the industry — from racers to business owners, marketers to pit crew members, journalists to publicists. We want to celebrate all of the women in drag racing, off-road, circle track, sports car, road race, hot rodding and more. As part of that, we are interviewing some of our friends and idols this month to share their stories with the industry.
Krista Baldwin is known to many of our readers already. As the Creative Director for McLeod Racing, she is an essential bridge between the McLeod products, the customers and media who want to know more about them. As a racer, she’s been competing in Top Alcohol for the past several years, and has recently become a team owner. Krista talked to RacingJunk about her roots in the sport, becoming a team owner, and how she balances all of that with her exciting and challenging full-time work with McLeod.
RacingJunk (RJ): How did you get started in racing?
Krista Baldwin (KB): I am a 3rd generation racer. My grandfather, Chris “the Greek” Karamesines, is a current Top Fuel pilot and my late father, Bobby Baldwin, was also a Top Fuel pilot. I literally grew up at the races with my family and to be honest, it’s the way of life for myself. I knew at a young age that I wanted to drive, but I didn’t know how or when it was going to happen. The people are definitely one of the best parts of the racing world. These are people who have the same determination as you and the support among racers is unparalleled in any other sport. My passion and drive to be here is what keeps me involved. And the want to win, that keeps me involved as well. The ultimate goal is to win races and even championships.
RJ: You recently became a team owner in addition to a driver. How has that changed your view of racing? How do you approach an individual race differently?
KB: So with the added level of being a car owner, you still want to run really fast, but you have to do it conservatively. I was taught to always run the car like it was your own. I think now when I have to make those split second decisions of pedaling the car or not, I think of how much it will be if I blow up or a part fails. Every race is different. Yes, we do the same thing over and over again, but each time you strap in the car, it’s a new experience. You have to have a respect for the car and know that it is a violent beast. You just need to learn how to finesse the car so that you are able to keep yourself and others around you safe. But that’s also part of living on the edge and adrenaline rush. You just never know what can and will happen. It’s a fine line between running fast and blowing up and you just have to find that threshold.
RJ: You’re involved in numerous aspects of the industry — in addition to driving and owning your team, you’re the Creative Director for McLeod Racing. How do you balance all of that? How do you apply the things you learn in each aspect to their counterparts?
KB: To be honest, so far 2019 has been my craziest year thus far. Along with driving and owning the car, I work full time with McLeod and now I am helping to assemble Paul Lee’s nitro funny car team in Indy, as well as finding sponsors for myself to fund my own program. There are a lot of moving parts happening, but you have to learn to compartmentalize and just focus on the task at hand. Let me tell you, there have been days where I needed 48 hours in a single day, but you keep hustling and keep things moving forward. And I will say I take one hour of my day to go work out. There is where I let my frustrations go and it’s the place where I can train my body for the grueling days at the track. If you want something so bad, you will find the way to keep the dream alive.
Each part of my life crosses paths in one way or another. For instance, as the Creative Director, I see a lot of sponsorship requests come through for McLeod support. I read at least 3 requests every week. With those I see inspiration or tricks of what other people are sending so I can better my own proposal. And when I first started at McLeod, I helped the office staff with orders and invoicing, now I am in charge of inventory and accounting for the nitro funny car team. It all comes full circle in life and I am grateful that I have the knowledge I do to continue growing. I always say that when I learn something new or different, it’s a tool I can keep in my back pocket. Because the day will come when you need it and you already know how to do it. It’s another feather in my hat.
RJ: When I spoke with Paul Lee for a different story, he talked about how important working with you and mentoring you has been to him. How has that mentorship worked for you? What have you learned and what other people in the industry do you consider either mentors or models for the type of career you want to carve out?
KB: Paul has been a great mentor. He gives me advice in all aspects of my life even outside of racing and work. He really has taken me under his wing and I will forever be grateful that he chose me to share his wisdom and experiences with. If I didn’t have Paul in my life, I don’t think I would be in the position I am in now. When I lost my dad at a young age, I have many people who helped raise me and embed values in me that I still hold on to. And now Paul is the one who is teaching me how to be successful in my adult years. The industry is full of great people and influencers. Everyone has their own unique style and their own successes. One person though I look up to is definitely my grandfather. He has been doing it his way for 60 years and he still has fun out on the track. He makes me realize that you have to love what you do. I like to consider a lot of people as models. If you take social media now, you are able study how people are making it work in their own ways.
RJ: What do you like to drive for fun?
KB: Ha! So I love driving my dragster, but I know you can’t just take that for a Sunday cruise down the street. I guess my daily, a 2018 Ford Edge Sport Edition, would have to be the car I like to drive for fun. That thing will definitely put you back in the seat. It’s definitely a good time. So much that boyfriend, Bobby, wants to buy the same car. I told him we can’t have two of the same car in our driveway. So we’ll see what happens!
RJ: What advice would you give for young women in the auto industry, whether they’re working behind the scenes, in the pits, or behind the wheel?
KB: Whatever you do, do it in your own style. It’s okay to look to models and mentors, but make sure your personality and your creativity shine through. You are able to make an impact in the industry. And I would suggest to stay humble. Remember why you are doing it and don’t get lost in the fame and fortune.