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Life In The Fast Lane: Mixing Treads With Threads



woman in garage holding up a tire

Liz Prestella is known by her peers in NASCAR as a racing mechanic and tire specialist along with earning a reputation for a Jill-of-all-trades. Her love of cars started from a young age and was joined by a passion for sewing. While those might seem like an unusual pairing, for Liz, they always fit perfectly. In fact, it was at the age of twelve that her Grandma Rae instilled a passion for sewing, quilting, and painting in her – a well-rounded skillset that Liz has embraced ever since.


Fueled by a love of watching racing weekends with her dad and the youngest of three girls, Liz, discovered a passion for cars and the thrill of the track. Growing up in Lake Tahoe, California, meant that there wasn’t a local race track to visit so she got her first taste of racing in person at the age of twelve during a yearly family vacation. One NASCAR race was enough to spark her passion for working on cars and fueled her dream to be a mechanic in NASCAR.


As Liz reached high school, she wanted to learn more about working on cars before she got her driver’s license so she would never be stranded on the road once she started driving. It was in that auto shop class with Mr. Patterson that her passion was solidified, she was determined to be a NASCAR mechanic after high school. Liz’s dream of working in NASCAR led her to move to North Carolina, some 2,200 miles away from her childhood home. By her junior year of high school, the decision to move after graduation was clear, with her parents and sisters offering unwavering support.


Just like her mechanic skills, Liz’s experience for sewing developed during those high school years where she not only made quilts for family members but even made her own junior and senior year prom dresses. Even today, Liz’s creativity keeps her busy. She crafts 3-4 quilts a year, using everything from old crew shirts and fire suits to t-shirts for friends’ quilts and baby blankets. Her skills extend beyond sewing clothes as she’s also a go-to person for repairs when race teams need to keep their fire suits in top shape. Leveraging her design skills across various mediums, Liz now designs the entire clothing line for her brand, Torq’d.


After honing her skills through various roles in the automotive field, from lube technician to service advisor, Liz’s perseverance paid off. In 2012, she landed an internship at a small, women-owned NASCAR Truck Series team in North Carolina. It only took a few months of interning with that team before she was offered a full-time job traveling to all the races as a mechanic and interior specialist. Midway through the 2012 season the owner asked Liz if she would be willing to learn how to change tires during races. Liz said yes and took to practicing after work every day. Liz’s first taste of hopping off the wall for a live pit stop action came at the Kentucky race that year. Amidst the adrenaline rush of changing tires with trucks flying by at 60 mph, she gained valuable experience and would end up staying with the team for another season. The following year saw Liz get connected with a team in NASCAR’s premier Cup Series who brought her on for race weekends solely as a tire changer and mechanic. They taught Liz how to complete tire technician duties in addition to the stops so that she could be a dual-purpose crew member during race weekends. Her focus between races was not only on practicing tire changing at a local pit school but she also learned how to vinyl wrap cars and would often do that for her team between races.


woman working at a race track

From 2014 until 2016 Liz was the top female tire changer in NASCAR and one of few female mechanics on the circuit. She changed tires in over one hundred NASCAR races with over fifty of those coming at the top level in the NASCAR Cup Series. A wrist injury along with a better job offer in 2017 led Liz to retiring from changing tires and to shift to being a full-time mechanic in the Cup series. One of the things that was a constant issue as she spent more time working as a racing mechanic in NASCAR were the work pants that were offered at the time. Frustrated with options that wore out in weeks or months, she decided to take matters into her own hands. Combining her automotive knowledge with her sewing skills, Liz embarked on a journey to design the ideal women’s work pants, a path filled with its own learning curve.


After three years of meticulous development, from the initial spark of an idea to the creation of the first prototype, Liz finally realized her vision for ideal women’s work pants and 2017 marked the launch of Torq’d Clothing. In order to subsidize the development of the pants, Torq’d started out by offering simple t-shirts with empowering messages. It took three factories before Liz was able to get a full production run of one hundred pairs of pants in sizes from 0 to 16. This was completed around the middle of 2019 and they sold in record time. Liz reordered fifty more pairs at the end of 2019, but the pandemic resulted in production being put on hold due to the factory being located in Jersey City. By the end of 2020, Liz was able to finally get that order filled but after the shutdowns the quality wasn’t the same so the process to find a new factory started. In 2021 Liz found an amazing company based in New York with a network of factories in the USA that was able to work with her small business to make her v2 pants come to life. By the end of 2021 Liz had 300 pairs of her new work pants in hand in sizes 0-30 which offered females in trades many more options.


Liz’s passion for Torq’d came from how extremely frustrated she was with spending a fortune on pants that weren’t designed for her job. Working as a NASCAR mechanic, Liz sees young girls in the garage, their eyes filled with admiration for her unconventional career path. It mirrors her own childhood, gazing at mechanics with her dad and declaring that she would make it there one day. Now, having navigated the challenges of having to find workwear designed for women in these fields, Liz took action. Launching Torq’d addresses the lack of proper women’s work pants, a significant step towards bridging the gender gap in racing and the trades. Liz has had dozens of female mechanics tell her how excited they are for Torq’d and it makes them look forward to work every day knowing they have pants that actually fit and are designed for their jobs. As one of very few female mechanics in NASCAR, Liz loves that Torq’d has helped her to connect with other females that are interested in working on cars so they can see they have options besides being told “it’s a man’s world.”


You can find all Torq’d pants on her website along with other gear designed for females in trades. Liz has design options for everyone regardless of color preference or style, as she wants everyone to have a choice when it comes to expressing their passions in life. Torq’d work pants feature six full size pockets plus a pen pocket, double knees, gusset inner thighs, seven belt loops to prevent pants gapping, ribbon style button, and added stretch to the waist band for those days when you want that extra cookie along with a straight leg mid-rise fit. The fabric is a poly cotton blend with some elastane for added stretch while still being extremely durable. 


You can learn more about Liz and Torq’d Clothing at https://www.torqdclothing.com/.


Check out this article and others like it in our Empowering Women in Industry Digital Magazine.


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