CONCORD, N.C. – February 1st marks the 37th annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day. This day celebrates and inspires girls and women to be active and realize their full power. Sports help to build strong leaders and Hendrick Motorsports is plenty strong in that regard.
To celebrate this day, HendrickMotorsports.com is sharing the stories of Alba Colón, Laura Doucette, Beth Jones and Lisa Smokstad. These women have worked in areas that cover competition, the garage, public relations, marketing, event hospitality and much more for the 14-time NASCAR Cup Series championship-winning organization.
Lisa Smokstad joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1999, working with Jack Sprague’s No. 24 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series entry after being approached for a tire specialist role with the organization. She went to work on the No. 17 team that Ricky Hendrick drove on a part-time basis in 2000 before going full-time in 2001 with Hendrick behind the wheel.
Smokstad has gotten to experience several championships at Hendrick Motorsports. She was part of the crew for Brian Vickers’ championship in 2003, a car that saw the younger Hendrick win the title as the car owner. She also was part of the crew for one of Jimmie Johnson’s five consecutive titles in the NASCAR Cup Series.
"I had such fond memories of Ricky. It was super exciting," Smokstad shared. "The 2003 title was the most memorable championship win. Our team was really tight knit and more of a family. Mr. Hendrick was definitely our boss, but he was Ricky’s dad. To see Ricky win as an owner and to see the look in his eye, that was something different. That whole season was just a ton of fun, hard work and a great group of people."
In 2009, Smokstad ended her full-time role as a traveling crew member and moved into the shop. She still spends time on the road as she works the partial schedule of the No. 17 NASCAR Xfinity Series team as a tire specialist. In addition, she is also involved in the Garage 56 project in the same capacity. Smokstad oversees all tires and wheels at the organization, including conducting post-race reports depicting tire performance and assisting current tire specialists across all teams as a substitute.
While working on the front lines of the track, Smokstad has never felt like she has been treated any different. Her hard work and willingness to always improve has earned her respect throughout the garage.
"I recognize the fact that I’m a female working in a male dominated field. I have a little bit of pride in it because of how hard I’ve worked," Smokstad said.
Beth Jones has been a prominent figure of the marketing department since 1998 when team owner, Rick Hendrick, decided to make marketing services a part of Hendrick Motorsports’ in-house organization. At that time, Jones was part of a two-person team overseeing administration, account services and events.
"We did everything that all of marketing does. We did that back then. We started with a binder of contracts," Jones said.
As the organization continued to grow and expand, Jones worked her way to director of events, overseeing a team of five. Jones and her team are responsible for planning and hosting 200 events and 1,000 campus tours per year.
Those events included Rick Hendrick’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction event in 2017, the annual Randy Dorton Engine Builder Challenge as well as numerous events on and off campus for team employees and racing partners. One of Jones' fond memories during her career was helping to reconnect Hendrick Motorsports with a child whose picture was featured on NASCAR Hall of Famer and now-team vice chairman Jeff Gordon’s race-winning 1997 DAYTONA 500 Chevrolet.
Even though Jones had a wealth of experiences at Hendrick Motorsports, she did not pursue a career in the sports industry in hopes to be a female pioneer.
"I didn’t look at it as this all-men’s sports. It was just I liked people and it was a good opportunity," Jones said. "I’m glad I’m a female in sports now. I think we bring a different perspective to the sports world."
Laura Doucette started at Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the 2008 season as the public relations representative for NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. At the start of her career, social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram did not exist, making her role much different.
"Back then, you were trying to be on the top fold of USA Today or The Charlotte Observer. That’s what a big win was," Doucette said.
Roles within Hendrick Motorsports' marketing department often work together hand-in-hand. This support allowed Doucette the opportunity to branch out within the company. After finishing the 2015 season as the public relations representative for Earnhardt Jr., she moved into an account services role for Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 team, which later led her to be partnered with young driver Alex Bowman when he took over the No. 88 in 2018. Now, Doucette is the director of account services and oversees the account management for all four Cup Series teams.
Doucette is appreciative of those that have helped pave the way for her in the industry, since the start of her career as an intern at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She strives to do the same for the women coming up behind her in the world of sports.
"I’ve had some great mentors and I’m forever grateful," Doucette said. "I try to be that with other females – especially as women it’s a little tougher. I love seeing more and more women in the sports industry, but we have a long way to go. I think we’re smart. We’re capable. I want to see more women elevating more women in the industry."
Alba Colón spent 23 years of her racing career at General Motors. Her engineering background led her to a program manager role at GM for the company’s Cup Series stable of teams before moving to Hendrick Motorsports at the start of the 2018 season.
In her role as the director of competition systems, Colón’s main focus consists of directing the team operations center. This is used each race weekend to support the four Cup Series teams remotely. In addition to her race weekend responsibilities, Colón continues to have a close working relationship with GM and other partners to assist with tool development. Getting to interact with different groups and different departments has been a rewarding experience in her role.
"It has been fun to learn about other areas of the company," Colón said. "At the end of the day, it is all of us working together. Everybody thinks these things move by themselves, but they don’t. When the driver says thank you to everybody at the shop, everybody really touches that car in one way or another through different departments and different areas of the company."
She routinely gives back to those coming up in the industry with her involvement in Formula SAE. Most recently, she was named to the board of directors for the STEAM Sports Foundation. The Atlanta-based foundation’s provides scholarships for minority women in the automotive and motor sport industries.
"Education is key to get to where we are," Colón said. "My role model was my dad because he comes from a STEAM-related career as a doctor (M.D.), and I always admired Sally Ride (the first American woman astronaut to fly in space). I wanted to someday be like her. Outside of that, I never had a role model that I could go and say I want to go work on race cars. Let me go and spend an afternoon talking to somebody about race cars. I never had those kinds of experiences, but the reality is if we see it, we believe it.
"It is important to see it. I want to be a conduit for younger girls to see you can get to where I am today. You can come here, and we can show you cars. You can go to the race track and do anything, but you have to see it to believe it."