Patricia Fernandez Returns To The Racetrack

Patricia Fernandez grid VIR

Patricia Fernandez focuses while waiting for the start of MotoAmerica Superstock 600 race one at VIRginia International Raceway.

This past March, Patricia Fernandez raced to 16th in her first-ever Daytona 200. Last weekend at VIRginia International Raceway, round three of the MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing Championship, Fernandez qualified for and competed in both legs of the Bazzaz Superstock 600 class, finishing 25th and 23rd, respectively.

In the weeks between those two events, Fernandez’s world was turned upside down. On March 23, her boyfriend, fellow racer Dane Westby, was tragically killed in a streetbike accident. Fernandez had signed up for all nine MotoAmerica events, but she skipped the first two rounds at Circuit of The Americas and Road Atlanta.

At VIR, Fernandez wore an Arai Corsair-V helmet customized by Off Axis Paint that celebrated her relationship with Westby. “I didn’t race at COTA or Road Atlanta,” she said. “I wasn’t ready. Being at the races is really difficult. The memories are tough, but you’ve got to get through it.”

A Virginia native, Fernandez knew she would return to racing. “Dane would have kicked my butt if I didn’t come back,” she said. “VIR is my home track.”

Fernandez, who races a Yamaha YZF-R6 for ADR Motorsports/Fly Racing, wanted Westby to ride with her, but she didn’t want a replica race bike. A helmet was the first thing that came to her mind.

“I’m still me, and I’m still a racer,” Fernandez said. “I don’t have to look at a helmet. I can put it on my head, and it will keep me safe, but it won’t distract me while I’m riding. When Dane and I were together, he respected and supported me as a racer. He allowed me to keep my own identity. I wasn’t just Dane Westby’s girlfriend.”

Former racer Kirk Reuille, whose Broaster Sales & Service sponsored Westby and continues to support Westby Racing, put Fernandez in touch with Greg Stumpff at Off Axis Paint, in Mooresville, North Carolina, who had painted Westby’s Arai helmets, including his last one.

AGV’s limited-edition Valentino Rossi “Faces” helmet, a tribute to family members, close friends and his two dogs, inspired Fernandez. “Greg asked what I had in mind,” she said. ‘I want some gold—Dane liked gold; that was his theme—and I want the wolverine face. But I want the helmet to be about us.’”

Patricia Fernandez Off Axis Paint Arai VIR

“I’m glad Patricia likes the helmet,” Off Axis Paint’s Greg Stumpff said. “I just wanted to make it something that she can always hold onto and race with.”

Stumpff admitted he had never painted a “tribute” helmet. “I had never even met Dane, or Patricia, until today,” he said. “All the pictures that she sent me are decals. Every one had to be cut out and stuck on individually. To see all of the pictures and then actually meet her and hear the stories behind the pictures was cool.”

Stumpff gave Fernandez the helmet on Friday, May 17, but she refused to look at it until after qualifying. “I knew I was going to get upset,” she said. “But it’s beautiful. I love it. I think it’s good for at least a second.” In fact, Fernandez improved her best lap time from race one to race two at VIR by 0.989 seconds.

Fernandez knows future races will be difficult. “I have memories of Dane everywhere, places we would go. Right now, my life is a day at a time. I’m going to do the rest of the Superstock 600 season. I’m going to ride faster, and I’m going to do better.”

Fernandez intends to continue racing in Ireland at the Ulster Grand Prix, “the world’s fastest road race.” She also wants to be the first female to race the Macau GP.

“All of this has changed my perception on things,” she said. “About eight weeks ago, I could have told you what I was doing for the rest of my life. Dane and I were planning our wedding on the way down to Daytona. Life was perfect.

“I’m just going to keep riding and see what happens. I won the Sunoco ‘Go the Distance’ award last year. I’ve raced in three countries, and I keep getting better, I think, just for the love of being on a motorcycle.

“If I can beat my fastest time and overcome my challenges then I’ve already won.”

