Michele Abbate Has The World’s Greatest Side Hustle: Race Car Driving – Forbes
Race car driver Michele Abbate…
photo: GRR Racing
Trans-Am Series driver Michele Abbate describes her style much like many of the top competitors in both NASCAR Cup Series and Formula 1. She will tell you that she is aggressive, sometimes opportunistic and occasionally a little cautious. But she’s as ready for the moment as anyone.
“When I drive I become a different person,” said the 33-year-old Las Vegas native. “I like to say that I am kind of like Cruella de Vil once I’m out there. Before the race I’m calm, but when I hit the track, I don’t really have any friends out there.”
Long before Abbate and her husband and crew chief Anthony Philleo founded Grr Racing in 2015, Abbate dreamed of making race car driving a career any way she could.
As she tells it, her love of racing began on the sidelines as a young child between the ages of 6 and 12, when she spent weekends watching her older brother race go-karts all across the country.
Then, right after turning 16, she got her driver’s license and immediately got involved in SCCA autocross competitions, including the SCCA National Solo, where she got her first podium, finishing behind two former SCCA Champions, in 2007. After driving her way through more grassroots racing channels, Abbate signed on with Scion Racing in 2011. With Scion, she competed in a variety of formats and competitions and earned them their first road racing Championship in 2015.
Then in 2019, she made her debut as a professional in the Trans-Am Series.
Trans-Am Series TA2 driver Michele Abbate, with her crew chief and husband Anthony Philleo.
photo: Grr Racing
Last year, Abbate was the only female racer in the Trans-Am Series TA2 category worldwide. During the 2020 season, she secured second place in the Trans-Am West Coast series, trailing by just three points when the final race was canceled due to Covid-19. This year, she finished fifth overall in the championship, and also made her debut in the NASCAR Truck Series in May 2021, at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where she finished 29th overall.
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While running in more NASCAR races is definitely a goal, the driver of the No. 30 Lucas Oil Grr Racing TA2 Chevy Camaro also says that the Trans-Am Series is a great place to compete, and is a format that tests the mettle of any driver.
“The competition is very steep, so you can’t be intimidated. It’s raw. Like NASCAR, our cars have no ABS, no driver assists, and to drive a TA2 car, you have to be very aggressive and very competent.”
The Trans-Am Series was established in 1966, by the Sports Car Club of America, and along with its TA and TA2 tube-chassis V8 formats, Trans-Am runs three GT touring car or “production based” formats. Trans-Am runs races from February to November, and consists of a series of 100-mile races that field up to 50 cars in each race.
Michele Abbate (right) becomes the first female ever to earn a podium finish in the Trans-Am TA2 … [+]
photo Grr Racing
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