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 qualified in fourth place, setting a women’s record for her placing.
In 2006 she had her first full season as a racing driver. She took a fourth place finish at Texas Motor Speedway – the highest finish for a female driver ever. Later that year she became the first woman to qualify in the 45 year history of the Bettenhausen Classic.
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 became the fourth woman in history to compete in the Indy Pro Series, the development league of IndyCar. Leilani qualified fifth for her debut at Kentucky Speedway.
- Competed in speedway, stock car and racing driving
- First woman to qualify for the Bettenhausen Classic
- Extensive action for vegansim, ecology and other causes
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.
Returning to Daytona in 2012 she had her car colours based on the documentary ‘The Cove’. The Cove is a film which covers a regular horrific dolphin slaughter.
She also competed at Daytona in 2013 and 2014 (when again an accident caused by another car stopped her).
Leilani continued racing until 2019 when she retired (read more here). During her racing career and afterwards, campaigning on issues such as renewable energy and veganism have been a priority.
Enironmental activism, renewables and veganism
Leilani has also studied and has a degree in Biology, specializing in ecology, behaviour 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.
Leilani has become the first carbon neutral racer by adopting an area of rainforest each time she raced. In 2010 she organised for the Empire State Building to be lit up red to highlight dolphin slaughter in Taji. She’s filmed for the Oceanic Preservation Society, and has fought for recognition and support of car technology based on renewable sources.
“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.”
She has numerous awards and appearances relating to her environmental activism.
This overlaps with her views of animals, and she has worked hard against the dolphin slaughter at Taji. While at college she volunteered at a wildlife rescue centre.
Leilani 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.”