Women in NASCAR aren’t as unusual as you might think. Unlike many other racing events, NASCAR didn’t disallow female drivers from participation since its beginning in 1949. However, throughout the 20th century, female NASCAR drivers were few and far between — more of an exception than a rule.
It wasn’t until 2004 and the foundation of the Drive for Diversity program that the number of female NASCAR drivers really began to reach significant proportions. This program serves as a way to attract more representatives from women in minorities to actively engage in racing, inviting a new round of non-traditional drivers to participate year after year. Nevertheless, there are already many important names on the list of female NASCAR drivers, and today we’d like to tell you about some of them.
1. Sarah Christian
Perhaps Sarah Christian didn’t have a stellar driving career, but still, she was the first woman to participate in a NASCAR race — and in the very first race at that. She was married to fellow racecar driver Frank Christian, which makes for another first — they were the first married couple driving team to ever compete against each other in the same race.
2. Janet Gunthrie
Janet Gunthrie was the first female NASCAR driver after the retirement of Sarah Christian, but this is far from being the only thing she is famous for. An avid racer and sports car fan, she had been racing since 1963, but only joined the sport full time in 1972. Just four years later, she was invited to participate in Indianapolis 500, becoming the first female race driver to qualify and participate in it as well as the Daytona 500. She is certainly the best-known female NASCAR driver of the 20th century.
3. Jennifer Jo Cobb
Jennifer Jo Cobb boasts more than 25 year of racing experience and over a hundred NASCAR World Truck Series starts. According to her, she always used her gender as a motivation to strive for success. Since the very beginning, she has been inspired by the idea that she would have to work somewhat harder than others to overcome being different if she wanted to amount to anything. If her career so far is a thing to judge by, this motivation certainly did its job.
4. Danica Patrick
As of today, NASCAR can boast of having one of the most well-known female drivers among its ranks — Danica Patrick. She inherited a passion for cars and driving from her parents: her mother was a mechanic while her father actively took part in various racing activities. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Danica Patrick has already managed to leave a huge mark in the history of female racing. She was the fourth woman to participate in the Indianapolis 500, but there are a lot of firsts as well: after winning in the Indy Japan 300 in 2008, she became the first woman to finish first in an Indy race. In 2013, during the Sprint Cup series, she became the first woman to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup pole and the second woman after Janet Gunthrie to have competed both in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500.
As a result of relentless work on the part of both NASCAR organizers and a number of talented and hardworking women, the sport slowly but steadily is becoming more diversified. It is no longer a surprise to see women driving the top fastest cars. There are already many more names on the list of female NASCAR drivers and there are going to be many more in the years to come, which is an inspiring and gratifying thing to see.
These female NASCAR drivers deserve respect for their talent and courage. They all make great examples to follow!
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