■ AUTUMN SCHWALBE has racing engrained in her , just like the blue Ford flag that flies on the vehicles she ’ s grown up loving and racing . Her family laid the foundation of her love for motorsports , which played an intricate part in her upbringing .
Schwalbe entered her teenage years knowing that she wanted to race . Her parents were excited to teach her the “ family business ” and gifted her a Mustang key for Christmas in 2015 . Not long after , Schwalbe spent many days at the track , testing , tuning and bracket racing . “ I wanted to learn and be the best driver that I could ,” Schwalbe explains .
Her persistence paid off , and she won her local High School Nationals championship , racing her beloved ’ 93 Mustang . Schwalbe then set off to college and majored in Automotive Aftermarket Marketing Management . During her time at Northwood University , she interned for Ford . First , starting with the Ford Performance Parts team as a freshman , then part of the Ford Performance NASCAR team the following year . As a junior , Schwalbe was part of the Ford GT brand team , which led to her graduating , and she was then asked to come back full-time .
Schwalbe never let racing out of her sight while staying focused on her career . As a matter of fact , she purchased a new race car – an ’ 89 Fox-body
Mustang . “ I really loved my ’ 93 Mustang , but I didn ’ t want to beat on it . I wanted to build another race car ,” she says . The 24-year-old is currently in what she calls her “ development year .”
“ I have never taken baby steps when it comes to racing . I ’ ve always jumped in ,” Schwalbe confesses . “ This was development because I needed to slow down a bit .” However , she competed in a few NMRA events and even entered multiple classes . Schwalbe notched a 16th- place finish out of 45 racers in the Module Muscle Class and proved herself on the track against many male racers in the 8.60 Street Car Class .
“ My plan for 2023 is doing the full NMRA series and adding in a few one-off events . I ’ d like to keep pushing myself to go fast ,” says Schwalbe . She even licensed with the NHRA in 2021 – adding another accolade to her impressive resume .
Now , both of Schwalbe ’ s passions – drag racing and her successful career with Ford – are on an upward trajectory . Schwalbe recently worked on the Global Ford Performance Motorsport Marketing team traveling the country doing everything from off-road to on-track marketing .
She is currently part of Nameplate Marketing and Communications on the Ford Marketing Communications team , working on new vehicle reveals and content creation . Schwalbe even got to show off her ’ 93 Mustang at the all-new Mustang reveal and shared her story globally .
Schwalbe credits much of her success to her support system . “ My parents and boyfriend have been so supportive with everything , from having a full career and then saying , ‘ hey , let ’ s go to the track this weekend .’ I would not be able to do what I do without them .”
At the end of the day , Schwalbe wants to inspire the next generation of racers and those interested in the automotive industry , especially females . “ Anyone – young adult or questioning to get into the automotive market space – do it . I would truly recommend going to Northwood University .
“ My mission statement is to encourage and inspire females in racing and motorsports . If you are a woman working in the automotive field , don ’ t be afraid to speak up because what you say matters . We can do anything that we dream of ,” she says .
The last bit of advice Schwalbe has is , “ Work hard , save your money up , and it doesn ’ t just come all in one day . Be patient , but things all happen for a reason and getting into racing is such a huge and fun thing because you gain so many friends and family in the sport .” – KAYLA ZADEL DI
134 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 179