While motorsports worldwide have seemed to be dominated by men through time, there have been a number of women who’ve taken on the boy’s club. Today the title Danica Patrick is a recognizable name to the most casual NASCAR viewer. But just because Danica was a NASCAR regular, doesn’t mean it’s easy for her.
See also: 5 Things Women Should Know About Cars
Greatest Women Drivers in Motorsports
Fans of 1980s NASCAR may Recall Shawna Roberts or Even Patt Moise, but neither one of these women made it much farther than the lower tiers of the sport. Even Kelly Earnhardt, (Dale Earnhardt’s daughter) just raced for a few years before deciding to give it up. Danica may have the money and ability of Tony Stewart, but after she’s in that vehicle, it’s all up to her to pull down wins and race hard to the front.
This does not indicate that there have been no successful women in motorsports. They’re just few and far between. It might be somewhat more common to see women putting helmets on now than in previous decades, but today’s girls have some pretty major fire suits to fulfill. Had it not been for some very successful racing girls, drivers such as Danica Patrick might not be a part of the starting area at the Daytona 500.
Recommended: How to Enjoy a Motor Race Event
When it comes to qualifying for some of the Very prestigious Races, Janet Guthrie is an expert. She’s the first girl to qualify for both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500. She became the first girl to compete in A Winston Cup race and finished in fifteenth place for the World 600 at 1976.
Back in 1976, Janet was not able to qualify for the Daytona 500 and it was stated that her inability to adapt was because of her sex. A.J. Foyt felt otherwise. He gave her one of his own automobiles to conduct several qualifying laps at where she exhibited speed and talent that could have placed her in ninth position for the race. Unfortunately, she’d failed to qualify, therefore her times failed to count this season. A.J. Foyt decided that the one thing she lacked was cash at a better automobile.
She hurried and qualified at the 1977 Daytona 500 where she finished in twelfth place and got the title of Top Rookie. She set a record for the highest finish ever in a sanctioned NASCAR race for a lady by coming in sixth position at Bristol. Danica Patrick recently tied that record in 2014.
In 2006, Janet was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and her helmet and suit are in an exhibit in the Smithsonian Institute. Janet is retired.
Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney is the First Lady of Drag Racing. She was the first NHRA licensed girl, and also the first woman to sit in the cockpit of a top fuel dragster. She picked up the championship at the top gas class in 1977, 1980 and again in 1982. Those wins left her the very first individual of either sex to win three and two names at the top gas group. She’s 18 national event wins under her belt.
Shirley had to muscle her way into racing since, in 1958, everyone was against her. It was a boy’s club, and she had to fight the NHRA to demonstrate that she would fill the stands and win races before they would issue her a competitor’s license. With racers such as Don Garlits and Connie Kalitta on her side, she got her license and became a competitive racer before a 1984 crash caused her extensive injuries to her pelvis, legs, and hands which took her off the trail for nearly two decades.
After attempted a few comebacks, Shirley finally called it quits in 2003.
Lyn St. James
Lyn St. James is only one of seven female race car drivers who has qualified for the Indianapolis 500 and the first woman to win its prestigious Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award. She won the 24 Hours of Daytona twice and the 12 Hours of Sebring once.
She retired from racing in 2001 after four years with five Begins from the Indy Racing League and 11 CART begins. Her resume includes European endurance racing at events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. She’s a Motivational speaker of the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.
Before there was the NASCAR of now, there was Louise Smith, who wasn’t content to watch the races on the shores of Daytona. She took the brand new family car and entered to the where she immediately rolled it. The mess was so spectacular, her photograph was featured on the Georgia hometown paper before she got back from Florida. That mess did not dissuade her from pursuing racing as a career.
She continued to compete Motorsport events from 1949 until 1956 and ended her career with 38 wins in several racing classes such as late model and sportsman. In 1999, she was the first woman inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Louise passes away in 2006 at age 89.
With three wins and seven global rally podium finishes, Pat Moss is considered among the most prosperous automobile rally females of all time. She won the European Ladies Rally Championship five times beginning in 1958.
Her rally-racing career Began in 1953 when she was 18 and Throughout her career, she wheeled for Saab, MG, Austin-Healy, Ford and many others. Her racing took her to places like Monte Carlo, Africa, the Netherlands, and the Alps. She married one of her fellow motorists, and they proceeded to take part in 11 international rallies.
Pat died in 2008 at age 73.
In spite of these girls paving the way for the women racers of tomorrow, racing still remains dominated by men. Unless girls match and join the guys on the starting line, they won’t be considered a serious contender for prize money and trophies. They’ll be shuffled off to the local short track power puff competitions and drag strip”run-what-you-brung” displays.
Since Danica continues her climb up the ranks and eventually secures her first win, she’ll become the next woman recorded in the lineup of women in racing to inspire the next generation. It’s a safe bet that eventually, Danica or another girl will break the currently held records and set the bar even higher.