Leilani Münter, “Vegan, Hippy Chick with a Race Car,” Reacts to Winning Best Green-Sports Story of 2018

Leilani Münter drove her Vegan Strong car to eighth and ninth place place, respectively, in ARCA (NASCAR developmental series) races at Daytona and Michigan International Speedways earlier this year. 

But those results were mere (vegan) appetizers to her big win in December when Münter became GreenSportsBlog’s BEST GREEN-SPORTS STORY OF 2018. 

The “Vegan, Hippy Chick with a Race Car” spoke to us about what winning the award means to her and more.

 

Leilani Münter has long been on our radar BEST GREEN-SPORTS STORY OF 2018.

She’s had the “Green” part down pat. After all, Münter adorns her race car with vegan sponsors. She samples vegan food to ARCA series race fans. Her personal car is a Tesla that she powers with electricity generated by solar panels on her roof. And much more.

 

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Leilani Münter (Photo credit: Leilani Münter)

 

But it was the “Sports” part that always held Münter back from winning GSB’s Best Green-Sports Story award. Her main problem was that she had a very difficult time getting the vegan sponsors to fund more than a one-race season.

Until 2018, that is.

She signed A Well-Fed World and TryVeg.com to sponsor her ARCA car for an eight race campaign, by far her busiest season in that series. Thus the decision to give the award to Münter became relatively easy this yearespecially with her record of two top ten finishes, and the 30,000 vegan Impossible Burgers that were served in her name to 30,000 racing fans at five Fan Zones.

 

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Leilani Münter (r) with NASCAR’s Danica Patrick at Daytona International Speedway this February (Photo credit: Leilani Münter)

 

In accepting the award, Münter shared that it’s been a long road for her.

“I am completely honored to be recognized by GreenSportsBlog,” Münter said. “It was also an honor to be able to drive the Vegan Strong car, thanks to my partnerships with A Well-Fed World and TryVeg.com. I pitched vegan sponsors for six years and am grateful they finally saw the value of reaching out to a non-traditional audience for them — auto racing fans — and getting them to try tasty vegan food in a fun atmosphere.”

Although the reaction was universally positive, even Münter was surprised about at least one racing fan who became a vegan food fan.

“So this was at the Media Day during Daytona 500 week,” Münter recalled. “Not surprisingly, the ARCA racers were ignored in favor of the NASCAR Monster Energy series (the top level of NASAR) drivers. Luckily, an AP reporter saw a tweet on Twitter saying that vegan burgers are being sampled out in the Fan Zone. So he went over there with a camera guy. When he gets there, he sees a guy in a Make America Great Again (MAGA) cap and an anti-PETA* t-shirt. And the guy LOVED the Impossible Burger!”

Don’t believe me? Check out this 50 second video:

 

 

GSB’s Take: Perhaps Münter is thinking too small with this whole “Vegan, Hippy Chick with a Race Car” thing. It says here that she might want to explore the idea of taking her Tesla, tasty vegan food, and pro-PETA messaging to Iowa and New Hampshire in advance of the 2020 Presidential primary season. Because maybe the best way to reach folks who are opposed to reducing their meat consumption (and thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and/or deny climate change is through their stomachs.

Run, Leilani, Run! Heck, everyone else seems to be running.

 

* PETA = People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. So an anti-PETA t-shirt means the wearer is for unethical treatment of animals? As my Grandma Lena used to say, “It takes all kinds!”

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Leilani Münter, Looking to Turn on the Speed and Turn Auto Racing Fans on to a Vegan Diet at Daytona

Tenacious.

Leilani Münter needs to add that descriptor to her already adjective-laden tag line. Because while “Eco, Vegan, Hippie Chick with a Race Car,” is very clever and certainly stands out, it doesn’t quite do her justice.

Why tenacious?

Because she continues to hustle to find mission-driven sponsors to fund her races at Daytona and elsewhere. And because she continues to bring her vegan, plant-based diet mantra — along with food samples — to stock car racing fans, when conventional wisdom would say her efforts are being directed at the wrong audience.

OK; “Tenacious, Eco, Vegan Hippie Chick with a Race Car” is maybe a tad wordy, but you get the idea — tenacity is central to what makes Ms. Münter tick.

GreenSportsBlog caught up with Ms. Munter for a quick preview of her 2018 racing and activism schedule before she took off for Daytona in her Tesla from her Charlotte, North Carolina-area home. 

 

GreenSportsBlog: Leilani, it’s great to reconnect. What’s new for you and your team for 2018?

Leilani Münter: We’re building on our 2017 “Vegan Powered” program. We have a new branding — Vegan Strong — with the website launching before our race at the ARCA racing series opener at Daytona on February 10. And we will have a vegan food tent with tasty samples that will be open for fans each racing day at Daytona Speedweeks, which includes the 10th, 11th and then from the 15th to the 18th, which is the day of the Daytona 500. Building on our positive experience doing this last year, our emphasis this year is going to be on the health benefits of a vegan diet.

 

 

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Leilani Münter (Photo credit: Scott LePage)

 

GSB: How do you think racing fans at Daytona will respond?

LM: I think those who come to our tent will learn about why being vegan is good for your body — it’s the most efficient way to get nutrients — that’s one of the reasons we call our program Vegan Strong. They will also learn that vegan food tastes great! Not just good but GREAT! Last year we served vegan wings at Daytona and also at Talladega Super Speedway in Alabama that, compared to chicken, have half the fat calories, provide 100 percent of the protein and have zero cholesterol. This year we have something new up our sleeve.

