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Milka Duno wasn’t fazed by the fact that she was the only woman in the 35-driver field at Sunday’s Menards 200. Instead, she welcomed another opportunity to drive.
“In racing, I think like a driver,” said Duno, who finished 24th in Sunday’s race, completing 191 laps. “It doesn’t matter if there are guys or girl drivers around, you have to think like a driver. You have to drive the same car as the others, and it’s a competition. When you put on the helmet, it doesn’t matter who’s driving.”
The 40-year-old from Caracas has driven on both the ARCA and Indy Racing League series and drove at the 2007 Indianapolis 500, joining Sarah Fisher and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick — the first time that three women drove in a North American open-wheel field.
In four ARCA SuperSeries starts this season, Duno entered the Menards 200 in 29th in points (305) and her highest finish came March 10 when she finished 18th at the Mobile ARCA 200 at Mobile (Ala.) International Speedway.
Duno regards racing as a passion and is using her racing career as a vehicle for another passion of hers: education.
She spearheaded Milka Way, her charitable foundation and educational outreach initiative that aims for Hispanic youths to achieve in the math, science, engineering, and technology disciplines.
“Education can open the doors for people,” Duno said. “It’s something I can do with something I love to do, and that’s racing. It’s become a message for them, an inspiration that they can do everything that they want, and they can be ready for the opportunities that come their way.”
Duno holds master’s degrees in organizational development, naval architecture, maritime business and fishing, and aquaculture, and she has worked as a naval engineer.
“I love to learn,” Duno said. “It’s just a passion for me, and I believe in education. I love to talk to people about how important it is to be educated, to be a professional, because it’s a powerful tool they can have.”
BACKYARD DRIVER: Levi Youster, an Oak Harbor native, drove a Ford and brought up the rear at the start of Sunday’s race.
“It’s about coming home more than anything, and I love this track,” Youster said. “We went to Talladega, and we’ve been pretty much all across the country so far this season. It’s been fun, a great ride. We’ll see where we can go for the rest of the year.”
The biggest challenge Youster has faced so far hasn’t come while driving. It’s been about building and financing his brand while using his time on the ARCA circuit as a springboard.
“It’s been trying to learn more about cars, to the point where you can set up the car and do a little better because, unfortunately, when it comes to the race, it’s all about who’s got the best car. I’m trying to learn everything I can in order to move up.
“A lot of kids have a million dollars and give it away, and set up a great car, and all they have to worry about is driving,” Youster said. “That’s the dream.”