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Mikala Stearns: A True Competitor

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 A little over 23 years ago, a crash on a local racetrack set off a chain reaction; a marriage, a family and a legacy were created from a passion and love of racing. Mikala Stearns is a product of that crash, as her parents were the two drivers involved. Destined to get behind the wheel and race, Mikala has made her family proud, winning first place in the Bombers Division at the Stockton 99 Speedway for the 2019 season. 

An esthetician by day and a racecar driver by night, this young woman is becoming a role model for girls in the Central Valley as she carries herself with confidence and class amongst challenges that arise in her male-dominated sport. “I love beating the boys on the track; it hurts their feelings,” Mikala smiled. “There is good and bad attention that comes with being one of two girls racing out there. When things go wrong, I often get blamed. We keep our heads high and focus on the racing,” she continued. “When I hear kids yelling my name and little girls coming up to hug me, it motivates me to be better. I know I need to carry myself well because kids are looking up to me!” 

In Her DNA
Mikala’s father, Joey Stearns, had been racing since he was a teenager. After the infamous wreck with Mikala’s mom, Jaime, the two argued after the crash. Mikala’s family teases her as they share the story, claiming Mikala came along nine months later. “This is a family affair for us; our love and passion for racing run deep. We argue and disagree like any other family does, but we always find a way to come together at the track,”confessed Mikala. 

Mikala started racing when she was 18. Growing up with the sport, she wanted to start earlier but her dad convinced her to wait. “It was hard at first; I wasn’t comfortable in the car,” admitted Mikala. “When I was by myself on the track, I was clocking fast times. But then when other cars were on the track, I was cautious and held back.” Getting comfortable in the car and being on the track with other drivers didn’t take long, and the young driver began to turn heads. Her times improved and she started winning races. Mikala and her younger brother, Joey, race in the Bombers Division at the Stockton 99 Speedway with 10 to 12 races in a season and 25 to 30 cars on the track. “I am very protective of him,” Mikala expressed. “Our sibling rivalry stays off the track. We are a great team and we all work together to finish strong,” she commented.

Built for Speed
The knowledge and experience Mikala’s dad shares with the team is invaluable. “My dad knows how to set up our cars for speed and he can make adjustments quickly as the track and weather conditions change,” she explained. Her dad builds their cars and Mikala often feels that pressure when she is driving on the track. “A lot of time and money go into building my car; I don’t want to wreck and let my family down. Finding a balance between being aggressive and letting my anger interfere with my driving is a challenge.” she further explained. Mikala gives credit to her spotters for the continued encouragement and push. “Sometimes I get comfortable and pull back on my speed, but they motivate me to push past being comfortable.” 

Mikala’s parents aren’t the only family members involved in the success of the team. Mikala’s grandfather, Steve Grant, plays a big role. “My grandpa is my #1 fan! He is my promoter and he is so proud of me!” laughed Mikala. Steve is the owner of Chuck’s Hamburgers in Stockton and his logo spreads across the hood of Mikala’s car. “Not only is my grandpa our personal hustler, he is also our mediator and biggest cheerleader,” she said lovingly. When the whole family is involved, communication and patience often run short, but Mikala’s mom and her grandpa are the ones to keep everyone smiling and reminding them of why they race. 

Cooperation and Competition
The days at the racetrack are long. Arriving to the track around noon with a practice run at 3:00 p.m. and the official race starting at 6:00 p.m., the Stearns family often arrives back home at midnight. When I asked Mikala about relationships with other drivers and the atmosphere between them, she laughed and replied “It depends how the race goes!” She continued, “The competitiveness on the track intensifies, but we have long-time friends and relationships through this sport. My dad is always willing to help others when they ask. I admire him for that and he is respected by other drivers and teams.” 

The 2020 season opener is scheduled for April 5. Mikala plans on racing this next season with a new body on her car and a winning season under her belt. “I continue to get underestimated as a girl, but now with a win in 2019, I think more drivers are taking me seriously.” Mikala conveyed. “My younger brother is only 15; he has so much potential and my family and I are excited to see him race this season.” she finished. Mikala continues to be a role model as she finds balance between the adrenaline rush on the track and her poise and grace. She’s got sass and style and we wish her the best of luck in the
upcoming season!

For more information on the Stockton 99 Speedway, please visit stockton99.com or follow Mikala and her family on Facebook and Instagram @stearnsracing