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  • Courtesy Manchester soccer goalie Megan Erwin, 20, also is in hot pursuit of a racing career.

Saturday, April 16, 2016 10:02 pm

Racer drives away stereotypes

Greg Jones | The Journal Gazette

It began early for Megan Erwin. 

The Manchester University sophomore soccer goalie climbed into a race car around the time most kids are learning how to ride a bike. But that’s also when the doubters began, even from her own family.

When Erwin was 6 years old, her father, Chris, asked if her brother, Kyle, who is two years younger, wanted to start racing go-karts. Erwin was upset she also didn’t get the chance to go racing as well. 

It even took some coaxing from Erwin’s mother, Beth, to let Chris put Megan into a go-kart.

"He didn’t like the idea that I wanted to race because he thought it was just a boys sport," Megan Erwin said of her father’s first reaction. "He thought I should play softball or something like that. I played soccer at the time, so he thought I should stick with that.

"When my dad told me I shouldn’t be racing, my mom was the one who talked to him and said there was nothing wrong with it."

Erwin, 20, has been on the fast track ever since, moving up through the ranks, getting to stock cars last year and even has her own race team. But she still can’t outrun the stigma of being a female in a male-dominated sport. 

"That motivates me," Erwin said. "I get told that all the time, that you shouldn’t be racing, and you’re a girl. I get treated differently on the track.

"My competitors don’t like me. They don’t like when a girl wins. They also don’t like a rookie winning. Last year, I happened to be a girl rookie (in stock cars). My competitors don’t like me, but the drivers in the other classes think I am all right."

The negative reaction to her gender, though, hasn’t slowed her down. 

Racing on dirt tracks in Boswell and in Illinois, the Attica native won a heat race last season but wasn’t able to win a feature race.

"It wasn’t bad for my first year," she said.

Driving her No. 14 car, she could have finished in the top three in points in her division of Pure Street Racing and possibly top 25 nationally. But she had to return to Manchester to resume playing college soccer. Erwin has been playing soccer since she was 4, and sometimes the two sports conflict.

"Right now, it is hard to juggle because I have to quit at midseason (for racing) for soccer here because that’s my priority," she said. "I can race my whole life, but I am only in college for four years."

The offseason includes playing rec-league soccer on Friday and Saturdays, then turning around and possibly racing those nights as well. 

"I might play soccer and then drive to a race track, race, and then go to bed and wake up and play more soccer," she said. "It’s a tough schedule."

But it is something the exercise science major loves to do and would like someday to do as a career. If not, maybe she will go into physical therapy. 

"If I got the chance, I would love to make it a career and go onto … I would love to do sprint cars," she said. "I have never raced on asphalt, so NASCAR would be tougher to get into."

Erwin grew up in a racing family that also included both parents, as well as her uncle Bobby Beedle, and grandfather Robert Beedle.

And nowadays, Erwin gets plenty of support from her entire family, including her dad, who is a member of her crew. Her mom and grandparents even help out with Megan Erwin Racing.

"My name is everywhere," she said of having her own race team. "It is on T-shirts, cars, Facebook page. It is crazy."

And as far as her younger brother, he quit racing before advancing to stock cars. The girl, though, keeps going and going and going.

gjones@jg.net