At just 16, Lanie Buice already possesses a strong desire for motorsports.
The Locust Grove, Georgia native has spent most of 2023 gaining valuable on-track experience in a Late Model Stock Car at the abrasive Florence Motor Speedway in South Carolina. Although she did not visit Victory Lane this year, Buice made a name for herself by besting many track veterans to finish second in the point standings at the NASCAR Home Track.
Buice’s determination is one of many reasons why she is the recipient of the 2023 Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award.
Named after Hall of Famer Wendell Scott, who became the first African-American to win a NASCAR Cup Series event in 1963, the award is presented to a driver based on his or her on-track performance in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series, as well as other qualities like sportsmanship and community service.
The news came as a pleasant surprise for Buice, who is thrilled to be part of the endearing legacy of Scott that permeates through NASCAR today.
“It’s an absolute honor to represent the Wendell Scott family,” Buice said. “He paved the way for so many drivers and continued to push through during his whole career. He worked hard to get his first win, but he never stopped, so I want to put that same passion into everything I do to get my win.
“Wendell Scott was dedicated, and that’s something I can relate to in so many different ways.”(Photo: Adam Fenwick/NASCAR)
As is the case for many young women seeking to break into NASCAR’s top ranks, Buice’s career started on go-kart tracks. She began racing when she was 10.
Since she did not come from a racing background, Buice leaned on the people around her while progressing through the ranks. Roberts Kart Shop co-owner Steve Roberts was instrumental in convincing Buice to continue her career in Legends cars, where she continued to obtain valuable knowledge through her car owners Andy James and Doug Stevens.
It was through former NASCAR Cup Series driver Ken Ragan that Buice got connected with AK Performance, a Late Model Stock program operated by Kendall Sellers that also fielded Legends cars. After several conversations, Buice agreed to join AK Performance in 2023 for a full season in Late Model Stocks.
While Buice and AK Performance traveled to several different tracks around the southeast, they primarily centered their attention on Florence. Nothing came easy for Buice at the track, as she was tasked with adapting to the heavier cars against a group of seasoned veterans, all while figuring out important techniques such as tire conservation.
Ascertaining proper race craft around Florence was a long process for Buice, but she gradually made progress with every race.
“Florence is very complicated,” Buice said. “You have to be very focused and hit the same line every lap while not wearing your tires. There’s a lot to it, and Florence is definitely more technical than any other track I’ve ever been to.”
One area particularly on which Sellers advised Buice was how to exit Florence’s fourth turn. She said that corner requires drivers to be patient on exit; being overly aggressive will cause drivers to abuse the right rear too much, hindering them at the end of the race.
Sellers said Florence’s rigid layout requires drivers to walk a fine line between being conservative and aggressive. He said Buice’s fortitude behind the wheel is one of her strongest qualities, and he’s been impressed with how she has reigned in her aggression to be more methodical.
“[Lanie] is not scared to go get it,” Sellers said. “Sometimes she is not scared to go over the line, but she’s got a lot of drive to do better every time she’s on the track. Lanie is hard on herself, but she is hard-nosed and wants to win.”
Buice’s rookie season at Florence saw her finish inside the top five on nine different occasions. The closest Buice came to obtaining a victory was the second twin feature on June 17, when she finished second to Doug Barnes Jr. in a 20-car field.
Going up against so many talented Late Model Stock drivers every week was enlightening for Buice. By observing where her competition was making up time at different points in a race, Buice believes she is in a much better position to contend for victories moving forward.
“All the guys [at Florence] are such great drivers,” Buice said. “You have Matt Cox and Ryan Glenski. Doug Barnes Jr. was there quite a bit, as well, so I really learned a lot from racing against those guys. They’ve been around a while, so figuring out how to pass those guys has been very beneficial.”
Buice was ready to put her knowledge of Florence to good use when it came time for the driving portion of the 2023 Drive for Diversity Combine.
Compared to where Buice was in January, Florence proved to be the easiest part of the Combine. She felt comfortable making laps in one of Rev Racing’s Late Model Stocks after two eventful days of media training and learning more about race craft at the Trackhouse Motorplex.Lanie Buice was one of several drivers invited to participate in the 2023 Drive for Diversity Combine, which wrapped up at Florence Motor Speedway. (Photo: Susan Wong/NASCAR)
Regardless of whether she is selected for a seat at Rev Racing next year, Buice plans to utilize the information obtained from the Combine to keep improving as a driver.
“I learned a lot at the Combine, especially when it came to the media stuff,” Buice said. “I’ve never really done a bunch of interviews like that before, but I enjoyed it. That week challenged me, and I learned a lot about myself along with what I can do and what I need to work on.”
Now that she has joined other names such as Nick Sanchez, Rajah Caruth and Katie Hettinger as a Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award winner, Buice intends to keep embodying those winning characteristics on and off the track.
Buice is still trying to figure out exactly how to use her platform to make a difference and inspire others seeking a career in NASCAR. One area on which Buice does plan to focus is assisting those with mental disabilities, a cause that has been close to her since childhood.
“I’m very passionate about giving back to the community,” Buice said. “I have [an aunt with mental disabilities], and I’ve spent a lot of time with that community as I’ve grown up by coaching basketball and helping out with a cheer team, so that’s something I’m interested in giving back to one day.”With a bright future ahead of her, Lanie Brice is determined to embody the characteristics that helped her earn the 2023 Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award. (Photo: Susan Wong/NASCAR)
Buice has plenty of time to assemble that outline as she closes out the remaining races on her schedule this year before embarking on a busy 2024.
Sellers is confident Buice’s first victory in a Late Model Stock will occur soon if she continues to make strides in qualifying and keeps the car in one piece. He added those traits are going to be imperative when she eventually faces tougher competition than the Florence weekly shows.
“We need to keep improving at every level,” Sellers said. “You have to check every box, especially against the best Late Model Stock drivers. Those guys don’t miss for 125 laps straight. They are on it in qualifying and during the race. If we execute everywhere, that’s all I can ask for.”
Reflecting on everything she has experienced in 2023, Buice is grateful not only to receive the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award, but for all the support she has received to keep fulfilling her passion of being in a stock car.
Buice is optimistic her dream of one day being in NASCAR’s top divisions is just beginning. Until that day arrives, she remains determined to make all the correct decisions that will allow to achieve her goal and inspire other female competitors along the way.
“I really want to represent the family of Wendell Scott by paving the way for others just like he did,” Buice said. “Opening those doors for people to see the talent female drivers have. We have the skill, the drive and passion for going into the NASCAR world and winning.”