Stephanie Cemo came into the world of racing pedal to the metal. As a current racer for SCCA GT2, NASA ST1, Trans Am TA3 and with the Lamborghini Trofeo, clearly Cemo has no intention of slowing down. From the drag strip, to time attacks and then to professional racing, Cemo has a respectable amount of wins and pole finishes under her belt. She wasn’t born into a racing family. Didn’t marry into one, either. Her successes were all sowed from hard work and passion for racing.
It all started with a love for speed. “I always wanted to race cars,” muses Cemo. “I loved going fast.”
Stephanie Cemo knew she’d be a racer when she was a starry-eyed drag strip fiend in her home town of Houston, Texas. Back in 2002, a friend of hers brought her to the drags, sat her in a car, and she took off. The moment she felt the car race toward the end of the strip, Cemo knew she was hooked. Just about every weekend after that, she was at the drag strip. However, after a taste for something that demanded a little more special attention and skill, she felt her horizons quickly broadening.
“I was at the drag strip about four days a week,” declares Cemo. “Just side stepping the clutch and going at it. Then I went road racing, and haven’t done drag racing since.”
Forever a track day attendee, it took a weekend for her to be promoted from beginning class to advanced class. Within two months, Cemo was asked to be an instructor. According to Cemo, being an instructor came with a very rich benefit.
“[Becoming an instructor] was great for me, because that meant free track time,” says Cemo. “As much money as I had to spend on tires, I was there.”
In 2012 Cemo bought her fourth Corvette, the ZR1. The ZR1 accompanied her to the tracks in California, where she started participating in Time Attack events. Two years in, she raced in the Global Time Attack, Red Line Time Attack, and in the Speed Ventures Corvette Series. Cemo won all of them in her class. For Cemo, it was nearly every weekend she was at the track taking names.
“That was a big deal for me, I was terrified,” says Cemo. “I knew I was aggressive with passing and I think the time I spent learning the tracks paid off, I knew my car well, and I went out and qualified, held my position, and won.”
Even though she’s clearly a force to be reckoned with, she doesn’t tie her successes to her gender — instead, she thanks her skill. To Cemo, the most important thing to bring to the track is a desire to win, and the skill to make it happen. Though, she doesn’t deny that there are restrictive stereotypes and stigmas surrounding women in motorsports.
Having read comments on her socials about not belonging on the track and suggestions of making her way back to the kitchen, Cemo is all too familiar with the struggles young women face today.
“It’s ridiculous,” notes Cemo. “A woman can absolutely turn a wrench, and a woman can absolutely pull a transmission out of a car. And a woman can absolutely drive a race car.”
The best advice Cemo would give to young Athenians is to focus on what they have to bring to the track, not what their gender can bring to the track.
“Don’t expect to be handed things because you’re a woman,” says Cemo. “I don’t expect any special treatment because I’m a woman. I’m a woman, by all means, but I feel like if you go out there and win, the respect is going to come with it. There are a lot of women that think, ‘I’m going to capitalize on this because I’m a woman, there’s no women in this sport.’ That’s nice, but you have to bring the talent, too.”
Coming from a woman who brought her own car to the tracks via a trailer hitched to her Corvette, a woman that would change her own tires, brakes, and more, it’s solid advice. The only person Stephanie Cemo gets to thank in victory lane for her success is herself. And that’s another valuable quality we want to see developed in our Athenians — is the determination to make their dreams happen.
For an extensive list of her amazing achievements, check out her website.
Photos: Stephanie Cemo’s Instagram
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Kristen Finley is a woman who eats, breathes, and sleeps cars. Her love of cars blossomed at a very young age, when handing tools to her sailor of a father underneath his cars constituted as quality time. Eager to learn, it was only a matter of time before her father became the one handing her the tools. Even into college at California State University, Monterey Bay, she's pursuing a career in automotive journalism to allow her the chance to tell enchanting automotive stories.