Leilani is happy to answer any questions you may have for her. If you would like to ask Leilani a question, please email it to Craig Davidson (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please include your first name and the city and state you are from. Your question with Leilani's answer will then be posted here!
Question from facebook by Carrie (in response to my public criticism of BP CEO Tony Hayward): i appreciate that you care about the earth but when you complain about what others are doing to try to fix what has happened you are doing no good! you drive racecars you know where the fuel for your car comes from? where the emissions go? you are a public figure you could take ideas to BP CEO and try to FIX the problem.....
I appreciate your question. I don't think the BP CEO is really listening and I have found his statements since the spill occurred to be very arrogant and dismissive - I am referring his statements that his oil spill is "relatively tiny" compared to "the very big ocean" and his statement that the environmental impact will be "very, very modest." However, he seems to have changed his tune in the last few days. Perhaps he is waking up to reality. Regardless, I have friends in DC that are doing the best they can to make the best of this and trust me, they are far more connected than I am. Let me try to address your other questions..
No one is free of a carbon footprint (and I never claimed to be, nor would I ever) whether you drive a car to work or fly on airplanes or eat meat, none of us are perfect. Since 2007 to address the unavoidable emissions of my race car, I have been adopting an acre of rainforest every time I sit in a car. As you can imagine, I have acquired quite a few acres over the past three years.
On the other hand, I do everything I can to reduce my carbon footprint. I have a worm farm to compost my food scraps, a veggie garden, a rainwater collection system, I use solar lighting and am installing solar PV and solar thermal, I recycle everything even at the racetrack when there are no recycle bins I have a bin that I bring to the track and put next to my car so I can bring the recycling home from the track. My racing tshirts are made from recycled plastic bottles - for every size large male tshirt, we have pulled 5 plastic bottles out of a landfill.
I am a vegetarian and have been for almost my entire life - a UN study showed that 40% more greenhouse gas emissions come from raising animals for food than all the planes, trains, cars, SUVs, ships, and race cars in the world combined. You are better off carbon footprint wise driving a hummer and being vegetarian than driving a prius and eating meat. And if you don't care about the environment, how about world hunger? If Americans alone reduced their meat consumption by just 10%, it would free up enough land to grow 12 million tons of grain - enough to save the six million children under the age of 5 that die every year as a result of hunger. One acre of land can produce 165 pounds of beef OR 20,000 pounds of potatoes. An inconvenient truth for meat eaters, indeed.
I work only with green sponsors and at Daytona in February had a solar company, a wind power company, an LED lighting company, a green jobs training program, and an energy efficiency company on my car. I have walked away from big money that would have come from environmentally destructive companies.
And don't forget, if I stopped racing, I would not take a race car off the grid. I would just be replaced by another driver. Likely one that doesn't go out of their way to take care of the environment, is not offsetting with rainforest, and is not promoting green technologies at the racetrack. I would simply lose my ability to talk to 75 million race fans about green living and hopefully win some of them over.
In my free time, I lobby for clean energy on Capitol Hill as an Ambassador for the National Wildlife Federation. As for the emissions I can do nothing to stop, like my race car - like I said, since 2007 I have been adopting an acre of rainforest for every race I enter. Which by the way, I only had two tests last year (Daytona, Miami) and one race this year (Daytona). I don't race every weekend. At best I will have 7 races this year. Not by my choice. If it was my choice, I would be adopting tons of rainforest this year! :)
Sorry for the long winded answer, but I want to answer your questions properly.
Mary in Florida asks:
I was in the grandstands watching yourself and Danica Patrick drafting at the Daytona ARCA test last week. Wow! You were both very impressive out there and, as a woman, it was thrilling to watch two ladies running at the top of the speed charts together. Shawna Robinson was the last woman to run in NASCAR Cup racing (in 2002), and she didn't get very many races before she was replaced. What are your thoughts on why has it been so long since we have seen a woman race on the top level of NASCAR and do you think this will change soon? Good luck in the ARCA race in February, I will be cheering for you!
It's a difficult thing for any driver, male or female, to make it to the top level of our sport. I think what has changed recently is that the doors are opening for female drivers to get into better equipment with better race teams. What needs to happen for myself or for another female to be successful at the top level of NASCAR is for enough funding to be in place for us to run full seasons in ARCA and NASCAR Nationwide so we can get the experience our male counterparts have before moving into Cup. It seems like many female drivers (myself included) have struggled to find the long term financial commitment from companies to give us a real chance at success. They need to give us time to develop. Michael Waltrip ran 463 Cup races before he won. I don't think any woman would be given anywhere near that many chances before she would be replaced - Shawna Robinson only had 7 races in Cup in 2002 before she was replaced with another driver. If she had the funding to run full time that year, who knows how successful she could have been, but she was never given that chance. I have no doubt that women can be just as successful in these race cars as the men. Anyone who says differently needs to let go of stereotypes and join us in the 21st century, we are not living in the 1950s anymore.
