Interview: Maryeve Dufault Talks NASCAR, Women in Racing & Dan Wheldon

Interview: Maryeve Dufault Talks NASCAR, Women in Racing & Dan Wheldon
On many sports websites, you'll see NASCAR driver Maryeve Dufault featured in bikinis, or compared to Danica Patrick, or simply pegged as the former model on The Price is Right. Scrap all of that. 
 
While her looks can steal the story, motorsports have been Maryeve's passion since she was 4-years-old. Growing up in a racing household in Canada, she caught a fever that no amount of pressure, resistance, or criticism could ever cool off. After working her way through motocross and go-karts, Maryeve moved up to open-wheel racing and eventually the ARCA circuit, where her best finish came at Chicagoland Speedway this July when she finished 10th in the Messina Wildlife Animal Stopper 150. In August, Dufault made her NASCAR Nationwide debut at the NAPA Auto Parts 200 in Montreal and finished 30th. We talked to Maryeve about what role her modeling has actually played in her life, what it was like learning English from scratch, proving Ray Lewis wrong, and how the death of Dan Wheldon affected her. 
 
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How do you feel about a lot of the attention being directed at your modeling and looks rather than your racing?
Maryeve Dufault: If you are a race fan, then you focus on the racing. If they are watching my modeling and pictures, then good for them, but I have proven myself in many races in ARCA, and I think that opened a lot of eyes. You’re always going to have people that are not true race fans. They focus on things that might bring in other fans and try to attract them to the race track. Everybody is different, and you have the really hardcore race fans that don’t really follow the other stuff. If people read my story, then they’d know I wouldn’t be here without modeling. 

What is the story behind that?
Maryeve Dufault: I used that money to go and buy some racing tires every weekend. What else can I prove? It’s hard work and determination. I never let my dream die. I have been involved in racing since four years old. My dad raced and my brother raced, so I grew up in racing. I didn’t just go from modeling to NASCAR. That’s not the story. People try to use the pictures to make things up.  I never did the lingerie bowl, and they’re coming up with these things. I have never been in the lingerie bowl. You find me the game and show me. 
 
So you weren't actually in the lingerie bowl? That's been widely reported.
Maryeve Dufault: I’m not sure why that happened. It was on IMDB for no reason, and they took it off, but now the people think I did it because it’s like a snowball effect. The only thing I really did was Price Is Right, and I did a few of those shows. That was great, but I earned some money that kept me on schedule to go racing. 
 
The modeling was strictly to support your racing career?
Maryeve Dufault: I had some modeling jobs, I did really good commercials, and did TV shows during the weeks, and during the weekends I would race. I wouldn’t buy clothes or shoes, I’d buy equipment, tools, and new tires. Everything was about racing. Modeling kind of reminds me of when you’re an actor and you work at a restaurant. To survive, you keep working and make it happen, but you’re still focusing on acting. I used it to pay my dues in racing. It’s not easy, but when you want it bad, you find a way to make it happen. I find myself here today and I’m really happy that I did it. 
 
How difficult was the transition to racing and life in the States? 
Maryeve Dufault: I moved here without speaking English. I had to do my own mechanics on my car. I went through a lot of difficult times, and it’s not easy by myself. But I did it. When you’re by yourself, you get really thick skin and really strong. 

Tell me about moving here without knowing English. 
Maryeve Dufault: It was pretty difficult. It’s not like I went to a specific school or English class or anything. Making new friends was hard. I learned from TV and movies and surrounding myself with English people. It takes a long time to remember one word when there are so many. You’re like, “oh my gosh, what is this?” You have a few years where it’s really tough. The other people need to kind of teach you. I was probably really annoying asking a hundred questions. They probably didn’t want to go out with me. It’s part of my journey that I had to learn a second language pretty quickly. I’m glad today that I can speak French and English.
 
What was the experience like getting to race in NASCAR? 
Maryeve Dufault: It was great. We didn’t have the budget as a team to have the equipment up to date like other top team cars, but it was a challenging weekend. We did 14 laps in practice my first time out in a Nationwide car, so it was touch. We had a few mechanical issues as far as suspension, and my transmission mount broke. My shifter was close to my seat, and I couldn’t get to first and second gear. Those kinds of things made everything really nuts, because I didn’t give up. I could have just given up and said it’s not working out, but I kept going and pushed through. It was obvious we were struggling with the car quite bit. It was great to be on track with those drivers. Sometimes you gotta take some risks and it’s the journey after. I enjoyed my weekend. 

So you only had 14 laps of practice before you raced?
Maryeve Dufault: We had a lot of things going on, so we weren’t able to be on the track very long. It was coming to me in the race, and it handles similarly to ARCA. The hard thing to find was figuring out my car. It was a crazy weekend. 

How did all the criticism about how you weren't ready affect you after the race?
Maryeve Dufault: I don’t really listen to criticism. I’m not the kind of person that explains myself. When you watch a race, you have to have the radio in your head. Being a female, you’re judged right away. People automatically assume. Its’ not my job to describe to the world about this and that. It’s negative for me and for the team. You have to have the radio and headset. If the world knew what I went through, they’d be like, “Oh my gosh!”  

But if you had problems, why wouldn’t you want people to know that?
Maryeve Dufault: We had press releases. People that follow closely know what happened. The rest can say whatever. Being a female, it’s just been like that forever. 

Obviously, the other famous female driver is Danica Patrick. How do you deal with all of the natural comparisons to her?
Maryeve Dufault: It’s become very flattering. Danica has been around at that high level for a while and has a lot of experience. She proved herself and is doing great for herself, but we’re two different people and have two different backgrounds. I don’t have a lot of people around me comparing me. A lot of people in the media do that, but she’s just another competitor like anybody out there.
Tags: maryeve-dufault, nascar, racing, arca, danica-patrick, dan-wheldon, lingerie-bowl
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