By Amy Wenk
amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

A Sandy Springs businesswoman has taken to life in the fast lane.

Paige Monette, the manager of community involvement and public relations for Sandy Springs-based Optech Monette, entered the sports car racing circuit four years ago and has quickly brought her talent up to speed.

On June 1, Monette placed third in the GT1 class at the National Championship Racing event at Road Atlanta. Out of the 130 drivers in the races, she was one of two women.

“This is her first year running national races,” said Butch Kummer, the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) racing director for the Southeast. “I would say all the drivers in the race on [June 1] had more experience at a national level than she did. She was very impressive.”

Although the track was wet from rain, Kummer said Monette handled her car like a seasoned professional.

“She was smart enough to not overdrive the car,” said Kummer, who has known Monette for four years. “She outran drivers with more experience and more powerful cars because she used her head.”

Monette’s favorite part about joining the SCCA is competing in the same class as her father and two brothers because for her, racing is a family affair. Her father, the president of Optech Monette, Bob Monette, and her older brother, Will, and younger brother, Zach, who also work for the company, race as team.

“To me, it is more fun racing with family than by myself,” Paige Monette said. “I have a large family. There are a total of 26 children in the family — three are biological, and the rest are adopted.”

Monette has been racing in the GT1 class for a year. From 2004 to 2007, she raced on circular tracks in a Thunder Roadster. Now she drives in the SCCA with a much faster GT1 Monte Carlo, a road race car that travels up to 180 mph.

“This is still all new,” said Monette, who grew up in Sandy Springs and was a 1998 graduate of North Springs High School. “I went from 150 horsepower to 500 horsepower — a motorcycle engine to a Corvette engine. It’s a big step. I am having a blast.”

The recent event at Road Atlanta was just her third race in the new car.

Monette, however, ran in several competitions with her Thunder Roadster, including ones held at Atlanta Motor Speedway, South Boston Speedway and Lanier National Speedway. In fact, she was the first woman in Georgia to drive a Thunder Roadster.

“Paige made a lot of progress,” said Ed Clark, the president and general manager of Atlanta Motor Speedway. “She was a fiesty competitor who really tried hard.”

Monette also participated in the Panoz Race Series as part of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in 2005 and took third place on the circle track at the Watermelon Capital at Cordelle Speedway in 2006.

One of her proudest moments was a second place in the SPU class during the Music City Double-Barreled Shootout at Nashville Super Speedway in 2007.

“That was fun,” Monette said. “It was a tough track.”

The family business, Optech Monette, sponsors the racing. The company was founded in Sandy Springs in 1994 and still maintains a corporate office at 8100 Roswell Road.

“The company focuses on operation of public utilities with federal government clients (U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force), as well as municipal clients, working as part of the CH2M Hill team in Sandy Springs, Johns Creek and Milton,” Monette said. “We are one of the larger subcontractors for the city” of Sandy Springs.

Although now a resident of Milton, Monette remains involved heavily in the Sandy Springs community with her position at Optech Monette. She is a 2007 graduate of Leadership Sandy Springs, as well as a member of the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs. In addition, she is assisting with the Sandy Springs Festival, a yearly fundraising event that benefits Heritage Sandy Springs.

“I try to keep us busy in the community,” she said.

As for racing, Monette said she is not sure what the future will bring, but she will continue to hone her skills.

“I just want to continue to do this,” she said, adding that she is looking for additional sponsors. “I love to race with my family.”

Monette’s next race will be the Atlanta SCCA Regional on July 19 and 20 at Road Atlanta, 5300 Winder Highway in Braselton.