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(Photo: Barry Cantrell/NKP)

Angela Ruch on NASCAR Diversity: ‘We’re All Fighting the Same Battles’

In a time where the top levels of NASCAR struggle to field female drivers, Angela Ruch was a welcome name on July’s XFINITY Series entry list.

Ruch qualified for the Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway, driving for BJ McLeod Motorsports. It was Ruch’s first NASCAR race in nearly five years, and the first for a female in the 2017 XFINITY season.

For the Washington native, the half-decade between starts featured more than one stressful night of sponsor searching, as it took time for the right opportunity come along.

“Those five years my sister [Amber] and I had a break, the funding is so hard to come by to be out here running full-time,” Ruch told Frontstretch. “I haven’t really been given the best opportunities. I’m so proud and thankful to be here after five years.”

Despite being the third generation to enter the racing world — along with uncle Derrike Copecompeting in more than 700 national NASCAR series races since 1982 — the 34-year-old has not found an easy road to the sport.

“I was just away from it, just trying to find the funding,” she said. “I think that’s everybody’s life story: I don’t have daddy’s money, family money. You either have it or you don’t. You’re just trying to get by.”

With seven XFINITY starts along with one Camping World Truck Series event, Ruch had a lot to digest in her comeback race July at Kentucky. Finishing 32nd, Ruch returned to Kentucky in September before her third start came at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where she crashed out early to finish 36th.

It’s been a challenge to drive underfunded equipment while getting back up to speed on oval racing. In these early comeback events, Ruch places comfortability as one of the biggest needs for a series as competitive as XFINITY.

“Just trying to keep up the speeds [is tough] especially since you’ve been out of it for so long,” she said. “But you don’t really lose it, if that makes sense. You just get back into it.

“All of us drivers are here for a reason, we all deserve to be here at some level. If that wasn’t the case, NASCAR wouldn’t let me in. It definitely helps getting back in the seat. Running every few weekends, I think things will slowly come around for us.”

For the remainder of 2017, Ruch will return to the seat at Texas Motor Speedway in November before capping the season off at Homestead-Miami Speedway. For 2018, Ruch has even more racing on tap, planning to run 10-15 XFINITY event for BJ McLeod.

“I know BJ on a personal level, he’s just a very good friend,” she said of her current car owner. “In this business, it’s really hard to find people who believe in you — you’re all working on the same things toward the same goals. For BJ to bring me in after five years and trust me that I can maneuver a car is pretty impressive.

“One foot in front of the other, right? These deals come and go sometimes, we just keep staying positive and hope for the best.”

Indeed, sponsorship struggles see no color, no gender or backgrounds. They affect everyone. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France was open in recent weeks that the sport’s sponsor reps have been involved in helping drivers for 2018. The focus has been on those who showcase diversity, such as Danica Patrick and African-American Darrell Wallace Jr.

Ruch believes it’s a good move, but said every driver is fighting the same problems.

“Good for them, right? We’re all fighting our own battles,” she said. “Let me put it this way: I haven’t had that luxury. My sister and I have never had [the money]… But if I do get it, Danica better watch out. She’ll have her hands full.”

With diversity still a taboo subject for NASCAR in 2017, Ruch believes stock car racing needs to have a strong woman presence in its lineup.

“Danica has definitely made a name for herself and the sport,” she said. “I definitely think they need her here. Any females in racing is definitely a plus. She’s definitely an icon for the sport. NASCAR needs her, we all need her here.”

“We’re all fighting the same thing in the end. We just need a lot of money to do what we’re passionate about.”

As if reaching the driver’s seat of an XFINITY car isn’t reason enough to celebrate, Ruch’s got another reason to smile. The logos on the side of her No. 78 Chevrolet come from the Give A Child A Voice charity.

Based out of Springfield, Mo., the campaign has a close connection with Ruch’s family. Her 17-year-old nephew is in a fight for his life battling stage 3 brain cancer.

“He’s basically trying to come out with this foundation to give kids a voice,” she said. “Kids who have been chasing issues, something personal like abuse, or battling depression. He is 17 years old and such a strong individual. For him to come out and speak to tell his story is so empowering.

“It’s awesome when you can relate it to family. That’s what NASCAR is all about. To be able to race with the Give A Child A Voice charity and to have him here telling his story, doing it together, says a lot.

“In the end, I’m racing for a great cause and I’m proud to be here.”

(Below is a video capture of our conversation with Angela Ruch)

About Zach Catanzareti

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9 comments

  1. Everybody heard the rumors about “wonder boy” and I do’t doubt that they had something to do with the boos.

    As for the some of the other points, people go where they feel comfortable, I will leave it at that.

