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SONOMA — The new generation of women in auto racing is out in force at the Sonoma Raceway this weekend, making it clear that they will muscle their way into the IndyCar Series and anywhere else they decide they might want to go.

"Tell me that I can't do something and I'll show you that I can do it," said Shea Holbrook, racing this weekend as part of the TrueCar Racing Women Empowered Initiative program.

TrueCar Racing's Katherine Legge headlines the team in today's GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at 1:45 p.m. Holbrook is on hand for the Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma. Four other drivers involved in TrueCar Racing's Women Empowered Initiative are in Sonoma to promote women's push into the motorsports spotlight.

Holbrook's story is far from the standard tale of a little girl following dad to the track. She's a woman with a drive to succeed in a male-dominated sport after spending an earlier career in another sport.

"For the first 10 years of my prior life I was a competitive water skier," said Holbrook, a Florida native. "I just started racing six years ago."

What would prompt a move from water ski champion to race car driver?

"Adrenaline," Holbrook said. "I'm super competitive and I'm an adrenaline junkie. It took mad hustle on my part to get into racing. I called and wrote to anybody and everybody I could. I went out to the track. I was determined to drive race cars."

Holbrook ran into the obstacles one would expect a woman might face trying to get into motorsports.

"People told me women don't have what it takes ... you just can't do it ... I heard everything you can imagine," she said. "But, when somebody finally believed in me and I got just a little bit of money, a tiny bit, for tires as a sponsorship, that empowered me to do more and to try to become a champion."

Holbrook became the first woman to win a Pirelli World Challenge race, a victory in Long Beach in 2011. She dreams of winning the 24 Hours of LeMans.

Shannon McIntosh, 23, drives in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Series, where she's 20th in points.

"My dad was a race fan and I started racing when I was 5 years old because of that," she said. "Nobody pushed me to race. I've always had a drive to compete."

McIntosh worked her way through various racing series until, "it became less like Saturday night racing and more of a career."

She immediately ran into a familiar stereotype.

"People started saying I looked like a girl but drive like a guy," she said. "It was hard to take that as a compliment. It boils down to what you do when you get behind the wheel. I think we're getting to the point where what's on the inside is what really counts. It doesn't matter if you're a boy or a girl if you finish at the top."

Still, McIntosh knows that her intelligence and good looks play a role in getting sponsors and, eventually, endorsements from companies not initially as open to empowering women as is TrueCar Racing.

"My appearance is part of it," she said. "It's just part of the business. I understand that how I present myself, my appearance, is important. But, sponsors want drivers who will compete well."

Ashley Freiberg was looking for a sponsor when TrueRacing came calling. Now, she's on the Star Mazda Championship tour.

"I was a tomboy growing up," she said. "I didn't start driving race cars until I was 13. For me, the pure love of driving made me want to pursue it."

She believes men and women can be born to race, but that the best do far more to make their mark.

"I was always comfortable behind the wheel," Freiberg said. "That has a lot to do with success, but it takes more than that. I've had to work my butt off to get better and better."

Freiberg explained what the Women Empowered Initiative is trying to show with Legge on the IndyCar Series. She talked about the point of sponsoring Rally America Series' Verena Mei, 19-year-old Emilee Tominovich (Mazda MX-5 Cup SCCA Pro Series) and the others with TrueCar Racing.

"Girls need to grow up knowing that they can achieve whatever they want to achieve," Freiberg said.

Holbrook addressed the idea that women might be held to a different standard by sponsors.

"There's lots of talk about a woman's appearance not having so much to do with it, but it does," Holbrook said. "With all the talk about changing that, TrueCar is the first entity to do something to start making changes. Man or woman, it should be about the faster racer."

Things have already changed, according to Freiberg. Men? Women? All the same once they're on the track.

"I have no idea if men race differently than women," she said, laughing. "I've never been inside a dude's head. It's racing and we do what we need to win."

Tominovich and Mei show that females enter racing from as many different backgrounds and as many different ages as one can imagine.

"I was going to go to college and play soccer," said Tominovich, 19. "I got injured in my junior year of high school, so I couldn't play that summer. My dad would go to the race track and I started going with him. I wanted to drive, so I finally tried it."

So much for her collegiate career.

"I went to soccer tryouts in my senior year," she said. "But, I just didn't want to play. I wanted to race. So, I stopped playing soccer and I didn't go to college. When TrueCar Racing called me, I got chills."

Mei was a model in the automotive industry when she decided to pursue her interest in actually racing.

"I wanted to get behind the wheel in 2004 and I've worked my butt off to make it happen," she said. "Throughout the process, I just kept pushing. I went from modeling to racing, so I'd just ask myself, &‘What's the worst that can happen?' And, I kept realizing that if I stepped outside the box and tried to do more that the worst thing would be me being where I started. I had nothing to lose."

Legge, who qualified 21st for today's GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma IndyCar series race, started her career with current NASCAR star Danica Patrick. She is thrilled to be part of the Women Empowered Initiative.

"It's a great program," Legge said. "TrueCar started a program that's truly ahead of its time. I'm so excited to be part of showing girls and women that they can accomplish anything if they put in the time and effort."

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