Description: Every time NASCAR is mentioned, most people get an image of men drinking beer and hollering in the stadium while male race car drivers sit behind the wheel of powerful V8 engines. But did you know there are also female NASCAR drivers?
There are roughly 75 million people who consider themselves NASCAR fans. They can’t possibly all be men in the audience and male drivers, right? A simple look at the people in the stands during a NASCAR race will show you that there are also women in the audience. According to Nielsen Scarborough, the NASCAR women fans constitute almost 40 percent of the fan base.
With 75 million people fans, that’s 30 million women fans of NASCAR! So shouldn’t there be female NASCAR drivers too? After all, this isn’t the NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL. There’s no rule forbidding (ladies) female NASCAR drivers. In fact, NASCAR is actively encouraging more female NASCAR driver participation. Albeit true that the history of racing legend Nascar drivers, have traditionally all been men. The ladies going back to the early 1940’s have shown what they’ve got long before today’s women of NASCAR.
At this point, you’re snickering about women behind the wheel. That’s the stereotype, isn’t it? Women can’t drive—maybe it’s because they’re more emotional, or perhaps they don’t have the same emotional connection with cars that guys have. But that kind of thinking only works when you blatantly ignore the legendary Danica Patrick, female race car driver, which NASCAR has promoted for years.
Seriously, you don’t know who she is? Who doesn’t know about Danica Patrick at this point? If you’re a guy, then you must have seen at least one of the countless Danica Patrick in a bikini sexy photos she’s got floating around. That’s aside from the various articles and magazine covers she’s done.
And if you’re a woman, Danica Patrick is the name you mention when your husband, boyfriend, or brother cracks some sexist joke about the female driver. And if you’re a girl, she’s the trailblazer for your gender. Just about every female NASCAR driver looks up to her and tries to replicate her success.
If you’re totally oblivious about NASCAR, at this point you may be asking: There are other female NASCAR drivers? Well, yes. There have actually been 40 ladies racing in NASCAR history.
You may be excused for thinking that’s it all about Danica Patrick, because her media exposure has been so ubiquitous. There’s no denying she’s hot, and guys dig that sort of thing. And women don’t mind that she’s hot either because it proves that you can be interested in fast cars and still be an icon of feminine esthetics.
But to be fair, it’s not all about her looks. With her career in NASCAR Danica Patrick has gone where no woman has gone before. Breaking just about every NASCAR record set by the women who have gone on before her.
(Now you may be asking: WHAT? There have been other NASCAR women drivers before her? Well, yes again. But we’ll talk about that later in the article.)
So let’s get back to the vaunted Danica NASCAR career. Patrick made her start racing go carts at ten years old. The adrenaline rush must have been truly addictive because Danica was, well…hooked. She quit high school and got her GED at 16 years old, and then she moved to England. Danica participated in various UK racing events and even raced against Jenson Button, who at the time was the world champion in Formula 1.
In 2005 at the age of 23, the world saw Danica Patrick racing in NASCAR nationwide, starting with the Indy 500. Patrick didn’t just participate; she competed. While being only the 4th woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500, for the first time in race history a woman lead laps in the race. Leading in front in several instances and led for an astonishing 19 laps.
Later on, Danica Patrick won the Indy Japan 300 as the first woman to win an Indy car race. Then later finished 3rd in the Indy 500, marking the highest ever finish in that race by a woman.
For NASCAR, Patrick holds several records among the female NASCAR drivers. Danica was the first female pole winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup history. In the history of the nascar sprint cup series, setting the best finish by a female NASCAR driver by finishing 4th in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race in 2011. She’s also the first rookie to win the Daytona 500 pole ever since Jimmie Johnson did it in 2002. Danica Patrick also holds the record for the most Top 10 finishes by a girl NASCAR driver.
The media blitz surrounding the great Danica Patrick may have led some to believe that she became the first female to race in NASCAR. But that’s not true at all.
Sara Christian. Now this lady became the first woman NASCAR driver in the top series, becoming the first female racer a very long time ago. It was in 1949, actually.That was 33 years before Danica Patrick was even born.
Sara Christian at Charlotte Speedway June 19, 1949.
Her first race was at the Charlotte Speedway, and she borrowed her husband’s car to compete. Now that was very supportive of him, wasn’t it? And she didn’t do too badly either. She finished 13th, which is good in a field of 33 racers. Sara Christian was also among the three ladies racing in NASCAR who raced in the second Daytona Beach race in 1949. The others were Ethel Mobley and Louise Smith. That was the first time NASCAR had three female racers in a car race. In that year, she was the United States Driver Association Woman of the Year, with a couple of Top 10 finishes under her belt. Then she made one start in 1950, and then she retired.
It turned out to be unlucky for Smith. She crashed into the second pile up in the race, and she coincidentally finished 13th. Louise Smith was known as the “First Lady of Racing”, as she won an astonishing 38 races in her 7-year career. In 1999, she was the first ever woman to be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Having 40 ladies racing in NASCAR history isn’t exactly a stellar gender record, considering the millions of women who have called themselves NASCAR fans. NASCAR doesn’t discriminate, which includes the first gay NASCAR driver and it’s one of the few sports where gender rules don’t have to apply. When you think about it, men have no inherent physical advantage over female NASCAR drivers. It’s like chess in that regard. It’s not like track & field, golf, or the major team sports where the strength of men’s muscles is a distinct advantage. In fact, some critics even say that men are inherently at a disadvantage when they compete against Danica Patrick. A racecar driver named Robby Gordon even said that Danica had an unfair advantage over the men because she weighed a paltry hundred pounds.
But in any case, perhaps women (and everyone else) should just heed the words of Kenzie Ruston: “The car does not know if you’re a female or a male,” Ruston said. “You gain the guys’ respect. If you race them clean and you race them competitively, they’ll race you just like they’ll race anybody else.”
Video above with another Young female NASCAR drivers Hopeful “Kensie Ruston” Interview