  2. Davey wasn’t given anything to go racing. He helped Bobby build and look after cars since he was a teenager. When he wanted to drive, Bobby made him fix up an old car to get it ready. He could build a race car from bumper to bumper and set it up and he could drive pretty good in it too. I’d bet he had more laps in a stock car before he got to Cup than Danica has now and probably the same with Chase.

    • Davey was gone a few years before I started following NASCAR but my point was that most other drivers were in their late 20s or early 30s before any top team would give them a chance. Well, at least that’s what I’ve been lead to believe from what I’ve read and been told. Anyway “paying dues” is a subjective concept. One could argue that Gordon paid his dues by racing in lower series from the time he was a child (and I’m not saying Davey didn’t do that, but I don’t really know). I’m betting that if Davey wasn’t a legacy driver from a NASCAR family that was part of the “good ole boy network”, he’d have faced similar boos and negativity from the old guard fans (but that too cannot be proven).

      • Davey was 24 when Bobby felt he was ready for Cup. He ran 191 races, won 15 with 66 top 5s and 92 top 10s. Not too bad compared to the prom graduates now. Can you imagine Chase waiting until he was 24, but think of the stats he might have after 191 races. And I don’t remember Davey ever being booed, especially at Talladega. He was too nice.

  3. She deserves to be here? What has she done to say this? Danica watch out? For what? In the few starts she’s had she’s crashed three times. This woman lives in a dream world. Funding has become the big excuse for everybody. Well Danica has had funding and what has she accomplished? Most every record they espouse for her has to do with longevity for a woman in the sport. Only a fool believes in that pole setting speed at Daytona in her first try. Would have been palatable if she had even come close to winning a pole anywhere else but that has never happened. Daytona was a so-called NASCAR moment.

    Jeff Gordon was booed quite heavily because fans felt he was a “silver spoon”driver. Do we honestly believe fans are going to accept drivers who get the ride of a lifetime because of gender, race or ethnicity? If we have to have a woman, African-American, Hispanic or Oriental don’t we need an old timer, Matt Kenseth, a homosexual or how about a Native American?

    This business of NASCAR being a white dominated sport is getting old. It’s just not NASCAR gang. It’s oval track racing period. Go to any local track in the country. Count the minorities sitting in the grandstands, in the pits etc. The women you see in the grandstands are with their significant other or part of the family of a driver. African-Americans have never supported oval track racing anywhere. And don’t give me this crap of what happened in the south 60 years ago. And don’t hand me this flag crap either. There are no rebel flags at the various local race tracks in Md., Pa., NJ etc. and there aren’t but a handful of African Americans among the thousands of fans in the grandstands. Along with the meager amount of single women too.

    There’s nothing wrong with diversity in racing. But it is a performance driven sport we are told. You get the drive because you can race not because of what you are.

    • Jeff Gordon got booed because he was successful and challenged the status quo (i.e. Earnhardt’s dominance). It was often suggested that he was booed because he didn’t pay his dues and was one of the first to get a premier ride without spending years in crap cars (Davey was probably the first), but if he hadn’t started beating the stars of the day on the track no one would have booed him.

    • I have been corrected by twenty somethings its Pacific Rim or Asians, definitely not Oriental. And its not white dominated, their called red necks, hillbillies and white trash. Old timers now are called irrelevant.
      But I know what you’re saying and I agree.

    • Matt

      As I’ve pointed out before, blacks and other minorities are much more prevalent in drag racing than oval track racing. Female, black and Hispanic drivers have won NHRA titles and are among the sport’s most popular drivers. (few folks seem to realize Don “The Snake” Prudhome is of black and Hawaiian ancestry.)
      So what’s the difference. If you want to get into drag racing you can do so at an entry level in the family car (or motorcycle.) Maybe you start street racing and work your way up to sanctioned drag racing. Oval tracks, on the other hand, require not only a specialized car but you’ll need a trailer to get it to the track and a truck to haul the trailer even if you want to run a l1/4 midget for your kids. Oval tracks tend to be out in the country because of noise concerns and minority population tends to be less represented in those rural areas. If a kid grows up going to an oval track he may dream of one day racing on one…or showing up as a mechanic, a crew chief or even a team owner.
      As for Ms. Ruch (please tell me that’s pronounced like “Such” and not like f……well you get the idea, I note one key statement she made that might reflect some of her difficultly. “I haven’t really been given the best opportunities.” Nope. And it’s doubtful you ever will be “given” any opportunity. You have to earn it. It will not be “given” to you just as it wasn’t “given” to a surly mill worker out of Kannapolis who went on to be a 7 time Cup champion.

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