The Daytona 500 is the biggest sporting event of the NASCAR season. Among its share of star drivers, there have been many women drivers as well. On this International Women’s Day, we look at the trailblazer for women in the Great American Race.
In 1977, Janet Guthrie made history by becoming the first female driver to qualify and compete at the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500. She did it while driving for team Lynda Ferreri and was sponsored by Kelly Girl.
In the same year, Guthrie was the top debutant at the Daytona 500 while she finished 9th at the Indianapolis 500 in 1978. She entered 19 Winston Cup Series races, successfully qualifying for all 19.
Janet Guthrie was born on March 7, 1938 in Iowa City. Before entering the world of auto racing, Guthrie was a pilot, flight instructor, aerospace engineer, technical editor, and public representative for some of America’s major corporations.
During her early career in racing, Guthrie said:
“I had become even more deeply involved in racing. Racing had pretty much taken over my life. It was becoming the next great adventure.”
In 1976, she was invited by team owner and car builder Rolla Vollstedt to test their car for the Indianapolis 500, which proved to be a big break for her at the top level of the sport. That same year, she also became the first woman to participate in the NASCAR Winston Cup Superspeedway.
Post her racing career, she has been an outspoken activist against sexism in NASCAR and sports as a whole. Her achievements in motorsports saw her being included in the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2019.
A look at Janet Guthrie’s rundown in her NASCAR rookie season
Here are some of Janet Guthrie’s finishes in her first NASCAR season:
- · Daytona 500: She was running in 8th place about 10 laps from the end when her engine lost two cylinders. She finished in 12th position and was the top rookie.
- · Richmond 400: She qualified 13th and finished 12th.
- · Southeastern 500: Finished 11th
- · Winston 500: She qualified 13th and finished 9th.
- · CAM2 400: Qualified 12th and finished 26th.
- · Firecracker 400: Broken crankshaft on 11th lap.
- · Nashville 420: Qualified and finished 15th.
- · Coca-Cola 500: Qualified 10th and finished 11th after spinning on a flat tire.
- · Talladega 500: Qualified 9th and in turn 1 of the first lap, another car’s driveshaft came through her windshield. After replacing it, the engine exploded.
- · Champion Spark Plug 400: She finished in the top-10 for the first time.