Race Car Driver Aims to Put Brakes on Global Warming

"We are not an eco-friendly sport," said Leilani Munter, who came to Capitol Hill this week to promote her cause. (By Linton Weeks -- The Washington Post)
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By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 6, 2008

Race-car driver Leilani Munter was on Capitol Hill yesterday telling members of Congress how to combat global warming.

Wait, what?

Race cars are notorious polluters. NASCAR only switched to unleaded gasoline recently. How could anyone take her seriously?

But there she was, in tan business suit and boots, talking cars with Sens. Richard Lugar and Elizabeth Dole. Lugar, a Republican who used to be mayor of Indianapolis, recalled the "awesome problems" of streakers in the raceway infield. He told her he drives a Prius. Dole (R-N.C.) said Munter is a woman "on a mission."

We promise to explain how a race driver can be an environmentalist. But first we want to point out that Munter, 32, was once named the Hottest Woman in NASCAR by FHM magazine. She started racing stock cars in 2001. She tried out a car on the test track and an instructor told her she was good enough to go pro. "It was such a magical feeling," she recalls.

She was competing to rise in the ranks of NASCAR when she decided last year to race open-wheel cars instead. Now she competes in the Indy Pro Series. A couple of years ago she placed fourth in the Konica Minolta 100 at Texas Motor Speedway. At the time, it was the highest finish ever for a female driver at that level.

But, like many female drivers, she has trouble getting sponsors.

Other ways in which she is an unusual race-car driver:

¿ She did stunts in the movie "The Scorpion King" and was a photo double for Catherine Zeta-Jones in "America's Sweethearts" and "Traffic."

¿ She graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a degree in biology.

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