Patricia Fernandez grid VIR

Patricia Fernandez focuses while waiting for the start of MotoAmerica Superstock 600 race one at VIRginia International Raceway.

This past March, Patricia Fernandez raced to 16th in her first-ever Daytona 200. Last weekend at VIRginia International Raceway, round three of the MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing Championship, Fernandez qualified for and competed in both legs of the Bazzaz Superstock 600 class, finishing 25th and 23rd, respectively.

In the weeks between those two events, Fernandez’s world was turned upside down. On March 23, her boyfriend, fellow racer Dane Westby, was tragically killed in a streetbike accident. Fernandez had signed up for all nine MotoAmerica events, but she skipped the first two rounds at Circuit of The Americas and Road Atlanta.

At VIR, Fernandez wore an Arai Corsair-V helmet customized by Off Axis Paint that celebrated her relationship with Westby. “I didn’t race at COTA or Road Atlanta,” she said. “I wasn’t ready. Being at the races is really difficult. The memories are tough, but you’ve got to get through it.”

A Virginia native, Fernandez knew she would return to racing. “Dane would have kicked my butt if I didn’t come back,” she said. “VIR is my home track.”

Fernandez, who races a Yamaha YZF-R6 for ADR Motorsports/Fly Racing, wanted Westby to ride with her, but she didn’t want a replica race bike. A helmet was the first thing that came to her mind.

“I’m still me, and I’m still a racer,” Fernandez said. “I don’t have to look at a helmet. I can put it on my head, and it will keep me safe, but it won’t distract me while I’m riding. When Dane and I were together, he respected and supported me as a racer. He allowed me to keep my own identity. I wasn’t just Dane Westby’s girlfriend.”

Former racer Kirk Reuille, whose Broaster Sales & Service sponsored Westby and continues to support Westby Racing, put Fernandez in touch with Greg Stumpff at Off Axis Paint, in Mooresville, North Carolina, who had painted Westby’s Arai helmets, including his last one.

AGV’s limited-edition Valentino Rossi “Faces” helmet, a tribute to family members, close friends and his two dogs, inspired Fernandez. “Greg asked what I had in mind,” she said. ‘I want some gold—Dane liked gold; that was his theme—and I want the wolverine face. But I want the helmet to be about us.’”

Patricia Fernandez Off Axis Paint Arai VIR

“I’m glad Patricia likes the helmet,” Off Axis Paint’s Greg Stumpff said. “I just wanted to make it something that she can always hold onto and race with.”

Stumpff admitted he had never painted a “tribute” helmet. “I had never even met Dane, or Patricia, until today,” he said. “All the pictures that she sent me are decals. Every one had to be cut out and stuck on individually. To see all of the pictures and then actually meet her and hear the stories behind the pictures was cool.”

Stumpff gave Fernandez the helmet on Friday, May 17, but she refused to look at it until after qualifying. “I knew I was going to get upset,” she said. “But it’s beautiful. I love it. I think it’s good for at least a second.” In fact, Fernandez improved her best lap time from race one to race two at VIR by 0.989 seconds.

Fernandez knows future races will be difficult. “I have memories of Dane everywhere, places we would go. Right now, my life is a day at a time. I’m going to do the rest of the Superstock 600 season. I’m going to ride faster, and I’m going to do better.”

Fernandez intends to continue racing in Ireland at the Ulster Grand Prix, “the world’s fastest road race.” She also wants to be the first female to race the Macau GP.

“All of this has changed my perception on things,” she said. “About eight weeks ago, I could have told you what I was doing for the rest of my life. Dane and I were planning our wedding on the way down to Daytona. Life was perfect.

“I’m just going to keep riding and see what happens. I won the Sunoco ‘Go the Distance’ award last year. I’ve raced in three countries, and I keep getting better, I think, just for the love of being on a motorcycle.

“If I can beat my fastest time and overcome my challenges then I’ve already won.”