Julie Dahmer treks many miles in her gig by driving big brown trucks for UPS for 23 years. While driving is a full-time job for the Sheboygan resident, racing has become a part-time hobby for Dahmer.
She begins her fourth season racing a Mazda Miata in the Spec Miata division at Road America this weekend when she runs in the WeatherTech Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints.
The transition from spectator to a competitor has been a satisfying and challenging experience for Dahmer, whose husband, Brad Dahmer, has been racing for 30 years. He runs in the GT-1 class, and the couple has a hauler and bevy of automobiles at their race shop.
“Everybody can be a grandstand fan, but until you hit that track yourself and go through all the motions, one little mistake can throw you off. Next thing you know, you’re in pea gravel,” said Julie, who got her SCCA license at Blackhawk Farms in 2017. “It’s crazy, all the emotions you go through. I’ve learned so much, I can’t even believe it.”
Julie said the Spec Miata division is a good learning class for beginners, but Brad suggested moving to the TA2 class, which has a smaller field.
“I need to spend a lot more time behind the wheel yet before I’m comfortable moving up,” Julie said. “I’m learning how the car is working, all the things that you do, and how it feels on the track. When the tires are going bad. It’s like all these things I never would’ve guessed I would appreciate, knowing what that all felt like. It’s changed everything for me.”
The 1991 North graduate is no stranger to cars. She got her first, a 1979 Dodge Omni hatchback, as a teenager. When Dahmer finished high school, she got a job in the parts department at a car dealership.
“My dad bought me a car at 16, and I had to pay him back for it,” she said. “I learned how to change my oil and check my tire pressures. I’ve always had this fascination with cars.”
Dahmer estimated that they’ll run five or six events this summer at Road America since it is close to the couple’s home, and they’ve also got a solid, dedicated race crew.
“Good help is hard to find,” Dahmer said. “The crew that you do have, if you can live close to home, that makes it ideal for them, too.”
Dahmer sets attainable expectations for improvement and hopes to be a bit faster this year. Bump drafting plays a factor in the Spec Miata class at Road America, and Dahmer guessed that the top lap time in that division is 2 minutes, 43 seconds.
“I’m just trying to hit 2:50 or better. We’ll see. I’m getting really close to that,” Dahmer said.
She admitted that one-quarter century driving work trucks probably hinders her race mode sometimes, but it’s tough to change the way she’s wired.
“It probably hurts me more than anything and holds me back a little bit because I’m always anticipating something,” she said. It’s ingrained in me, and I’ve been doing it for so long. I do get mad, and I do get competitive if something happens on the track. I switch hats. It’s still there in the back of my mind: ‘Hold up, calm down; it’s just a race; you’re not winning any money.'”
Damrow mentioned the best advice that Brad has shared is to stay smooth and run her line. She doesn’t have a favorite turn or section at Road America, but the challenges it provides are thrilling — every single time.
“The kink is amazing,” she said. “You can’t go up into Turn 6 and not hold your breath because you don’t know exactly where you’re going to let off to make the turn because you can’t see it. You’re going uphill, and you can’t see it. I just love Road America. I love the speed, and I love all the small things that are happening. There are just so many things there that the track offers; it blows my mind.”
Daily admission to the June Sprints is $20 Friday, and $25 each for Saturday and Sunday.
– by Road America staff