Past and Present: Females in NASCAR and Indy 500

FM Group RacingCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2008

Much has been made of the three women starting their engines in the 2008 Indianapolis 500—Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, and Milka Duno.

NASCAR had a female driver, Sara Christian, in its very first Strictly Stock Race at Charlotte on June 19, 1949.

Christian finished 14th of 33 starters with relief help from Bob Flock.

The second NASCAR Strictly Stock Race included three females on the Beach/Road course at Daytona. Ethel Mobley finished 11th, Christian 18th, and Louise Smith 20th of 28 starters.

Christian has the highest NASCAR Cup finish by a female—fifth at Heidelberg Speedway near Pittsburgh on Oct. 2, 1949. (She also finished sixth at Langhorne on Sept. 11, 1949).

There have been 15 females who have driven in a Cup race. The most successful was Janet Guthrie who led five laps at Ontario Speedway on Nov. 20, 1977 and had five top 10 finishes in 33 races from 1976-'80.

Guthrie was the first woman to compete in the Indy 500 in 1977; it took 66 years for a female to start an Indy 500. She ran Indy from 1977-'79 with a best finish of ninth in 1978, while she had a broken wrist.

Lynn St. James ran seven Indy 500s from 1992-'97 and 2000. Her best finish was 11th. Fisher ran six Indy 500s from 2000-'04 and '07. Her best finish was 18th.

Patrick ran three Indy 500s (2005-'07). Her best finish has been fourth. Duno ran Indy in 2007 and finished 31st.