Leilani Münter’s name may not be as well known to many non-racing fans as Danica Patrick or Janet Guthrie, the 42-year-old has been racing cars since 2001, when she finished 7th during her debut in the 2001 Allison Legacy Series in California. Soon afterward she headed east to Mooresville, North Carolina, where made her first start in the 2003 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series at South Boston Speedway. Münter then made her first speedway start in 2004 at Texas Motor Speedway and set a new record when she qualified 4th, the highest qualifying effort for a woman driver at the track. It was also her first super late model race. Again, she finished 7th.
From then on, the brakes were off and Leilani became the first woman to qualify in the 45-year history of the Tony Bettenhausen Classic at Illiana Speedway in Indiana: and continued to set records by scoring 19 top tens and 9 top five finishes in stock car starts, before making the switch to the ARCA Series in 2007. That same year, Münter became only the 4th woman in history to compete in the Indy Pro Series.
Since then, Leilani has been named one of the top 10 female race car drivers in the world by Sports Illustrated, while Glamour Magazine named her an “Eco Hero” for being a “driving force” as an environmental activist. She was also profiled on Discovery Planet Green’s new 2010 television series “Fast Forward.” In addition, Münter Elle Magazine presented her with its “Genius Award” in 2012. She has also been featured in several fashion magazines and other television programs for her work on and off the track.
While Münter spent 3-years as a special correspondent for NASCAR.com and was one of a trio of “Hostess Race Divas” to appear on boxes of Hostess Twinkies and Cupcakes alongside (then) Indy driver Danica Patrick and drag racing’s Melanie Troxel, her latest venture debuting a new car during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway next month that will not only showcase her vegan beliefs before millions of racing fans on and off the track, but serve to provide hunger relief to families, as well as offer care to rescued farm animals, thanks to A Well-Fed World. Leilani, who admits to being a nearly lifelong vegetarian, became vegan in 2011.
The #15 Vegan Powered racecar will be fielded by Venturini Motorsports for the ARCA series event and is the 1st ever “vegan-themed” racecar to hit any track in the country. The vehicle’s premiere will “be celebrated with “a large display tent with free food, vegan starter guides with recipes, coupons, and more.”
Meanwhile, it should be noted that this is not the 1st “car with a cause” piloted by Münter. In February 18, 2012, she drove a “The Cove” themed race car at Daytona International Speedway to focus attention on dolphin captivity and killings, while .on 2014, she began driving a race car modeled after an orca whale at the Talladega Speedway with a “Blackfish” theme to raise awareness about the controversial 2013 documentary about Tilikum the orca who killed at trainer at Seaworld, and about the facility’s (cruel) practice for placing him and his kind in captivity. She raised $7,500 for the car through crowd-funding and had the remaining $107,500 given to her by “The Simpsons” co-creator Sam Simon.
Note: Leilani Münter earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, specializing in ecology, behavior, and evolution from the University of California, San Diego. She was also a volunteer at a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center. In addition, Münter was also one of the celebrities to speak out about the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico among many other major environmental issues.