Jenny in Alabama asks:
I saw that you tested at Daytona for James Hylton in December. With all the talk of Danica coming over to NASCAR, as a woman I personally would like to see a female move up who actually has experience in stock car racing and came up through the short tracks the old fashioned way. So, will we see you back in stock car anytime soon?
Definitely, I have options this year to run in both Indy Lights and ARCA. I am working with a great ARCA/NASCAR Nationwide Series team that is hoping to get me into their race cars as soon as possible. They are a winning team with top quality equipment, years of experience, and most importantly, good people. I am confident we will have funding for 2010 but we are hoping to be able to get some ARCA races in this year before the season is over. As soon as we have something to announce, you will find it right here on my website!
Monica in California asks:
I love the slideshow on the front page of your website and I think it's great you are using Jack Johnson's music for your slideshow. Can you tell us about your connection to Jack?
I met Jack and his wife Kim through a mutual friend after one of his concerts in Raleigh, North Carolina. Jack is not only a great musician but he is also doing some really great things for the Earth, he uses biodiesel in all his tour buses and his AllAtOnce.org community has really made a big difference. His approach is similar to the one I have with the race fans which is concentrating on small individual actions adding up to big change. After meeting Jack, I connected the people that helped "green" Jack's tour to my brother in law's band Ratdog and the Grateful Dead and now they are also using biodiesel on their tour. A few months later when I designed my slideshow, I discovered that Jack's song "Never Know" was the perfect fit. So I reached out to him and I am completely honored that he approved my use of his song. For more information about all the cool stuff Jack is doing on his tour visit his website jackjohnsonmusic.com.
Jerry in Indiana asks:
I was disappointed to not see you on the entry list for the Freedom 100 in Indianapolis this month. I had heard rumors on Gasoline Alley that you were going to run the Freedom, what happened?
Hi Jerry, I am certain that I am more disappointed than you to not be on the entry list! I was very close to putting together funding to run the Freedom 100 this year, but unfortunately it didn't come through for me this year. I hope to run Indianapolis next year, and am hoping to put together the sponsorship to do so. Thanks for noticing my absence and hopefully you will see me at the Freedom 100 in Indy next May.
Sarah in New York asks:
I read an interview with you recently and it was mentioned in the article that your brother in law is a musician in the Grateful Dead?
My brother in law is Bob Weir and most of you will know him as the singer and guitarist for the Grateful Dead. He is married to my older sister Natascha and they have two beautiful daughters, Monet and Chloe. I try and catch them on tour as much as I can whether he is on tour with the Dead or Ratdog. Last month, he played an acoustic version of the song "Masterpiece" at my wedding reception in New Zealand - it was just him with his guitar and his voice - no microphones, no stage, no fancy lights or sound systems, and with all that stripped away... you could really see clearly what a truly incredible musician he is.
Jackie in Arizona asks:
Which movies did you double for Catherine Zeta-Jones? What was she like to work with?
I first worked with Catherine on Steven Soderbergh's film "Traffic" and she took some time off after that because she had her first baby with Michael Douglas shortly after we completed filming. The next movie
I worked with her was "America's Sweethearts." I was asked to work for her on "Ocean's 12" but by the time they started filming, I had already moved to North Carolina to pursue racing full time so I was unable to travel for the film. Catherine was always very kind to me and I really enjoyed working with her. I think she may have thought I was a bit crazy when she heard I was racing cars, but she just told me to be very careful!
Michael in Houston, TX asks:
I like your website. I'm an attorney in Houston and I drive. I ran across your website after doing image searches for Indy Lights cars, trying to get design ideas for my car this year. I'm impressed that you're dedicated to the environment... very nice. My question is, who did your website? :)
Hi Michael, thanks for your note. I program this website myself the old fashioned way, by writing the html code. When I first started this website, I had recently graduated from college and I didn't have the money to hire someone to design a website for me so I bought an html programming book and taught myself how to write code. Eight years later, I am still doing the site on my own. The great thing is that it doesn't cost me anything to make updates. The down side is that sometimes it takes me a few days to get things posted when I am busy. By the way, there are much easier ways to design a website than writing the html code so I would recommend looking into some website design programs. Good luck with your racing!
