Although race car driving has been traditionally viewed as a man’s sport, there are quite a number of women who are currently wowing the fans on the NASCAR race track and even the successful start of NASCAR can be traced to a woman. In 1946, just three years before he established NASCAR, Bill France Sr. needed a fresh face to endorse the legendary race at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, South Carolina. A man of great taste he selected a beautiful and brave lady, Louise Smith, despite the fact that she had never set foot on a racetrack or even flirted with a race car.
His decision was based on town gossip. Smith was alleged to have “outrun every lawman and highway patrol” in the area. They branded her “crazy”. Although Smith was only selected as a promotional means for that race, she went on to score over 38 minor-league victories over an 11-year span. In 1999, Smith was inaugurated into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and she opened up the seats to budding female drivers.
Over sixty years later, female drivers are competing for recognition and respect on the track. Danica Patrick, Johanna Long and the Cope twins Amber and Angela are some popular names in NASCAR’s development program.
The famous driver/model Danica Sue Patrick, has proven that beauty, bravery and brains are all just part of the package. Just 29 years old she set a record for the best finish by a woman in a NASCAR top- circuit race. In March 2011 Patrick was the first woman to lead a lap at Daytona International Speedway. She finished 4th in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Although Patrick has enjoyed the majority of the media, several other women have also been racing under the NASCAR radar, breaking records for women.
At the age of eight, Johanna Long was a go-kart racer. She went on to compete in legend cars by age twelve. In 2008, at just sixteen she won the Gulf Coast Championship as well as the late model track championship at Five Flags Speedway in her native Pensacola, Florida. Her entrance into NASCAR was paved by Long’s participation in the ASA Late Model Series, Pro Late Model, and ARCA.
Jennifer Jo Cobb is another race car sensation. Both a team owner and driver in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series and driver for 2nd Chance Motorsports in the Nationwide Series, Jennifer was the record holder for earning a sixth-place finish in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 in Daytona, the highest finish for a woman in the Camping World Truck Series.
Go girls go!