|New Boston, Michigan|
|Poe Motorsports, Dr. Z’s Racing|
|Leadership & Professional Development Program Manager, Ford Motor Company|
Favorite TV Show:
|Anything involving racing|
Audrey Zavodsky became Dr. Audrey Zavodsky after earning her Ph.D. in human and organization systems from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, Calif. The only real question was what her husband, Rich — who also studied at Fielding — should get her for a graduation gift.
How about the gift of speed?
“That was actually how I got into racing,” said Dr. Audrey Zavodsky. “My graduation gift from Rich was to go to the Bondurant school. And I got the bug. I know Rich knew that I would. I don’t think he knew it would cost so much over the course of time, but it’s been a wonderful thing.”
That was 16 years ago, and Dr. Zavodsky has been racing ever since. She has more than 50 podium finishes to her name in various sanctioning bodies. A NASA member for the last three years, she has earned regional championships in American Iron in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions.
In racing, her achievements have been numerous. For example, she raced in the Grand Am series back in 2004 and 2005. In fact, Dr. Zavodsky was the first woman to lead a lap at Daytona in Grand Am. She also has wins in the Panoz GT Pro and GT class at Road Atlanta, Mosport in Canada and at Sebring International Raceway in Florida. She also scored a Panoz GTS win at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
She also has driven a wide variety of cars, which partially explains why she has been successful in so many different series. She owns a Spec Racer Ford that she doesn’t race much anymore, but she has driven in anger a BMW M3, a Dinan BMW-powered Daytona Prototype and even an IndyCar at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. She also has wheeled several Panoz models, a Mazda RX-7, a Spec Miata for a 13-hour enduro with another female racer, a Corvette Z06, Formula Dodge and a Formula Mazda, and a Datsun 510 and 240Z.
“That was a fun car,” she said. “It’s rough on you. We were at Nelson Ledges, and oh my gosh, you can feel every bump, but tons of fun.”
Another element to her successes on track stem from her education. Not from her three degrees, but from racing schools, 16 in all. Yes, Dr. Zavodsky has attended 16 racing schools and has since become an instructor for the Bondurant school, for the SVT Owners Association and is a Ford test track Tier 3 driver.
Dr. Zavodsky works for Ford Motor Company in Dearborn as a leadership and professional development program manager, a role in which she devises leadership programs for entry- and middle-level managers. That means in addition to all the aforementioned cars she has driven, you can add just about every modern high-performance Ford, too. Just last year, her job took her to a conference in Germany. Naturally, she stayed a few extra days to lay down some laps at the famous Nurburgring, oddly enough in a little hot-hatch Suzuki Swift. And she ran 8-minute laps with it.
Dr. Zavodsky has been a featured speaker for nine years as part of the NFL’s “Cheerleader of Life” program. Held each year the week preceding the Super Bowl, the program stresses drug-free living and serves as motivation to young people achieving their dreams. She also has enjoyed many public speaking engagements, served on a sports panel at Northwestern University and been inducted into the International Sports Faith Hall of Fame.
“I really enjoy talking to kids and sharing my knowledge, and letting them know that so many things are possible in their lives,” she said. “I would speak to a thousand cheerleaders and that was a great experience.
“Because of racing, I’ve been afforded so many opportunities and it has opened up the doors, which has been a wonderful thing,” she continued. “It helps you develop as a person and it provides so many opportunities for growth and connections, and for establishing relationships with people.”
Among many, she has met Mario Andretti, Vick Alford and Tim Allen, Walter Payton, Dale Earnhardt and of course a few executives at Ford, including Bill Ford and Jim Farley. She even had the pleasure to drive and ride as a passenger at the Ford proving grounds with Sir Jackie Stewart.
“Talk about smooth drivers?” she said. “Oh my gosh, he’s one of the smoothest I ever met.”
At her home tracks with NASA Great Lakes and Midwest regions, Dr. Zavodsky races a 2008 Ford Mustang owned and prepared by Poe Motorsports. She’s so busy with what she calls a “full-time-plus job,” she doesn’t really have time to wrench on and haul a racecar around. She has Steve Poe do the legwork so she can arrive and drive with her NASA “family.”
“Dave Royce does a superb job with his humor and knowledge,” said her husband Rich. “I think it’s very important to NASA to maintain a family atmosphere, and they try to work through their problems in that fashion, which kind of sets them apart form the other racing divisions while still trying to enforce the rules.”