Jake in Los Angeles, CA asks:
I just watched the movie "The Bucket List" and I thought I saw a poster of you in the beginning of the movie in Morgan Freeman's auto shop. Was that you?
Yes, you are correct! The poster you saw is a promotional poster that was made for Konica Minolta, my sponsor at the time, while I was still racing in NASCAR.
Thanks for noticing and taking the time to write to me!
Chris in Alaska asks:
So what I find interesting is that you went from a BS in Biology to Indy Car racing... how did that happen? Which came 1st?
And what a combo! How did you get into Indy? How did you reconcile your environmental concerns?
The biology degree came first, I was a scientist before I was a driver! While I was getting my degree in biology, I became interested in racing.
I didn't have much money at the time (starving biology student) so I just did some amateur car club racing. After I graduated, I began working as a
photo double for Catherine Zeta-Jones and other actresses. I worked a lot of long hours on Hollywood movie sets and saved up the money I earned to go to
racing schools. It was a chance encounter at a racing school with a race team owner who saw me drive that changed my life forever. He encouraged me to
pursue a career as a driver, told me I had natural talent and I needed to go find a sports marketing company to help me get sponsorship. I listened to him,
and 9 months later I landed my first sponsor and had my first race. It was on a 3/8 mile asphalt track in eastern San Diego that has since been torn down.
And the rest, as they say, is history!
As far as my environmental concerns go, I am doing everything I can to reduce my carbon footprint such as recycling, supporting local green power and companies
that use recycled materials, using renewable energy, installing solar lighting and rainwater collection, and adopting an acre of tropical rainforest for
every race I run to offset the carbon footprint of each race. Carbon offsetting is not an excuse to pollute, but I had to do something about those unavoidable emissions.
I will continue to make trips to Capitol Hill (I have made three so far in 2008) to speak with members of Congress and leaders of our country to encourage them to pass environmental bills to get
America off of fossil fuels and instead using clean energy made right here in the USA. However I think my biggest contribution will come from using my voice within the racing community to speak up for the environment. I would like to
see the every race car and race team hauler using clean renewable biofuels, every race track with a recycling program, and every racing tire recycled.
With my Eco Dream Team, I will be reaching out to the 100 million race fans in the number one spectator sport in America and I hope to inspire them
to make a difference by making eco conscious changes to their lifestyle. Small changes, when multiplied by millions, make a big difference.
Randy in Ohio asks:
I was sent to your web site by a friend who noticed the simliarities. I am vegetarian (18 years or so) and eco-conscious, too, in spite of being a race car driver. Good for you! And bravo for turning
down sponsorship that did not agree with your beliefs. I road race, pop in my site if you have a moment, and your other fans, too, of course. randypobst.com. Even though we race cars, we can still do all we can in the rest of our lives. Every little bit helps to save
the world. For instance, I've managed to wean myself off air conditioning at home for all but the hottest days. I drive a diesel car with a
Greasecar veg oil kit. I bring my own grocery bags to the store, etc. I wish you great luck in your pursuit of your passion for racing. Here is
my question, how is next season and the Eco Dream team looking?
Hi Randy! Thanks for writing! It's wonderful to meet another eco-conscious, vegetarian race car driver! We are a rare breed but I am happy to say that I think there are more and more of us everyday!
I visited your website and applaud you on all of your accomplishments! Things are looking good for my 2009 Eco Dream Team. I have just returned from New Jersey, Washington, DC and New York City where
I had several meetings with companies that understand the importance of reaching out to the 100 million race fans in the United States and ask them
to make a difference. While I cannot make any official announcements yet, it looks promising that I will be running either in the ARCA Series or Indy Lights,
or possibly a combination of both. I hope that I can utilize my Eco Dream Team as a way to send powerful messages, calling to action millions of fans in
America. Small actions, multiplied by millions, can make a big difference. I wish you the best of luck in the rest of your racing and hope that someday we
will have the chance to meet in person at the racetrack.
Rob in Denton, Maryland asks:
I'm going vintage racing next year, and being a vegetarian I'm finding
it very difficult to get gloves and shoes without leather. Do you know of any vegetarian-friendly racing gear? What do you wear?
