Heather Pupecki spends her days coordinating spaces at USC and her weekends aspiring to be a successful race car driver. Living her life in the literal fast lane, driving at speeds as high as 147 mph, Heather strives to be the best version of herself. Speeding past, female driver stereotypes, she won’t slow down for anyone or anything. I was lucky enough to speak with her about her past, present & future. What inspired her to start driving, and what advice she has for other women with big goals. Her story definitely inspired me, as I’m sure it will all of you, to keep pursuing your dreams.
Heathyr Velante: Please start by introducing yourself to our DAB Sisterhood.
Heather Pupecki: Hi! My name is Heather Pupecki, and I am 28 years old. I grew up in Connecticut but have been living in LA for the past 8 years. I can’t believe I have been out here this long, but life in Cali has been a blast.
HV: What do you currently do for work?
HP: Right now, I work as a Space Planning Coordinator at USC. There I coordinate remodel projects, assist architects/construction supervisors on major construction projects, coordinate with facilities, coordinate furniture and signage installations, create furniture layouts for different types of spaces, work on small design tasks, and so much more. My goal is to work my way back into the film industry as an art director. This opportunity teaches me a lot about interior design and space planning, which are strong skillsets for an art director in the film industry.
HV: What/who are you aspiring to be?
HP: I am aspiring to be an Art Director during the week and a racer on the weekends.
HV: Is this a life change, a hobby, or both?
HP: Getting into racing has been a life-changing hobby. It’s definitely a different world than my career path, but by having a hobby like racing, I get the best of both worlds.
HV: Who and what are some of your inspirations?
HP: Now that I created an Instagram for my racing adventures, I follow quite a few people that are inspiring to me. Seeing all of their track videos and stories about their journey shows me the possibilities to grow into myself.
HV: When did you decide, or how did you know that cars are for you?
HP: When I look back, I always think about this one random job interview about 6 years ago. They had asked me, “If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?” Without hesitation, I blurted out, “Racecar driver!” I was just as surprised as them at my answer because I had never thought about racing, and honestly, I didn’t think about it after that moment.
Then a few years later, I was looking into fun things I could do for my birthday, and I came across an ad to drive a supercar of your choice on the racetrack. This seemed like so much fun, so I booked my first experience. I drove a Lamborghini on the racetrack on my birthday in 2016. It was after that day, and I decided to do one fun racetrack event a year. That was until last year (2019) when I decided I wanted to do more than just driving fun cars on the track. I knew that I wanted to start driving my car on the track.
HV: What is your favorite car make and model?
HP: The car I currently have is a 2015 Mazda Miata. I love this car, and it’s been a great car to have by my side while I take it onto the track. I also am interested in the Toyota 86 or Subaru BRZ; they are the same car, just different brands. I have test drove the Subaru BRZ and think that I want that to be my next car.
HV: What is it like being a female in the car realm?
HP: To be honest, it is a bit nerve-racking being a female in the car realm. Especially since I am very new to racing and don’t know much about cars or racing. I plan to make this whole journey a learning experience. Although, I have noticed that many racing enthusiasts are supportive when I go to events.
HV: We noticed you have a few events coming up. Please share about the event & what was the process like to get accepted into the event(s)?
HP: The event that I have coming up in November is Autocross. Autocross is a form of racing where you are timed while driving an obstacle course marked out by cones. This is going to be my first time doing Autocross. I am lucky to have a friend come with me who has done autocross a few times herself.
However, my main focus is to do HPDE track days, which stand for High-Performance Driving Events. Those happen on the race track. My first official HPDE track day was back in July of this year. I have wanted to do more track days, but I am waiting until next year for cost purposes. When it comes to track days, they are open to any driver and any car. You are placed in a run group based on experience. Since I’m new to this, I will be in the beginner run group for a while until I am ready to move up to a more advanced group. The more track days I do, the better I will move up in the run groups.
HV: What advice would you give to any young female trying to get into the field you aspire to be in?
HP: Don’t let anyone stop you from trying. A few years ago, when I thought about getting on the track, I had quite a few people try to discourage me from trying. I wish I hadn’t listened to them because who knows where I could have been today if I just went for it and didn’t listen to anyone.
HV: What advice would you give to any female in general?
HP: Be confident in who you are. It’s very easy to let the world around you define your level of confidence.
HV: What are some of your personal greatest accomplishments?
HP: My greatest accomplishment when it comes to racing was back in 2018 when I drove a real NASCAR racecar on the track with no instructor. All of my previous fun track events were with instructors in the car. This time, I had a spotter who was up in the grandstands watching and radioing to me. This was such an accomplishment because two weeks before that, I had failed at learning stick shift. I had always wanted to learn stick shift, so I booked some lessons. I ended up having a bad experience during the lesson, so I didn’t finish learning. But I didn’t let it stop me from showing up to the track two weeks later to drive a real NASCAR racecar on the track.
I honestly thought I would show up and get a crash course on driving a stick shift. But instead, they put the car into gear for me after I was strapped in. With those racecars, once you’re in the top gear, you can’t downshift. So, I was able to drive it on the track. Regardless, it was a worthwhile experience. My top speed was 147 mph. If I ever decide to go back to that event, I want to wait until I have learned stick shift.
HV: What is a future goal that you have?
HP: I definitely want to learn stick shift one day. For now, I am learning paddle-shift since my car is equipped with paddle shift. Once I am comfortable with that, I will use the paddle shift on the track. Another goal is to get my racing license. However, this will probably be a few years in the future once I’ve learned more about cars and had much more experience driving on the track.
HV: What’s the best advice you have been given?
HP: Recently, I had a co-worker give me some great advice. The advice was to take care of yourself first. Even if you have to focus on work, you won’t be able to if you don’t take care of yourself first.
HV: What is next for you?
HP: After my first Autocross day this month, my plan is to start booking more HPDE track days in 2021. The more track days I do, the better my performance will be so that I can move up to a more advanced run group. I am also looking into racing schools.
HV: What would you tell your youngest self? And or what would you want yourself to remember 3 years from today?
HP: I would tell my younger self to have confidence in what you want to do. The same goes for future me three years from now. Keep up with the highest level of confidence you have so you can keep going.
HV: Many changes are happening in our world today. How have you reacted to some of the things in your community?
HP: With the recent election, I have been educating myself on political matters and all of the issues happening in our world that need to be addressed. I think staying educated and staying current on these events can help you be part of a better community.
HV: How/where should our readers look out for you?
HP: As of right now, I am just on Instagram sharing my racing adventures. You can follow me at @mx5chasingapexes.
Thanks for reading DABS!!! PLEASEEEEE comment below and share Heather’s story with all of the boss babes and dudes in the universe!! Until next FFF……!!!!!!!!!!
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