The 2023 Wendi Allen Scholarship Recipients Are...

Celebrating 10 years of assisting women in their pursuit of National SCCA® Autocross competition, the Wendi Allen Scholarship returned for 2023 with a multitude of quality applications prior to the Feb. 3 deadline. With those applications in hand, the SCCA Women on Track selection committee set to sorting through the list of worthy applicants, with three rising to the top. For 2023, the scholarship was presented to Hailey Schmidt, Emily Skoglund, and Emily Whitaker.

Established by the family of the late Wendi Allen, the scholarship honors the multi-time Solo National Champion who loved and supported SCCA’s autocross community. The scholarship is now funded jointly by the SCCA Foundation and Mazda Motorsports, in association with SCCA Women on Track and its selection committee consisting of championship-caliber women autocrossers. The SCCA Foundation supplies funding for two of the scholarships, with Mazda Motorsports contributing funding for a third – this year, Schmidt was chosen for Mazda’s portion of the award.

Schmidt, Skoglund, and Whitaker will each receive a $1,500 scholarship to assist with travel to Tire Rack National Solo events and the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships. Each recipient will also receive free entries to National Solo events throughout the 2023 season.

Hailey Schmidt

A dual Old Dominion and North Carolina Region SCCA member since 2020, Schmidt’s involvement with the Club began long before her official membership date. “I got my start in autocross quite a long time ago. I’m only 21-years old, so it's crazy to say that, but this whole ordeal began for me back in 2009,” Schmidt explained. “[2009] was my dad’s novice year in autocross. He had gone to one event the previous year and drove his stock, daily-driver Focus and was immediately hooked. So, over the winter he had searched and bought his first dedicated autocross car – a bone stock 1995 Mazda Miata. He ran that car in E Street and, of course, I was at every event. I am a daddy’s girl and have been attached to him at the hip since I was tiny, so it made sense for me to immediately enjoy the sport.

“Flash forward to Christmas morning in 2010, when there was a go-kart out in the garage with the letters ‘JB’ on the side. I had never been more excited in my entire life. I ran that kart from 2011 until 2017. I never competed Nationally…but I got pretty quick locally. Once I had my learner’s permit, I competed in that same little Miata my dad had bought back in 2009. The only difference is the car is now classed in CSP. I only ran a couple events before COVID shut us all down because I was timid going from a kart to the car. Once we started back up…I was full send into the sport and I haven't looked back.”

Schmidt has competed in numerous Solo National Tour events, as well as the 2021 and 2022 Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships, finishing in the trophies in CSPL in 2022.

When asked what winning this scholarship would mean to her: “Receiving this scholarship would be legendary to me. It would be an honor to have my name affiliated with the Wendi Allen Scholarship. I know it would motivate me more than ever to go do as many events as possible, to soak up all the knowledge I could, and to drive fast. I want to bring a good name to this scholarship and to the other women of autocross. I want to motivate girls and show them that they can do anything they put their minds to and that they can be just as fast as the guys.”

Emily Skoglund

A two-year St. Louis Region SCCA member, Skoglund was introduced to SCCA and autocross competition by her boyfriend.

“When I met [my boyfriend] in college, I knew almost nothing about cars, but he was obsessed,” Skoglund said. “He took me for a ride at a local autocross event in Saint Louis, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I kept imagining myself driving the car around the cones, and being great at it. I thought about it all the time – while walking to class, trying to fall asleep at night, while studying, etc.

“A few months later, my boyfriend got more serious about autocross, and we started attending more local events. I never drove, but I started riding along more with various drivers. The next year, 2020, my boyfriend bought an old rusty Miata for me to learn how to drive manual in. I took my time learning, taking the car out in the middle of the night so the streets were empty, just so I could get comfortable in the car. The next year, my boyfriend bought yet another Miata, but this one had a different purpose. It would be my race car. I took it to the first 2021 test-n-tune in Saint Louis and was immediately hooked after my first run. I have never missed an event since.”

Having attended mostly local events, Skoglund said that the Wendi Allen Scholarship will enable her to travel to events further away. “Although autocross is a priority in my life, it isn't always easy to attend events outside of Saint Louis due to financial reasons,” she said. “This scholarship would allow me to widen my horizons and attend more National Tours. After I attended…Nationals in 2022, I realized that I need to improve as much as possible to be competitive at a National level. To do that, I need to vary my competition and gain knowledge and experience from more drivers outside my local Region.”

Emily Whitaker

A member since 2020, Steel Cities Region SCCA member Emily Whitaker began her autocrossing adventure in her husband’s D Street Type R, eventually moving to her own Civic Si in G Street. “In 2021, I won Female Driver of the Year at our local Region, Steel Cities,” she said. “At the beginning of 2022, I continued to get more comfortable and decided to try our STR Miata. After a few events, I found it wasn't for me, and we purchased my current vehicle, a GR86. I co-drove our friend Paulo's 86 at [the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships in 2022], our first time, and I finished one place out of the trophies.”

With the financial assistance she will receive from the Wendi Allen Scholarship, Whitaker is hoping to travel to more Solo events, as well as attend an autocross school. “I would use the extra money this year to help fund all of the events we want to do, and I would also really like to do a [Tire Rack SCCA] Starting Line or other type of school to get more seat time and some advice from different experienced drivers,” she explained, adding, “I want to drive my own vehicle instead of my husband's, and that will require more expenses for us in driving two cars to all of the events this year, including Lincoln.”

As for the competition itself at this year’s Solo Nationals, her ambition is clear: “My goal this year is to drive my own 86 all year and at Nationals, and to win a trophy!”

How You Can Help

The SCCA Foundation is currently accepting donations earmarked for the Wendi Allen Scholarship and for its other initiatives advancing opportunities for women's involvement in the Club. SCCA members can go to the SCCA Foundation’s website to discover more about the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable organization, along with how they can earmark their donation for specific programs like the Wendi Allen Scholarship.

Also, the next time you’re at an event and you see Mazda Motorsports in attendance offering participant support, thank them for the assistance they offer this scholarship in particular.

Photo caption: (Left to right) Emily Whitaker, Hailey Schmidt, and Emily Skoglund.
Photos by Rupert Berrington