NEW ORLEANS — In a blur of pink, white and blue, riding as fast as 180 miles per hour, Elena Myers aims to prove a woman can race with the best on two wheels.
The 5-foot-3 18-year-old has put herself in position to become the most successful female in the history of motorcycle road racing. She is the only woman ever to win an AMA Pro Racing event, having done so twice, most recently at Daytona earlier this year.
"Young girls come up to me all the time at the racetrack and say, 'Oh, you're my hero,' and they're just so excited about it," Myers said. "Danica Patrick's a household name and that's kind of what I want to become. Indy Car and NASCAR have been helped by her being in the series and I want to do the same thing in AMA."
Myers will conclude what could be her final season in the AMA SuperSport class this weekend in the Triumph Big Kahuna Nationals at the NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans. Her goal is to move next to the Daytona SportBike series.
She will need to demonstrate continued success at higher levels to get the kind of sponsorships she needs to sustain her career while reaching for her ultimate goal of racing worldwide in MotoGP, the motorcycle equivalent of Formula 1.
"Obviously I want to get a ride (at higher levels) based on the fact I deserve that ride, not because I'm a girl," Myers said. "I think it will certainly help me, being a girl, to get opportunities ... but ultimately it's not going to help me race MotoGP if I'm not fast enough."
More established riders readily acknowledge her potential. AMA SuperBike rider Ben Bostrom counts himself as a fan. Also impressed is Martin Cardenas, this season's Daytona SportBike champion.
"If she gets a little bit stronger, she will be a real threat to any rider," Cardenas said. "She's pretty smooth on the race track. She's aggressive and everything. It seems to me she's not scared."
Myers has always loved speed. Her father, Matt Myers, said she was "a daredevil" as a child, gravitating to roller coasters at amusement parks.
He started a racing club near their northern California town of Brentwood as a way to spend time with his daughter and got her started on pocket bikes when she was 8. By the time she'd turned 16, AMA team owner John Ulrich had noticed her talent and signed her. She won her first race in 2010 at Sonoma Raceway.
Despite her success, Myers still gets the impression that many who meet her come away thinking, "That little girl is doing dangerous things."
Of course, Myers knows the dangers as well as anyone.
At 14, she was bucked off her motorcycle in a 140 mph "high-side" wreck that knocked her out, lacerated her spleen and left her with a third-degree burn on her calf, where her motorcycle had come to rest while she lay unconscious.
The burn scar remains in the shape or a large puffy sand dollar. She could have it removed, but sees it as a "battle wound."
Oddly, Myers said she is "scared to death" of riding on the back of motorcycles. She does not ride on streets or have a motorcycle license.
"I get all my thrills on the track. I can go as fast as want. I don't have to worry about any cars," she said. "I'm so into motorcycles and pushing a bike to a limit, if I can't do it on a street there's really no point."
Matt Myers said he's as supportive as possible because he can see how much his daughter loves to race, but he has daddy's-little-girl moments when he worries about her safety — and her future, because only top riders at the highest levels make a good living.
"You see crashes. You see some of the kids sustain serious injuries. I certainly have concerns," Matt Myers said. "That's why I think it's so important for her to first of all enjoy it and not put too much pressure on herself, and she needs to make some money in this at some point. There has to be an end game to why she's risking her life. ... She is on a big team. She's got everything certainly logistically, but there's still a lot missing that makes me wonder if this is all worth it."
Elena Myers knows she must improve, but won't put any limits on herself.
"I just I want to go the farthest that I can in this sport while I can."