Barely breaking 60 inches in height, Shannon McIntosh may be petite in stature. But on the track, the 22-year-old is a tremendous force to reckon with. A racecar driver since the ripe old age of five, the Ohio-born resident of St. Petersburg, Fla., has steady been on the come-up, hustling to establish her presence in a sport traditionally wrought with pedigreed testosterone. But despite her humble roots, McIntosh doesn’t stick it to the boys with a chip on her shoulder, gracious and elated to be where she is. We recently caught up with the Mazda Road to Indy racer after the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix. For all you fellas who need a spoiler-alert, here you go. Miss McIntosh is easy to converse with. But don’t step to her if you rock ultra-skinnies or can’t drive stick. Oh, and whatever you do, do not call her the next Danica Patrick!
Complex: For starters, you have to tell us how a five-year-old girl gets into racing. Barbies didn’t cut it for you?
Shannon McIntosh: It’s funny, there’s no history of racing or motorsports in my family, but I’ve always been into anything with wheels. I never played with toys, and my dad tells me that he took the training wheels off my bike when I was three. Where I grew up, there was a nearby church parking lot with a recessed drainage grate in it that was a big asphalt bowl of sorts. I would be in there on my bike, just doing circles as fast as I could.
Complex: So when did you first realize that this could be a career path?
SM: Well, when I was about four, my parents took me to a quarter midget race, and I still remember loving it so much. There was actually a point I got separated from them. They found me up in the grandstands, by myself, watching all the cars go by. It was also the first day I sat in a racecar. I asked my dad if I could do it and he was on it. He found me a car, put it in the back of his pickup, and by five I was competing.
Complex: Now that you have quite a few years under your belt, how does it feel? Being a girl, do the guys you compete against take you seriously?
SM: You know, I’ve always been so naïve to the fact that I’m a girl. It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve become more aware of that sort of thing. But I think if you work hard for respect, then you’re going to get it. There’s been a little bit of ego here and there, but nothing too crazy. Lately, though, there’s been more attention and outside pressure to perform.
Complex: You must mean the “next Danica Patrick” references flying around?
SM: Yeah, that’s the number one question I get. “Are you the next Danica Patrick?” I’ve always been adamant that I’m not. I’m the first Shannon McIntosh. I definitely have a lot of respect for Danica, but I’m not trying to be like her. I’m trying to do my own thing.
Complex: That’s probably been challenging. People always want a "next."
SM: It hasn’t been easy, but more so because this isn’t exactly a cheap sport to be involved with. When I was 17, my parents couldn’t afford to fund me anymore, so I had to market myself and find sponsorships. As of last season, I was the only driver in the entire Mazda Road to Indy program to be fully sponsored. Most of these guys are being funded by their parents.
Complex: Sounds like you manage your funds well. But when you hit it big as a driver, you know you have to keep a ridiculously baller stable, right? When the time comes, what are the top five rides in your garage?
SM: Well, the Aston Martin V12 Vantage has caught my eye for a while, but I never say I want a car until I’ve driven it. However, the other day I got a chance to, and that’s number one on my list. That’s happening! I really like the Audi R8 Spyder as well, and I’m also a big fan of Lamborghinis. I’d probably end up with a white Lambo of some sort. As for the others, I don’t know just yet. I like old muscle cars too, so I’d probably go with something classic. But I don’t know them in and out enough to name a specific make or model right now.
Complex: Do you have any experience with whips like that?
SM: Absolutely! There’s a bridge where I live, the Howard Franklin Bridge that joins Tampa to St. Pete. It’s four lanes and just straight for miles. I often meet up with a bunch of car guys from Tampa--and I could get in trouble for this--but the other day we all got together and hit it. I was driving an orange Lamborghini Gallardo. There were a few R8s and a bunch of other amazing cars. We met in Tampa and headed to St. Pete, all 30 of us doing about 130 mph on the bridge while dipping lanes. It was pretty crazy.
Complex: How does that translate to your love life? Have any of the dudes you’ve dated been intimidated to drive with you?
SM: In high school, one of my first boyfriends didn’t know how to drive a stick. I was about four years younger than him, but I remember just having no patience for it when I tried to teach him. It’s definitely a turn-off for me if a guy can’t drive stick, or if he doesn’t really care about cars. In addition to that, yeah, I think I’ve probably scared a few of the guys that I’ve driven around.
Complex: How about style? Is there anything a dude should not be wearing when he tries talking to you?
SM: Um, yes-–skinny jeans! I just don’t think they’re something a guy needs to be wearing. Somewhat tight is OK. But when they hug a guy’s leg down to the ankles and then they wear big sneakers with them? I just can’t.
Complex: You can’t drive an Aston or Lambo every day. What's your ideal daily beater?
SM: A while back my mom had a Subaru WRX, and that car was just an awesome daily driver. But they’ve changed the styling, and I’m not as big on them as I used to be. Today, I’d probably say a BMW M3.
Complex: You can’t get away from the speed, huh? That said, what’s next race season hold in store for you?
SM: With Danica leaving, it means that right now I’m the only American female pursuing Indy car. That’s a really big void to attempt to fill, but also a great opportunity for me to capitalize. So for now, it just means finding more sponsors, marketing myself wherever I can and, of course, winning.