ELYRIA, Ohio -- Despite the unbearable heat and oppressive humidity, Ali Kern spent the last two days on the steamy asphalt at Lorain County Speedway, trying to advance her promising racing career.
Kern, the 18-year-old driver from Fremont who has won races and championships at a number of levels in a career that already spans more than a decade, is making a push to reach stock car racing's highest levels.
Putting her car through the paces in the sweltering soup of 100-degree ambient temperatures is part of the price as she pursues that objective.
"I have certain goals I have been working toward, and it takes a lot of sacrifices to reach those goals. It also takes patience, and unfortunately, I'm not a very patient person," Kern said.
She worked out her stock car in preparation for Saturday night's Jegs 150 race at Columbus Motor Speedway, an event in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
She will have to qualify, then tangle with a field chock full of experienced drivers and teams backed by deep-pocketed Sprint Cup entities.
"It's going to be challenging, but that's a big part of racing," Kern said. "Racing is all about experience and what you do with the things you learn. I feel like I learn some things each time I'm in the car, and that gives me confidence going into this race."
Kern, who currently leads the Template Body Racing Association Late Model Series championship race, is attempting to make her second start of the season in the K & N Pro Series East, a regional circuit owned and operated by NASCAR and a primary step on the ladder to NASCAR's top series.
Five races into the 10-race TBRA schedule, she hopes her success in that series will also help attract sponsorship to fund an expanded racing calendar.
"You need to get the attention of sponsors -- that's so important in racing since this is such an expensive sport," Kern said.
"Sometimes, it's not about how good you are, but about who you know and how much money you have. That's the way it is, so I just hope to go out there this weekend and do well. My immediate future in the K & N Pro Series really depends on my performance in Columbus. I need a decent finish to pick up more sponsors."
The Jegs 150 is the ninth of 12 races on the K & N Pro Series schedule, and the only time the circuit will race in the Buckeye State this season.
Kern, who has sponsorship backing from Crown Battery in Fremont, said she won't expect any breaks from the rugged field the Columbus race has attracted.
"Every time I move to a different series, I don't always get the respect I deserve right away," Kern said.
"But eventually it comes. You just have to go out there and race with them, and show them what you can do, no matter how they treat you."
In her push to charge through the stock car racing ranks, with the target of eventually landing in NASCAR's Camping World, Nationwide or top-tier Sprint Cup series, Kern said she has learned that talent alone will not pave the way.
"You also sell yourself every time you race," she said.
"You want to get your name out there, have some success, and hopefully attract investors. You learn every day that this is a very tough sport, in more ways than one."
Contact Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6510.