While motorsports may seem like a man’s world, that is not exactly the case. To help celebrate International Women’s Day we are taking a look at some of the notable women involved in motorsports over the years and who to watch out for in the upcoming years.
Motorsports has been a predominantly male hobby since day one. Many would say all forms of motorsport are still too male-dominated, but women have continued to prove that they can compete with men.
Sara Christian became the first female NASCAR driver when she raced in NASCAR’s first race in 1949. She was joined by Ethel Mobley and Louise Smith in the 1949 Daytona Beach Road Course, which made it the first race to include three women.
Later, in 1977, Janet Guthrie made history twice by becoming the first woman to drive in the Daytona 500 and Indy 500. Guthrie raced in 33 NASCAR races and 11 IndyCar races, which included three Indy 500s. She’s been inducted into the International Women’s Sports, International Motorsports, and Automotive Hall of Fames.
Since Guthrie, there have been nine other women to race in the Indy 500 including Danica Patrick, who has had success competing in both the IndyCar and NASCAR Series. She's the only female to win an IndyCar race and the only woman to win the Pole for the Daytona 500.
Here are a few female drivers who've followed their dream, ignoring the status quo, and are changing the racing game for the better.
The NASCAR Cup Series is the highest level of stock car racing in the world. Reaching the Cup Series is the ultimate goal for every NASCAR driver. The sport is open to everyone, regardless of gender. However, there hasn’t been a female driver in the Cup Series since 2017.
One of the biggest struggles for women in motorsports has been a lack of sponsorship, which has held many women back. Last month Busch Light announced their Accelerate Her Program which plans to give more resources to female drivers in NASCAR. They have committed $10 million towards elevating female drivers through the NASCAR ranks. Their plan includes getting female drivers more track time, media exposure, and training.
Below are some of the up-and-coming drivers that could move up to the Cup Series. A few compete in the lower levels, but they’re looking for their big break.
Brittney Zamora, 22, competes part-time in the ARCA Menards Series, driving the No. 30 Ford for Rette Jones Racing.
She recently completed her sixth season in Super Late Models in the Northwest Super Late Models Series as well as her second season in the NASCAR ARCA West Series.
Zamora has achieved race wins, won track championships, broken many track records, received multiple Rookie of the Year awards, and received the NASCAR Wendall Scott Trailblazer Award.
Natalie Decker, 24, is a young and upcoming racer who competes part-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, driving the No. 33 Toyota Supra for Reaume Brothers Racing.
Decker has competed at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, ARCA Menards Series and in 2015 participated at the Drive for Diversity.
Toni Breidinger, 22, became the first NASCAR driver of Arab-American heritage in NASCAR. She currently competes full-time for Venturini Motorsports in the ARCA Menards Series, driving the No. 25 Toyota Camry.
She started her career at a young age when she raced go-karts. As a teen she moved up to the Auto racing ranks and is now at the age of 21, being the only woman with 19 United States Auto Club Wins.
Jennifer Jo Cobb
Jennifer Jo Cobb, 48, professional stock car racing driver and team owner of Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, has been an active name in the industry. She began her career in 2004 through the Xfinity Series, where she managed to make 27 total starts. Cobb holds several records in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series including the highest finishing female driver in the overall points for a season, most starts by a female driver in the series, and will soon hold the record for the most starts by any woman in NASCAR.
Hailie Deegan, 20, has dominated the scene and is working her way up the ranks in Short-Course Off Road, ARCA and NASCAR.. She competes full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, driving the No. 1 Ford F-150 for David Gilliland Racing.
Deegan was a NASCAR Drive for Diversity member in 2016, and received the NASCAR Diversity Young Racer award the following year. In May 2017, Deegan was one of nine drivers named to the 2017 NASCAR Next class, in which she was both the youngest member and the only woman.
In Deegan's first season driving in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 2018, she scored her first win at Meridian Speedway in Idaho, and went on to capture two more checkered flags in the 2019 season making her the only female to have won races in the K&N Pro Series to date.
“I'm out there trying to develop and be the best driver I could possibly be, not just be the best girl, obviously. I want to be an inspiration for other girls to get into racing. But, I don't try to set a standard differently because I am a girl,” says Deegan.
Colombian driver, Tatiana Calderon, 28, will join the field as the latest female driver to compete in the majority of an IndyCar season. Calderon became the first woman since Simona de Silvestro in 2013 to earn a regular spot on the IndyCar grid as a full-time driver.
This year Calderon made her debut for AJ Foyt Racing in St. Petersburg after spending two seasons competing in Super Formula and the past four years serving as a test driver for the Alfa Romeo F1 team.
“Looking back at the history of women in IndyCar, when you compare it to the level of single-seaters in Europe, or anywhere really, you see that IndyCar has had more,” Calderon said. “That is something that I was quite happy about and why I also wanted to come to this side of the world. I’m super happy to be representing women around the world in one of the toughest series out there.”
Female drivers have been leaving their mark in NASCAR and IndyCar history. These women are the proof that stereotypes are often distorted. "Female participation in motorsport is set to "explode" in the next 10 years as more emerging drivers prove that being competitive isn't an "anomaly", says ex-Formula E racer Katherine Legge. While women still make up a minority in current motorsports demographics, at all levels of racing, from grassroots to professional, women make up a greater proportion of competitors than ever before. Moving forward, they will continue to pave their way in the male-dominated field.
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