Saturday, February 2, 2013

History of Women in Racing

Inspirational Women in Motorsports #1

There have been many amazing women in the history of motorsports. Throughout this journey I felt the need to do a little research. Many of you may already know about these inspiring ladies, but I'm just learning. I thought I'd share the information I learned with those of you who are learning and a reminder for those of you who are already versed in the history of women's motorsports. I plan to keep researching but for now here are 4 of the pioneers in women's racing.

Louise Smith (1916-2006), Louise was known as "The First Lady of Racing." She was a pioneer of stock-car racing and the first woman inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. She raced from 1949 to 1956. She won 38 races in her career in numerous formats: late models, modifieds (28 victories), midgets, and sportsman. She returned to the racing scene in 1971 as a car owner for numerous drivers.

Janet Guthrie (1938-   ), Janet started her racing career in 1963. In 1977 she became the first woman to qualify and compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500. She had the highest finish by a woman in the Indianapolis 500 until 2005. Guthrie went on to compete in 33 races in NASCAR over four seasons, finishing as high as sixth place. She competed in 11 IndyCar races finishing as high as 5th. Janet has an autobiography written in 2005, Janet Guthrie: A Life at Full Throttle.

Shirley Muldowney (1940-  ), Shirley became infatuated with drag racing as a teenager in the 1950's. She obtained her NHRA pro license in 1965. In 1969 and 1970 she competed in U.S. Nationals in a twin-engine dragster in Top Gas. As Top Gas lost popularity, she began racing Funny Car. Shirley won her first major event IHRA Southern Nationals in 1971. She won 3 NHRA Top Fuel championships in 1977, 1980, and 1982. She was named to drag racing's All-American team five times, leading the voting in two occasions.

Lyn St. James (1947-  ), Lyn's debut in racing was in 1973 in the Amateur Sports Car Club of America. She began racing in the Indy Racing Series in 1992 and was the first woman to win the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year. She raced in 7 Indianapolis 500's in 9 years, including 6 consecutive starts (1992-1997.) In 2000 at the age of 53 she was the oldest driver in the field in the Indianapolis 500. Lyn is currently a motivational speaker and is promoting young up and coming racers. She established Women in the Winners Circle Foundation in 1994 and the Annual Awards Celebration in 2003. In 2010 she published Lyn St. James- An Incredible Journey. She is working with The Henry Ford Museum on Women in The Winners Circle: The Traveling Exhibit. (Personally I would LOVE to see this exhibit with my kids!!!)


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