SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Elizabeth Prestella has been blazing her own path since graduating from South Tahoe High School in 2007.
Prestella didn’t go the traditional route of attending university after graduating, but rather followed her dream of working in the racing industry and, eventually, NASCAR. Prestella attended NASCAR Technical Institute after graduating and hasn’t looked in the rear view mirror since.
She is now a pit crew member for JTG Daugherty Racing and specializes in just about anything related to tires. JTG has such sponsors as Scott Tissue and Clorox; JTG drivers include No. 37 Chris Buescher and No. 47 AJ Allmendinger
According to Prestella, it was growing up watching races with her family that really gave her the motivation to pursue her dreams.
“I always watched racing with my dad growing up and it was kind of like this family thing that we did,” said Prestella. “When I was about to turn 15, I told my parents I wanted to go to auto shop so I could learn to work on the cars I was going to drive. Once I started to learn to work on the cars, I decided I wanted to be in racing and work in the racing industry.”
According to Prestella, working your way up the racing ladder isn’t easy and with NASCAR, you have to show you know what you’re doing or you will get passed.
“I started out as an intern on the truck team,” said Prestella. “The way racing works is that you really have to earn your keep, so unless you start at the bottom and work your way up, nobody really gives you the time of day. Once you get to the higher series, they don’t pay attention to you unless you know what you’re doing and you have the knowledge behind it. Being an intern made it a lot easier because I was able to learn the ropes before I got to the higher teams and high pressure situations.”
Now, Prestella said she focuses on all things tires and assisting as support crew during pit stops. “Throughout the weekend, my job is everything involving the tires,” said Prestella. “I measure them, I put them in sets, I set all the pressures and I make sure they have tires where they need to be.”
During a pit stop, Prestella said her role is to be the overall support for the crew working on the car. She said among other tasks she performs, she typically stands at the rear of the car to make sure no changed tires roll away and that all equipment and pit crew members are out of the way before the driver exits.
Since NASCAR races are held all over the country, Prestella does a good bit of traveling and doesn’t get to visit home too often. She said that there are a couple races close enough so her family can attend. In June, she was able to get the family out for the race in Sonoma, California.
“My parents, my sister and my grandfather came out,” said Prestella. They usually go to (Sonoma) and Vegas. “Those are the two my family typically tries to go to because it’s a lot easier for them. Occasionally, some of them will come out to the East Coast for races out here.”
Prestella currently resides in North Carolina.
According to Prestella, she always had a lot of support from her family and that being in such a male-oriented industry never stopped her from moving forward with her passion. She said that she would tell any young girl who may want to pursue a career similar to hers to not be discouraged if it seems they are outnumbered.
“I would tell them to follow their dreams and ignore what other people think and say,” she said. “They can’t let other people affect their dreams and desires in life. That’s one of the reasons I like doing what I do, because I am an example to a lot of young girls. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can achieve what you want.”
Information from: Tahoe Daily Tribune, http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/