Laura Hayes and Sally McNulty Join Shift Up Now Athlete Roster
Shift Up Now is excited to announce the addition of two new Athletes for the 2022 season: Laura Hayes and Sally McNulty.
Hayes has been around motorsport her entire life and began racing at the age of eight. Like many young drivers, she began in Quarter Midgets, later transitioning to karts. In 2005, she became the first female to win an International Kart Federation shifter kart national championship in California.
Throughout the years, Hayes has won races and championships, and held track records, in a variety of cars ranging from USAC Ford Focus midgets and sprint cars, NASCAR late model stock cars, open wheel cars with the Sports Care Club of America and sports cars.
Presently, Hayes works as an instructor at the BMW Performance Center. In addition, she manages the racing operations at Thunder Bunny Racing (TBR), while also driving and coaching for the team.
After participating in the Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout last fall, Hayes was the recipient of the Women’s Initiative Scholarship and will make her rookie debut for 2022 in the Mazda MX-5 Cup Series, in addition to competing in the 100th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Lastly, Laura and her teammates at TBR will continue their efforts with World Racing League, striving for a championship in the GTO class with their M2CSR.
“This is without a doubt going to be the biggest challenge of my racing career,” said Hayes. “I’ve followed the MX-5 Series for years and like anyone who watches, I’ve always admired the intensity and talent of the field. The best drivers are here and I’m excited to be a part of the action and represent Mazda as one of their scholarship winners.”
As for being a new member of the Shift Up Now team, Hayes added, “I’m thrilled and honored to represent Shift Up Now this season as one of their athletes. I’ve witnessed the success and momentum this group has seen over the years, and the talented list of drivers who continue to join has really impressed me. I can’t wait to see what we can do together to promote, educate, and support female drivers in this sport.”
McNulty is a first-generation racer from Phoenix, Arizona and got her start at small, local tracks with what she humbly refers to as “no financial backing and a big dream.”
She worked her way up to professional Touring Car racing, currently competing across the United States in partnership with Honda Performance Development (Honda of America). McNulty races a factory-built, turnkey Civic SI in the SRO TC America Series (formerly Pirelli World Challenge).
In addition, McNulty is a project car builder, restoring projects in her home garage. Her current projects include a 2000 Honda EK Hatchback and a 2009 Honda Civic SI.
During the 2021 season, McNulty developed her skills with VGRT Racing and earned multiple top-five finishes. For 2022, she has her sights set on being the first female to win an overall championship in TC America.
“I’m making some big waves in the world of motorsport as a fast female,” said McNulty. “The road hasn’t been easy but if there’s a will, there’s definitely a way. I’m ready for touring car battle in 2022 and I have some epic goals in mind. If I can pull this off, it will be huge.”
Fans can follow both new Shift Up Now Athletes’ seasons at ShiftUpNow.com and our social media channels. In addition, follow @LauraHayes22 and @TeamSallyRacing on Instagram.
Amber Balcaen to Compete Full Time in 2022 with Rette Jones Racing
Shift Up Now Athlete Amber Balcaen announced a full-season contract for 2022 with Rette Jones Racing in the NASCAR National ARCA Menards Series.
Balcaen, a third-generation race car driver from Winnepeg, Canada, made history in 2016 when she became the first Canadian female to win a NASCAR-sanctioned race in the United States. Now, she has her sights set on becoming the first female to win a national ARCA Menards Series race.
The 2022 NASCAR National ARCA Menards Series season will consist of 20 races throughout the United States, beginning on Saturday, February 19th at Daytona International Speedway.
“Racing in NASCAR’s national ARCA Menards series has always been my dream,” said Balcaen. “To race at legendary tracks like Daytona and Talladega is something I have visualized for years. I have dedicated the last eight years working hard to make this dream become reality and I cannot be more excited to live it.”
Canadian-based company Icon Direct will return as Balcaen’s primary sponsor, with Glenn McLeod and Sons – another Canadian company – on the car as well.
“It is really special for me as a Canadian competing in the United States to be representing all
Canadian companies on my car,” said Balcaen. “To have the hometown support is amazing. I couldn’t do this without them.”
Fans can watch the first race live on Fox at 1:30 p.m. ET, and get more information about Balcaen at www.AmberBalcaenRacing.com.
Michele Abbate Announces 2022 Plans with BC Race Cars
Shift Up Now Athlete Michele Abbate announced plans on Thursday to join BC Race Cars for 2022 in the Trans Am TA2 Series presented by Pirelli.
Abbate, who owns and drives for Las Vegas-based Grr Racing, made her first and only National Tour debut in 2020 with BC Race Cars at Road Atlanta where she had two top 15 finishes during the double-header weekend.
Abbate will be the only full-time female driver in the Trans Am TA2 Series.
