Watching her uncle, Derrike Cope, hoist the Harley J. Earl Trophy for his victory in the 1990 Daytona 500, Angela Ruch had no reservations about her ability to do the same. Regardless of the male-dominated racing world, not to mention the entirety of athletics at the time, Ruch began her career in go-karting at just 9 years old in 1992. She and her twin sister, Amber Cope, found the same love for motorsports that her family had, making them the third generation of Copes to tackle the racing world.
After years of participating in junior go-kart competitions, Ruch transitioned to a part-time professional racing career in 2006. Her 2019 debut in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, however, put her on the map. She became the first woman in the NASCAR Truck Series to lead laps at Daytona International Speedway, driving the now historic No. 8 JJ Resources Chevrolet.
Although Ruch’s career is significant for women in racing and women in sports at large, she is sure to let you know that her family is her first priority. She and her husband have two adopted children, King and Lorde, and their team is inseparable. In an interview with Forbes in the spring of 2020, Ruch said, “That’s one thing I love about NASCAR—NASCAR is very family-oriented. So, we bring both babies every single time, and the roles have reversed a little. It’s my husband that will stay back in the motorhome and watch them while I’m out doing what I do.” While she acknowledges that managing a professional racing career and raising two children presents its difficulties at times, she and her husband are committed to making it work.
The global pandemic, while halting NASCAR in its tracks, has given Ruch more time to spend with her kids. When the season was suspended in March of 2020, she and her husband Mike brought their kids home to Charlotte, North Carolina, where they would settle until it was again safe for racing to resume. Although she is skeptical of the environment that future races will bring, with no fans, limited staff, and restricted interactions, Ruch shared with ESPN one of her fondest memories on the track. “The last race we got to do [before the season was suspended], I was able to bring King with me for the driver introductions,” said Ruch, “He’s obviously too young to understand what his mom does for a living, but his face lit up when we walked out. And that moment, I just realized I honestly couldn’t picture my life any differently –it’s exactly right.”
While her career is on hold, she is enjoying time with her family and will live with these moments in mind as she continues to show young women that motherhood and professional sports can go hand-in-hand. Just before the global pandemic swung into full force, Ruch said to ESPN, “A female driver needs to get that win under their belt to really showcase that we’re just as good, and we deserve to be here,” a sentiment that all female athletes at all levels can identify with. Women like Angela Ruch are vital to the progress of women’s athletics as she is proving to the world that her place is both on the track and with her family, nothing less.