Hi Rob, and here I thought I was the only vegetarian racer out there! Nice to meet you! I currently wear Simpson racing gear and they do not
offer any non-leather shoes yet. The reasons given to me was that the leather has a natural fire resistance to it and when they add the fireproof
nomex it forms a double barrier. They do offer some gloves that are mainly fabric, but there are small patches of leather on it. At this time they did
not know of anywhere that currently offers completely leather free racing gloves or shoes. Hopefully in the future we will see this being offered. As a long
time vegetarian, I always avoid leather but unfortunately that is not possible in this case. If you find either of these products leather free,
please let us know because I would like to buy some as well! Thanks for your question and good luck with your racing!
Susan in Virginia asks:
You have become quite vocal about environmental causes, has that affected your racing career?
I would like to add that I am a long time race fan, but I also recycle and use canvas grocery bags.
Great question! First of all, thank you for recycling and using canvas grocery bags. Thanks for showing that just because you are race fan
and love cars doesn't mean you don't care about the Earth! I began speaking about the environment a few years ago and there were definitely marketing people that told me I should not be so vocal.
I was moving into the upper levels of racing and my races were starting to air on tv and I felt like I finally had an audience of people
I could reach out to and I wanted to talk to them about things that are important. Since then, I have began to attract companies that are
doing positive things for the environment. SMART Papers, a leader in the recycled paper industry, sponsored me in two Indy Pro races last year.
There was an opportunity to race this year that I turned down because the sponsor was causing severe environmental damage.
Of course I want to race, but I cannot just let anyone sponsor my race car. I am in discussions with several forward thinking companies
that are leaders in environmental responsibility and when I race with these companies on the side of my car, I can feel good about it.
John in North Carolina asks:
Have you left stock cars for good or do you think you may end up back in NASCAR some day?
Which cars do you like driving more?
Hi John, First and foremost, I love racing and that includes both Indy Lights and NASCAR. There is a good possibility that I will end up back in NASCAR.
My career is determined by the corporate sponsors that get me on the track and I am in discussions with several companies right now.
Some of them want to be in open wheel, some of them want to be in NASCAR. We will just have to wait and see which way the wind blows...
who knows, I could up running in both!
Steve in Phoenix, Arizona asks:
How and when did you get interested in the environment? And what do you
think is the most important change we need to make to protect our Earth?
I was a scientist before I became a race car driver. Science was a very
important part of my childhood because my family is in the medical field.
I hold a degree in biology (with a focus on ecology, behavior, and
evolution) from the University of California San Diego. While I attended
college I volunteered at a wildlife rehabilitation center - we would take
in injured and orphaned wildlife and return them to the wild when they
were ready. I have also been a certified scuba diver since 1994. So I have
cared about conservation and the environment for a long time.
I am extremely concerned about the damage we are doing to our earth and I
believe climate change is the most critical problem we need to solve. We
stand to lose an incredible amount of biodiversity on both land and water
if we continue the path we are on now.
I feel that one of the greatest challenges of our generation is to replace
our current fossil fuel energy infrastructure with renewable, clean energy
sources such as solar, wind and tidal turbines. Cars need to be run by
either hydrogen or electric power. Ethanol could have a future, but first
we need to make the use of cellulostic ethanol more economical so we don't
use up a food energy source. Cellulostic ethanol would allow us to make
fuel out of the stalks of the corn, grass... the stuff we don't eat.
The great thing about making all these changes is the benefits go far
beyond our environment. Politically this will make our country more self
sufficient and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The interesting thing
to note is that the basics for these technologies are already there, our
challenges now lie in the political arena. So please, pay attention when
Sorry for the long winded answer, but you asked some good questions and I
wanted to answer them properly!
Lexi in Pennsylvania asks:
What kind of motors do you run and how fast do you go?
The Indy Pro Series motor is a 3.5 liter 90 degree V8 engine made by Infiniti and combined with Dallara chassis. At my first race at Kentucky Speedway my fastest
lap was an average speed of 192.399 mph (the 5th fastest lap of the race). The Indy Pro series is the developmental league of the IndyCar Series and many of the current
drivers in IndyCar prepared in the Indy Pro Series first including Marco Andretti, AJ Foyt IV and more recently, Hideki Mutoh (Andretti Green Racing) and my teammate at Sam Schmidt Motorsports Alex Lloyd (Chip Ganassi Racing).
Sam in Santa Barbara, California asks:
Where can I find the issue of Italian Vogue you are going to be in?
You can order individual copies of the magazine here. I will
be appearing in the January issue of L'Uomo Vogue. The shoot was amazing -- I was standing in a rainforest with butterflies flying all around me, it was truly magical! I hope you like