“The National Tour series has been my goal for many years now, and I cannot put into words how honored I am to be racing with such a talented and proven team like BC Race Cars,” said Abbate. “I learned so much during my time with them and I am ecstatic about what’s to come in 2022.”
Abbate spent the past two years competing in the Trans Am West Coast Series. The American driver made history by becoming the first female to lead laps in a TA2 race and earn a podium finish (Sonoma Raceway, 2020). In addition, she was voted Trans Am’s Fan Favorite Series Driver since the inception of the award.
Anthony Philleo, Abbate’s husband and Grr Racing Crew Chief, will also be joining the BC Race Cars team for the full season.
BC Race Cars Founder and Owner, Blaise Csida, shared, “Penny, I and the entire crew at BCR are so excited to have Michele and husband Anthony join our team in 2022.
“We were utterly impressed in 2020 by their enthusiasm, talent, and work ethics; they embody our goals and inspirations on a professional as well as personal level. We are confident we can provide the car, preparation, and engineering needed to be successful in this ultra-competitive Trans-Am TA2 series.”
The Trans Am TA2 Series season kicks off on February 24-27, 2022 at Sebring International Raceway.
Victory for Unser in a successful weekend at COTA
Shift Up Now Athlete Loni Unser brought home back-to-back wins in the World Racing League (WRL) GP1 class with teammates Mike Gilbert and Mo Dadkhah, sweeping the weekend for Round 3 Racing on Saturday and Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.
Driving the No. 701 Team Cooper Tires Porsche Cayman, Unser drove the first stint on Saturday. She drove the first 29 laps of the eight-hour endurance race and kept the car in the lead group. Dadkhah and Gilbert then kept the car in contention for the remainder of the race. With 20 minutes remaining, the team was running P2 when a penalty for the lead car advanced them forward for the victory, their second of the season.
On Sunday, Unser drove the third and sixth stints. During her first, she fought with the leader to hold her place on the lead lap. When the leader had a mechanical issue in pit lane, it opened the door for the win.
“After a lot of development, we were able to prove that the No. 701 is a strong contender in the GP1 class,” said Unser. “The first couple of outings we struggled but we knew that with this team in Round 3 Racing that we could get these wins and it feels so good to have proved to everyone that it’s possible. Winning felt easy and right this weekend. I’m on cloud nine.”
Shift Up Now Athlete Hannah Grisham piloted the No. 601 Team Sentinel Porsche Boxter for Round 3 Racing on Saturday and Sunday with teammates James Candelaria and Christian Maloof in the GP2 class.
On Saturday, Maloof drove the opening stint and moved the team into third place, where they held for most of the race. On lap 60, a broken wheel bearing during Grisham’s stint forced her into the garage. The trio finished ninth.
The following day would prove equally as unlucky. After leading the race for more than one hour, a sensor failure sent the team back to the garage. Despite a quick turnaround from the crew, Grisham and her teammates fell out of podium contention and finished sixth.
“This might not have been the way we wanted our season to end,” said Grisham, “but overall it’s been a great year with the team.”
Shift Up Now Athlete Sarah Montgomery completed the WRL finale weekend in a new entry, the No. 401 Team Hagerty BMW M4 GT4 in the GTO class with teammates Buz McCall and Brad McCall. While still learning the new machinery, she qualified the car on the outside front row in P2, out of 90 cars entered and 49 in the GTO class.
During Saturday’s race, Montgomery was catching the leader and had already set the fourth-fastest lap of the race when a broken alternator brought the team to the garage at the two-hour mark of the race.
On Sunday, Team Hagerty started fourth and ran as high as second place. While solidly inside the top ten, contact from a competitor during Buz McCall’s stint caused terminal damage for the BMW. Despite a tough ending to both races, Montgomery and her teammates have already showed solid pace in the new car, which will return to WRL competition in 2022.
Several other Shift Up Now Athletes also competed in the WRL season finale weekend:
Sabre Cook and Ayla Agren drove the BHA Hyundai entry in the GTO class. The team ran in podium contention all weekend and held a P2 spot near the end of Saturday’s race, however an incident took them out of the race for the remainder of the weekend.
Laura Hayes drove for Thunder Bunny Racing and although the team had a tough first race, they rebounded on Sunday to earn a fourth-place finish.
Pippa Mann and Chloe Chambers drove the No. 420 Monoflo International / TLM BMW M2CSRacing car with teammates Evan Hinkle and Tillman Schmid. The team brought home a pair of top-ten finishes, earning P10 in Saturday’s race and P7 on Sunday.
The 2022 World Racing League begins on February 12th, 2022 at NOLA Motorsports Park, and you can continue to follow the Round 3 Racing 2021 Season on The Drive Within, on Fridays at 6pm Eastern on Motor Trend TV.