When I sat down with my PR team in August to plan our breast cancer awareness campaign, we all agreed on wanting to do something more than just changing the car color and wearing pink. Being a female driver and having a female crew member and many females working behind the scenes on our team, we wanted to do something proactive that would support the thousands of female fans who have supported me and the other NHRA drivers over the years.
After finding the mammovan program (a mobile mammography unit) through the Nevada Health Centers, I knew it would be the perfect fit for the NHRA Toyota Nationals, Oct 25-27, in Las Vegas.
The mammovan came to the racetrack and parked behind our pit throughout the duration of the three-day race weekend. Free mammograms were available to any female attending the race over the age of 40 -- even if she did not have health insurance. No appointments or referrals necessary. This is something that had never been done at any race.
The sport of drag racing isn’t typically synonymous with women’s health, but at any given race, which draws crowds by the tens of thousands, you see just as many female fans as males. People don’t think of auto racing as a sport that attracts a large female audience, but it does, which is why I was so intent on doing this.
We weren’t sure what the response would be going into the weekend. Would women want to have a mammogram performed at a racetrack? Would anyone take advantage of this?
We estimated that maybe 50 women would elect to receive a mammogram over the three-day weekend, but we ended up being able to provide more than 100 women with this free service.
The response was incredible! From the time the mammovan opened its doors every morning, there was a line of women, and it was nonstop throughout all three days. According to the Nevada Health Centers, it was estimated that 80 percent of the women who stopped by the mammovan did not have health insurance.
Words can’t even describe how impressed I am with the mammovan program and the Nevada Health Centers’ team. With their help and through promotion on traditional and social media channels, the response far exceeded our expectations, especially since this is the first time something like this had been done in this sport. This would not have been possible without the support of some of my amazing sponsors, including Technicoat, Fischer Honda, and, of course, Kalitta Motorsports.
I also decided to take advantage of the free screening. I was nervous, but the process was not nearly as scary as many think. I learned that fear is one of the biggest factors that prevents women from receiving a mammogram.
According to the Nevada Health Centers, one out of eight women (or 12 percent) will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. That means statistically at least 12 women who received a mammogram at the mammovan have the potential for early detection and treatment.
I feel very humbled that I was able to help bring this program to the track and to the women who attended the Toyota Nationals. The outpouring of support from other teams, racers and the fans was incredibly touching. I think people are quick to forget there are just about as many female fans in this sport as men. I am still blown away by the response and look forward to being able to do something like this again at a future race.