Amber Stephenson’s Path to NEDiv’s Driver Award Was the Road Less Traveled

You could call her accomplishments groundbreaking and you wouldn’t be wrong. But to paraphrase an old joke, she’d prefer you just don’t call her late to the grid.

Amber Stephenson’s path to becoming NEDiv’s 2023 Driver of the Year may have been slightly unconventional, but it was also well deserved and absolutely fit the definition of the award.

Like many Divisional awards within the Sports Car Club of America®, the NEDiv Driver of the Year is often presented to someone who was an SCCA National Championship Runoffs® or Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA Super Tour success. No one has ever been given the NEDiv award twice, though that’s an unwritten rule and could conceivably happen. But it is awarded almost purely for on-track accomplishments, as evidenced by a list of previous winners that began with Mark Donohue and includes current SCCA stars John Heinricy, Andrew Aquilante, and Elivan Goulart.

But in 2023, Stephenson left a wake that couldn’t be ignored by the NEDiv Council. She participated in all eight Divisional Championship races and took home the season-long trophy in not one, but two classes – Club Ford and H Production. Meanwhile, her partner and crew chief Serena Stephenson clinched a title in GT-Lite to add to the home collection.

“I enjoy pushing my cars to the limit both in development and driving,” Amber said. “It’s an honor to be recognized for our accomplishments off and on track.”

Amber’s title came out of her 2Girls Racing team, where no one will be shocked to learn the eponymously named team consists mostly of she and Serena.

“We are a very complementary team,” she says. “I enjoy and am good at race car engineering and design, and Serena excels at fabrication and at finding a practical way to implement the developments. We are both PhD scientists, and a lot of data and calculations go into the development of our cars and pre-race setup. This carries over to the qualifying and racing as well.”

And those scientific minds are always working. To push this to the full scientific method, the duo’s hypothesis was that Amber could set the Club Ford track record on the short course at Watkins Glen. It took an unconventional path to get there, but they pulled it off.

“We used [mid-race data] to see that I was going to be a half second too slow on my own,” Amber says. “We then calculated the lap times I needed to run to go down a lap allowing the two fastest Formula F’s to catch me with a large gap from slower cars. This strategy was set over the radio within two laps, allowing us to implement quickly and me to use the draft to set a new track record.”

The journey to NEDiv driver of the year actually began in Texas before a move to the Northeast. Amber specifically credits, among others, James Rogerson at MSR Houston for helping them get to an SCCA Drivers’ School, while great drivers like Dorsey Schroeder and Jim Pace have provided guidance and tips along the way. She also mentions Dan Helman, and of course Serena, for technical assistance. All of that and more combined with Sandy at Quicksilver to build the Club Ford engine to set six track records in 2023.

And the honor is even more special based on who she’s representing as NEDiv’s Driver of the Year – not the driver who is necessarily searching for a gold medal at the Runoffs or an upcoming pro career, but the person who just wants to race as much as possible.

“It does more to promote racing within the Region,” she reflects. “For different reasons, not all of us choose the Runoffs path. For me, the Runoffs format for one race takes as much vacation as three to four Regional race weekends or two to three Majors events. I’d rather run more races.”

And not insignificantly, she becomes just the second woman, behind Amy Aquilante, to win this NEDiv award.

“It’s important for women to be visible in motorsport to inspire others, and I hope winning the award and the success that led to it will do that,” she says, adding, “It’s fun to lead by example by showing we can develop winning cars and put them on the top step of the podium.”

That makes her a role model for both the local race car driver of any gender and also a leader, even unofficially, for the SCCA Women on Track program. While the Women on Track program has official roles and programs to encourage participation, its ultimate value is showing other women that motorsports, and specifically the SCCA, is a place to feel comfortable no matter how you choose to participate.

Without a doubt, Amber Stephenson earned every bit of her NEDiv Driver of the Year honors. Congratulations!

Action photo by Jeff Loewe; Award photo by Jon Krolewicz