Katie Hagar was 11 years old when she realized that racing a motor vehicle was her passion.

And the thing that provided a focus for her boundless energy and ferocious competitive drive.

“My parents recognized I needed some help. My social life was not great; my grades could have been better,” said Hagar, 24, who grew up in Damariscotta and now lives in Mooresville, N.C. “I played every sport I could, but I still needed a focus and some direction.”

Hagar has been focused enough to direct herself from go-karts to full-size race cars, paying her dues on local and regional racing circuits. Last year, she graduated to NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, which was created to help give women and minorities a shot at pro motorsports.

And now her story, and her focused pursuit of a dream, will be part of a new reality TV show.

Hagar is one of 30 Drive for Diversity participants who were filmed from November to January at racetracks around the country for the BET TV show, “Changing Lanes,” which will premiere at 8 tonight.

The weekly one-hour reality show follows Hagar and others as they compete against each other in various races and challenges for a chance to be finalists and join Max Siegel’s Revolution Racing team.

The overall winner will get a chance to qualify for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown Race in Irwindale, Calif., and a chance to further his or her career as a race car driver.

The eight episodes of the series were filmed months ago, so Hagar knows what happened. But she’s careful not to give anything away.

“People are going to have to tune in and watch to find out, but I think fans will get a good look at what it’s like to try to break into NASCAR,” said Hagar from her home.

Hagar’s father, Mark Hagar, once owned a car that raced at Wiscasset Raceway, so she was around cars when she was young.

She began racing go-karts at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough when she was 11, then raced cars in regional series such as the New England Allison Legacy Series and the New England Pro All Star Series.

“You’ve got to pay your dues in racing; you can’t just go right to the highest level,” said Hagar. “It was a large step for me to get into this program.”

Hagar doesn’t get paid to race. If she wins races, prize money goes back into her car.

She says her family, which runs a paving and excavation firm called Hagar Enterprises, has been supportive both emotionally and financially.

“They have helped me tremendously to get to this point,” she said.

 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]