 

Fun, must-watch video from Leilani Münter’s 2017 vegan food giveaway at Alabama’s Talladega Super Speedway (3 min 17 sec)

 

GSB: We look forward to hearing about it. Now I know that your on-track career, your ability to actually race, has been limited by the challenges of trying to find sponsors who are on board with your vegan, climate change mission and who are interested in reaching auto racing fans. I also know that if you are racing in 2018, you have some sponsors, including a new one. Fill us in…

LM: Getting corporations to sponsor us has been a challenge but we’ve found success with some great, mission-aligned nonprofits. In 2017, we were sponsored by A Well-Fed World and they are back again this season. We’ve also added a new nonprofit sponsor, TryVeg.com. These sponsors are essential to allowing us to race and to having our tent at Daytona Speedweeks as the costs are significant.

GSB: Congratulations on gaining the sponsorships. Why do you think they came aboard, aside from their belief in you and your mission?

LM: One big reason is that we had a successful 2017 in terms of media coverage of our efforts at Daytona and also at Talladega. Fox Sports covered us during the race and also ran features on us. That, along with other online and social media coverage, generated media exposure to the tune of 161 million impressions

GSB: Incredible!

LM: Thanks. That’s really what helped us secure the funding for Daytona 2018. And we will be making an announcement at Daytona about the rest of our season schedule, so stay tuned for that.

GSB: We will for sure. Now, as you mentioned at the top, you’ll be racing in the ARCA Series event on February 10 at Daytona. Just what is the ARCA Series and how does it relate to NASCAR?

LM: Sure. ARCA stands for the Automobile Racing Club of America. It is a feeder division into the top three national series of NASCAR.

GSB: So is it fair to say ARCA is to NASCAR as Triple A minor league baseball is to Major League Baseball?

LM: That’s about right.

GSB: What will you be driving at the ARCA Daytona race?

LM: I’ll driving a number 20 Venturini Motorsports car with the new composite body,

GSB: What kind of result are you hoping for?

 

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Leilani Münter, driving her Vegan Strong Venturini car during a practice run at Daytona (Photo credit: Jim Jones)

 

LM: There is absolutely no reason I can’t win it this year. Last year I was running in fourth place in the final stages of the race and then with just 15 laps to go I got taken out by a competitor. As long as I have a clean race, I’m going for the win!

GSB: I wouldn’t bet against you, that’s for sure…Now, in the ARCA Series, you’re driving a standard, internal combustion engine car that consumes gasoline. I, of course, get that that’s the price for bringing your vegan, eco message to auto racing fans — an audience that is assumed to not be open to such a message. So this makes perfect sense. On the other hand, have you looked into also racing in the Formula E, electric vehicle (EV) series that is gaining lots of fan interest?

LM: Actually, I’m involved with a new EV series that’s just getting started; the Electric GT Series based in Barcelona. When it launches, we’ll all be driving Tesla Model S that has over 1,000 lbs of weight removed and many other adjustments to make it into a real race car. And it’s the first electric car to win Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award. I was the first American driver to sign up for the new series.

GSB: Why the Electric GT Series and not Formula E?

LM: The appeal of NASCAR is that it uses cars similar to the models driven by regular folks. Similarly, I love the fact that Electric GT will feature Tesla Model S, the car I’ve been driving since 2013 — and charging it with electricity generated by solar panels on the roof our house.

GSB:…And now Tesla’s started selling and shipping their Model 3 — priced at $35,000 range — by far their most affordable offering yet. Once they up their production run on the Model 3, many, many more people will be driving Teslas…

LM:…Which will make this series more relatable to racing fans. And I really believe in Tesla as a game changing, disruptive force in transportation — I love that Ferrari recently announced it wants to compete with Tesla

GSB: How cool is that?!?!

LM: Very cool. And competition is good but my loyalty is to Tesla because they took the risk, powered through the times when no one believed in electric cars. So the Electric GT Series and I are a perfect fit.

GSB: When will the series launch?

LM: It’s not clear just yet. Starting a new racing series is not an easy task, especially as it relates to signing sponsors.

GSB: You know that better than most…

LM: Exactly! I know they are hoping to launch the series in the second half of 2018, and there are a lot of moving parts but eventually I think it will be a fantastic racing series. Meanwhile I’ll race in the ARCA series and hopefully make the next step to NASCAR. Stock cars is where the eyeballs are and I want to do what I can to influence fans to make their next car purchase or lease an electric car. And, while I’m at it, I will work to show them that eating a plant-based diet and buying solar power are also great life decisions. The more fans I reach, the more I impact…Simple as that.

GSB: That’s so great. How has the fan reaction been?

LM: Oh, they love it! At the vegan tent, I tell them, with a plant based diet, aside from the health benefits, there’s no animal cruelty and it’s better for our environment, and the food tastes great. They’re like “How do they make chicken out of plants?” Then they taste it — the first bite is the key — and they’re hooked. It’s the same thing as with driving a Tesla — once you try it, you’re hooked.

GSB: Well, I can’t wait to taste the vegan wings. In the meantime, all the best at Daytona, Leilani! 

 


 

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