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Amber Fortin is breaking barriers at Riverhead Raceway

Amber Fortin, 18, is a Holtsville native who

Amber Fortin, 18, is a Holtsville native who competes at Riverhead Raceway and drives the 04 Chevrolet Modified.

Amber Fortin has been telling her dad all week that Saturday's modified race at Riverhead Raceway is her "last hurrah" this season.

After this weekend, there are four weeks left on the Riverhead schedule, but Fortin likely will have to miss out because of school and work obligations.

"It stinks when you love something and can't do it as much as you'd like," said Fortin, 21.

She isn't the only one who will be disappointed. As one of only three female drivers at Riverhead -- and the only female modified driver -- Fortin has quite the following. Bob Finan, the track's spokesman, said, "Last week, she, by far, was the most popular driver among the fans for autographs after the races."

"I think it's because I'm a girl and I'm young. People love that," said Fortin, who lives in Holtsville. "It's the coolest thing. I love being a positive influence. If I can help anybody, and get them into racing instead of something bad, then I did something good. A lot of moms, believe it or not, tell me how cool it is. It's always good to have people support you."

Especially when you're in the minority. When she was a teenager, Fortin followed the racing footsteps of her dad, John, a three-time track champion. She joined the modified circuit at age 16.

While the challenges of being a female driver never truly disappear, Fortin said, things are somewhat easier now because of her experience.

"When I first started, things were worse. No guy wants to get beat by a girl, you know," Fortin said. "I still think equality is far off because there's like 150 drivers at Riverhead and only three are female. It's a man's world. But things calmed down a lot in the last year."

In what could be her last race of the season Saturday, Fortin will be seeking her first career win.

"I'm not sure yet if I'm good enough for a win. Second or third is more realistic," she said. "I don't think I can outdrive guys like my dad yet."

What matters most to her, though, goes beyond where she finishes in the standings.

"Without all the support with the crew and my family, I wouldn't be able to do anything," Fortin said. "You need to have that support."

New York Sports