Leilani Munter Combines Racing and Dolphin Passions
by Mary Jo Buchanan On Fri, Feb. 17, 2012
[media-credit name=”Photo courtesy of Phil Cavali ” align=”alignright” width=”260″][/media-credit]While passions run high as the ARCA racers take to the track for their season opener at Daytona, Leilani Munter is not only looking forward to her time behind the wheel but cannot wait to share the cause on the hood of her race car.
The driver of the No. 12 Tony Marks Racing Dodge Charger is combining her passion for speed, as well as her commitment to calling attention to the plight of dolphins by featuring the documentary ‘The Cove’ on her race car.
“I’m just passionate about a lot of things, like the environment and clean energy,” Munter said. “The way that I found ‘The Cove’ is that I saw the movie a couple of years ago.”
“As soon as I saw it, I was so moved by it,” Munter continued. “As soon as it ended, I looked at my husband and said “We’re going to Japan to help to end this.”
“That was my call to action,” Munter said. “My husband and I traveled over there in 2010. I made two trips in 2010 and then another trip over there for three weeks this past September.”
What Munter saw in her travels to Japan and the cove shook her to her core and became the reason for her desire to combine her racing passion with her call to save the dolphins. Munter’s passion for the issue was most evident as she recalled the story of ‘The Cove.’
“There is a small cove and the dolphins are migrating past the area,” Munter said. “Thirteen boats go out and bang on poles in the water, which scares the dolphins into the cove.”
“The dolphins are trapped overnight in the cove,” Munter continued. “Then dolphin trainers from all over the world come and pick out the dolphins they want to go train at dolphin parks.”
“But what happens to the remaining dolphins is that they end up slaughtering all of them for food.”
During her trips, Munter is ‘on the ground’ volunteering. She has even risked her own safety to share her concerns for the plight of the dolphins in the cove.
“I filmed the first slaughter of the year this year,” Munter said. “And I got caught in the typhoon and was without water for five days in Japan.”
“It was pretty interesting having no drinking water and no showers,” Munter continued. “So, I’ve had some pretty intense experiences over there.”
“I just became passionate about it and the more that I got to know Ric O’Barry (dolphin activist, former trainer of Flipper, and star of the movie), the more I wanted to help and to get everyone to see the movie.”
Prior to the Daytona race, Munter has devoted a great deal of time to continuing to try to keep the academy award winning film, as well as the plight of the dolphins, in the public eye.
“This summer, we did a screening of the movie in San Francisco, who donated the theatre to us,” Munter said. “My brother-in-law, who is a musician with the ‘Grateful Dead’, played a few sets so a lot of their fans came out.”
“This past December, we went up the Empire State building, as the owner saw the film and was moved to help,” Munter continued. “So, on December 9th, we lit up the Empire State building in red in honor of the dolphins who had died at ‘The Cove.’
“It was there that I began to think about how cool it would be to have a race car and really get this message in front of the race fans,” Munter said. “One of the key things we want people to understand and take away from the film is the tie to dolphin captivity and the slaughter.”
“The take away message, besides watching the movie which is my number one call to action, is to not support dolphin captivity and dolphin parks,” Munter continued. “By doing that, you are indirectly supporting the dolphin slaughter.”
“We want to help fans making the connection between going to see dolphins jump through hoops and the slaughter that occurs for all the other dolphins in the cove,” Munter said. “It is a complicated issue but we hope that we can help fans understand.”
Munter is not only educating her fans but also her own race team to the dolphin slaughter issue.
“We held a screening at Tony Marks Racing to help the team and crew know the message,” Munter said. “It was fantastic. One of the guys came to talk to me afterwards and shared that he had no idea that was going on until he saw the film.”
“That’s something that we want to accomplish and to get people to see the film because that’s how we’ll end the slaughter.”
Munter knows that the strength of stock car racing, combined with being at Daytona, is one of the best ways to get her message out. In addition, she is thrilled to drive at the storied track and fully intends to take her ‘Cove’ car to Victory Lane.
“What better way than NASCAR to get a movie out in front of a large group of people all at once,” Munter said. “And Daytona is the best venue ever.”
“I’m so excited to drive this car,” Munter continued. “I have a good, fast race car and this means more than anything to me. It’s a very special race to me.”
Munter and Tony Marks Racing currently have a one race deal for the Daytona ARCA race. But they are focused on gaining not only sponsorship but calling attention to other causes in upcoming races as well.
“We’re definitely focused on ‘The Cove’ car, which is a one race deal,” Munter said. “But Tony Marks and I are hoping to go to at least the nine televised ARCA races that are left. I’m actively talking to sponsors to be involved in that program.”
“We want to continue to use the race car to send messages,” Munter continued. “We want it to be a vehicle to call people to action and get them to think about things.”
Munter has one more reason to look forward to her Daytona race. In addition to her passion for racing and dolphins, she will also be celebrating her birthday.
“I’m looking forward to having a chance to run up front and finish the race in first place,” Munter said. “I don’t think I’d ever be able to top winning the Daytona race in ‘The Cove’ car on my birthday.”
“But for this weekend, it’s all about the dolphins,” Munter said. “We want to make the world a better place.”