HOMESTEAD, FLA. (WSVN) - A local female kart driver is proving to the men of a male-dominated sport that she can hold her own on the track.

Erika Wagner, 19, would not even dream of doing dangerous activities just a few years ago.

“Her nickname was ‘scaredy-squirrel,'” said Erika’s mother, Tammy.

Now, after she celebrated her birthday at K1 Speed, the once timid teen is fast and furious on the go-kart track.

“I used to be afraid of everything,” said Erika. “It’s not impossible to not be afraid. Fear is learned, and so is getting over it.”

Fear was not the only factor for Erika before she started racing on the AMR karting circuit; she also had to find a way to maneuver herself into this male-dominated sport.

“A lot of it has to do with the attention I get and how I get attention,” said Erika. “Sometimes people will come over and say, ‘She’s just a girl. It doesn’t matter if she crashes.’ Many people believe that I’ll be gone in a little bit.”

Haters do not discourage the 19-year-old, as she is passionate about the sport.

“She eats it, sleeps, breathes, drinks [racing],” said Tammy. “This is it. This is what she’s dreaming of.”

Brian Garcia, the owner of Kartech, sees just how motivated Erika is when it comes to racing.

“It’s her drive,” said Garcia. “She comes out here every weekend [and] gets in the kart as many times as she can. She gets hurt, she gets right back in it. There’s no stopping her. You can’t really match that level of devotion to the sport.”

Of course, Erika knows how to put people in her place if they do not believe in her.

“You gotta show ’em who’s boss,” said Erika.

Although Erika has found herself in the winner’s circle of unifications, she has yet to gain the respect of her male counterparts. This has not stopped her from becoming a role model for the next generation of female drivers.

“You see me on the podium [and] it means a lot,” said Erika. “I’ve had little girls come up to me and be like, ‘Oh, my God, you’re my favorite because you’re a girl, and you’re doing it.”

Erika loves the speed of the track, so we might see her competing in race car driving soon.

“You have to switch engine classes and climb up the ranks in karting because that’s how you get your foundation,” said Erika. “I’m also looking to get into cars, especially open-wheeled cars [which is] similar to Formula 1. My main goal would be to become a race car driver. I’m trying to get into the W series right now, which is a series over in Europe that is only women.”

This teenager’s racing career is definitely one to follow. Erika might even be the next Danica Patrick.

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