For Danielle Canchola, driving an IMCA modified gives her something to look forward to in 2023. She’s happy to put her past in the rearview mirror as she had to overcome back surgery and a house fire that forced her and her family of six to move from Colorado to Montana. They found a home in The Big Sky State around Christmas in 2021.
“It was fate that brought us to a neighborhood with other racers,” Danielle, 29, now of Billings, Montana, said. “When I saw race cars driving up and down the street, I knew we were in the right place.”
Her husband, Mario Berger, worked on the modifieds his father, Edward, raced.
“We were in Colorado when I said to him, ‘Let’s do something we enjoy,’” said Danielle. “I knew how much he loved dirt modified racing and missed being with his dad at the racetracks. We bought a modified from Minnesota, and towed it with our F-350 as we moved back to Montana. Along the way, we stopped in Sheridan, Wyoming and raced.”
Prior to the start of the 2022 season, the couple bought a second modified for Danielle to drive. However, back problems sidelined her before she could make her debut.
“One day, I just couldn’t walk,” Danielle said. “Mario rushed me to the hospital emergency room. Doctors found that I had a severely herniated disk, and told me I needed immediate back surgery.”
Danielle went under the knife on April 20. Doctors forbade her from steering a race car as she recovered, but she helped out on Mario’s car over the course of the season. Then, she finally got the go-ahead to get behind the wheel.
“It was the day after my birthday, October 1, that I first got into my car at Casper Speedway [in Wyoming],” said Danielle. “I was super nervous, but I still got out there on the track. Suddenly, I was overcome with a great feeling. All the worries in my life, both physically and mentally, just went away. The pain in my back went out of the window and disappeared.”
After her first run, Danielle returned to the pit area with a big smile on her face.
“Mario runs up to me,” Danielle said. “‘Did you see that I was hauling ass,’ I asked him. Everyone started laughing. It wasn’t until I saw the videos that I realized how slow I was compared to the other drivers.”
Nevertheless, now that Danielle Canchola has her first taste of racing, she’s looking forward to what 2023 brings.
“I know 2023 will be fun,” said Danielle. “I’ll have some ‘me time’ on the track.”
This year marks the Outside Groove Director of Photography’s 51st year of covering auto racing. Adaskaveg got his start working for track photographer Lloyd Burnham at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in 1970. Since then, he’s been a columnist, writer, and photographer, in racing and in mainstream media, for several outlets, including the Journal Inquirer, Boston Herald, Stock Car Racing, and Speedway Illustrated. Among Adaskaveg’s many awards are the 1992 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Ace Lane Photographer of the Year and the 2019 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) George Cunningham Writer of the Year.