Leilani Munter, vegan race driver
Leilani Munter is an American racing driver and environmental activist.
She started racing aged 25 and two years later in 2003 started in the NASCAR weekly racing series. In 2004 she made her first speedway start and in qualifying in fourth place set a record as the best placing for a woman.
In 2006 she had her first full season as a racing driver. The season included a fourth place finish at Texas Motor Speedway, which was the highest finish for a female driver in the history of the 1.5 mile speedway. Later that year she became the first woman to qualify in the 45 year history of the Bettenhausen Classic at Illiana Speedway in Indiana.
In 39 stock car starts, Münter scored 19 top tens and 9 top five finishes.
By May 2007 she had completed her Indy Pro rookie test and made the move to open wheel racing. She also drove stock cars in December 2008 as a test driver. In December 2009, she returned to ARCA testing at Daytona, driving the #59 NextEra Energy Resources Dodge for Mark Gibson Racing. In the final practice, Münter posted the seventh quickest lap with a speed of 181.77 mph, just 69 one-thousandths of a second behind Danica Patrick, who posted the fifth quickest time of the final practice.
In 2007 she became the fourth woman in history to compete in the Indy Pro Series, the development league of IndyCar. She qualified fifth for her debut at Kentucky Speedway.
In 2010 she made her Daytona debut. After just having recorded the fastest lap of the race she was involved in a collision where another driver spun his car and took ten other cars off the road (including Leilani) too.
In 2012 she returned to Daytona with her car colours based on the documentary 'The Cove', which covers a regular horrific dolphin slaughter. She finished 36th of 54 qualifiers, despite a blown tyre.
She also competed at Daytona in 2013 and 2014 (when again an accident caused by another car stopped her).
Enironmental activism, renewables and veganism
Leilani has also studied and has a degree in Biology, specializing in ecology, behavior and evolution. She has an interest in environmental activism and has spoken out on a number of issues. She has highlighted the Indy Car series use of ethanol and asked for a move to a 100% renewable source. Her blog on environmentalism features in the Huffington Post and has a section on her own website dedicated to environmental issues.
Activism has included becoming the first carbon neutral racer by adopting an area of rainforest each time se raced. In 2010 she organised for the Empire State Building to be lit up red to highlight doolphn slaughter in Taji. She's filmed for the Oceanic Preservation Society, and has fought for recognition and support of car technology based on renewale, non-oil sources.
She has numerous awards and appearances relating to her environmental activism.
This overlaps with her views of animals, and has worked hard against the dolphin slaughter at Taji. While at college she volunteered at a wildlife rescue centre.
She is also vegan , and has been vegetarian since childhood. “I went vegetarian when I was six years old, when I found out what meat was. I made the next step and gave up dairy products in the last year. At age six I didn’t understand those types of issues; it was purely because of my love for animals. They were my friends and I wasn’t going to eat my friends. Obviously the environmental benefits of eating a plant based diet is huge. When people ask me what is the number one thing they can do for the planet, I tell them to cut back on their meat consumption.”
“In my personal life, I do everything I can to set a good example for the race fans by reducing my carbon footprint as much as possible. I compost my food scraps, have a veggie garden and a rainwater collection system, I use solar lighting, and am installing solar panels. Soon I will be buying an electric car as my personal vehicle. And I am vegan, and have been vegetarian almost my entire life.”
“It’s just better for our climate, the animals, our own bodies — whatever reason they decide to look at that change, that’s what I want to focus on.”