Changing tires, changing perceptions: SLT’s Snyder continuing to break the mold in NASCAR
When she first broke into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series last year, Liz Synder was seen as a novelty in the male-dominated sport. This season, the South Lake Tahoe native and only female on a Sprint Cup pit crew is recognized for the quality of her work — enough to continue moving up the ranks.
“It’s a lot better team with a higher budget and higher up in points — it’s a good transition and it’s a good opportunity for me,” said the 26-year-old STHS alum. “It’s definitely been a learning experience and a growing experience for me.”
Now with Tommy Baldwin Racing, Snyder is a tire specialist and mechanic for Alex Bowman’s No. 7 Sprint Cup car, Derrick Cope’s No. 70 Xfinity Series car and the No. 94 truck in the Camping World Truck Series. She’ll be in the pits less three hours away from her hometown on Sunday when the Toyota/Save Mart 350 comes to Sonoma Raceway in Northern California.
“Both my parents are down here, I’ve got a couple family members that are going to be here and it’s nice to get to see them,” Snyder said. “I only get to see them a couple times a year when they come to the track just because of how hectic my work schedule is — it’s always fun to be close to home when they can actually come and watch me work.”
Sprint Cup is the only series racing at Sonoma, giving Snyder a slight break from typically hectic weekends at the track. When all three series race at a track — which was the case when she debuted for Tommy Baldwin at Dover in May — it means three consecutive 15-hour work days.
“If all three series are there, the most time I get to myself is usually when I go to bed,” Snyder said.
Snyder, who is affectionately known as “Tire Girl” on the Sprint Cup circuit, spent the first three years of her NASCAR career with Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing in North Carolina before signing with Tommy Baldwin during the 2015 season. The move offers her more exposure and experience in the sport’s top series.
“I like Cup more because it’s a higher level — you can go between the garages and see the difference,” Snyder said. “They’re a lot more serious and there’s a lot more detail that goes into everything — it’s a different environment compared to what I was used to.”
Large crowds at Sprint Cup races that can be in excess of 100,000 fans don’t bother Snyder, but she said that the pressure during races is palpable. She used the word intense to describe the atmosphere on Sundays.
“There are all these teams with million-dollar pit crews and there’s a lot of pressure put on teams in the pits regardless whether you’re running last or first,” Snyder said. “Everyone still has the same amount of pressure and is watching everyone else to see what’s going on.”
The No. 7 Sprint Cup car currently sits two-point positions away from the top Richard Childress Racing Car driven by Trevor Bayne — in the most recent Cup race, Bowman finished 40th at the Quicken Loans 400 on June 14. Snyder said her favorite race so far this season came at Dover, when the No. 7 car ran toward the front for most of the race before eventually coming in 20th.
“(I like) the environment and the competitive level of the team — they’ve got a lot more sponsorships and a lot more money behind them,” Snyder said. “There’s different pressures because we’re more of a front-running team that can compete for a top-20 finish.”
In the near future, Snyder plans to move up to a team on the same level as RCR. Her current goal is to change tires for a top Sprint Cup team.
“It’s kind of a hard thing for females to do just because we’re built differently and there’s still a stereotype that girls can’t go as fast,” Snyder said.
Snyder is determined to break that stereotype in the same way that she broke the mold as a female pit crew in NASCAR. She fell in love with the sport during her first trip to the track at 12 years old, and feels a responsibility to share that passion with the future generation.
“I take a lot of pride in it — it’s a hard thing for girls to get into,” Snyder said. “A lot of little girls come up to me on pit row and in the garage and want pictures with me because they’ve never seen it before — it gives them some hope that they can do it to.
“Girls can do this, and it’s not just a male sport anymore.”
On the highest level of NASCAR, Snyder is proving that one race at a time.
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