- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 20, 2002

She's a beautiful young Venezuelan with adoring, often ogling, fans. She has got a stack of master's degrees, she oozes charm and she has a sweet Spanish accent to ease her broken English.
Model? No, but she easily could.
Sassy business executive? The thought has never crossed her mind.
Milka Duno is a driver, an honest-to-goodness driver on the American Le Mans Series, which is racing at the RFK Stadium circuit this weekend.
Duno, who's raced cars for four years, enjoys the racing lifestyle, though it does wear her out at times. In addition to the 11-race Series schedule, the 30-year-old drives about 10 more races in Europe. That means more flying, which she doesn't enjoy, and less time to see her family especially her two young brothers. She expects to run as many as 24 to 30 races this year.
"It's very tough, but it's part of the process," she said yesterday between signing autographs and posing for photographs. "You don't worry about it."
That's the attitude drivers on the 4-year-old American Le Mans Series portray this weekend as ALMS looks to make the biggest national splash in its brief history. Its size, prize money and exposure doesn't yet rival that of CART or IRL, much less NASCAR. But most of the drivers live a comfortable, content lifestyle with fewer races and expectations than in those prominent series.
Most often, drivers and race officials use NASCAR as their benchmark, "the top dog in motorsports in the United States," said Andy Hall, Series director of media and communications.
But the drivers aren't exactly itching to grow that fast. Ron Fellows, in his fourth season racing, competes in NASCAR's two road races each year in addition to his regular schedule, mainly out of curiosity.
"When you're doing 12 races a year, it's a good life," said Fellows, who lives in Ontario with his wife and three children (who accompanied him to the District this weekend). "That's the biggest difference between this and NASCAR we're not racing each week."
The drivers also aren't making the money that those in NASCAR and other circuits pull in. Fellows wouldn't disclose how much he makes each year, other than to say that he works under a contract that pays him "six figures." He guessed there were a few drivers making seven figures, "and some guys get three-fourths of the way there,"
Said Christophe Tinseau, a driver for Team Cadillac:"It's not Formula One, CART, NASCAR; here, it's a completely different world. We're getting some, but nothing like that; we have a good life, but not like Formula One."
Duno, meanwhile, said her car owners make most of the money. Hall agreed, saying, "You look up and down that driver list, and there's a few of them living in Monaco that should tell you something. Those would be the drivers living the 'jet set' lifestyle."
While Duno could seemingly fit into such a lifestyle, she's too busy driving and studying. She wants to race "for many, many years," but she's also working on her sixth master's degree.
Same goes for Tinseau, who still lives in his homeland of France and has no desire to live elsewhere else.
"A very important point: I drive because I like to drive," he said. "It's my job, but it's what I like to do. It's my lifestyle."
It's a lifestyle that, with no race next weekend will allow many of the drivers a chance to appreciate what most Washingtonians see every day: history and culture (NASCAR, for what it's worth, is in the midst of a 20-consecutive week run of races). Duno planned trips early next week to see the monuments, and Fellows and his family will use their first trip to the District to visit Mount Vernon, the Washington Monument and hopefully the White House.
"We're big 'West Wing' fans," he said with a chuckle.

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