How many female NASCAR drivers can you name?
Here’s a list of ladies who shaped NASCAR into what it is today.
NASCAR may be a male-dominated sport, but from its inception onwards this league of racers has had women behind the wheel.
These women shaped the sport into what it is today and remain a big part of motorsport for a reason. Here are eight women in NASCAR history and how they changed racing as we know it.
Sara Christian was the first woman driver in NASCAR. Christian participated in the first NASCAR race hosted at the Charlotte Speedway in June 1949. By the time her second race came around, Christian was driving amongst 28 other drivers, 2 of them being women. At Langhorne Speedway in 1949, Christian would become the first woman to earn a Top 10 Finish. She truly set the standard for women in NASCAR and did it quickly, as she retired from racing in 1950.
Ethel, named after the gasoline her father used in his car, was tied for the second female NASCAR driver alongside Louise Smith in 1949. Ethel, raised in a racing family, participated in over 100 NASCAR events including one in Georgia where she was the first woman to race against men within that state. By the end of her career, Ethel was the top woman driver in the Southeastern United States.
Louise Smith, tied for second female NASCAR driver alongside Ethel, became known as “The First Lady of Racing.” Her racing career started as a spectator and transformed into 38 wins in various NASCAR formats including sportsman, late models, midgets, and modified. After her career of racing ended, she continued to support racers as a car owner. Smith was the first woman inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999.
If you’ve heard of a female NASCAR driver besides Danica Patrick, you’ve probably heard of Janet Guthrie.
She made her NASCAR debut in the 1976 World 600 finishing in 15th place ahead of Dale Earnhardt. Guthrie is known for being the first woman to ever qualify for both the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500 races. During her time as a driver, men in NASCAR discounted her because of her gender, but she came back to the track again and again. With 11 Indy races under her belt, Guthrie completed a total of 33 races in her 4-year career with 5 Top 10 Finishes. After retirement, Guthrie was elected into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and became the 5th woman ever inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.
Moise began her racing career at the age of 16 but debuted at her first NASCAR race at the 1986 Busch Series behind the wheel of a Buick. She became the first woman to lead a Busch Series and continued her career by starting her own team and competing in Cup races including the Daytona 500 and Talladega. After selling her team, Moise raced under Mike Laughlin and started 24 starts, the most of her career. By 1994, she drove under Doug Taylor, placing 7th at Talladega in the No. 40 Ford. Overall, she competed in 133 Busch Series races and 5 Winston Cup races during her career. Though rarely mentioned, Patty Moise raced one of the longest stints in NASCAR of all women drivers.
Shawna Robinson raced throughout her childhood and started her career in semi-tractor competitions. With 30 victories behind the wheel, Robinson moved up into the Truck Series. In 1984, she would become the GATR Truck Series championship’s Rookie of the Year. By 1988, Robinson competed in stock car racing where she became the first woman to win a top-level NASCAR sanctioned race in her first year.
Racing in the 1988 Charlotte/Daytona Dash Series, she became the first woman to win a NASCAR touring series, while also collecting “Rookie of the Year” and “Most Popular Driver” awards along the way. She would compete in the Busch Series starting in 1991, now known as the Xfinity Series, and land herself a pole position within the series in 1994. Between 1995 and 2001, Robinson would take time off to be with her family, she raced NASCAR again from 2001 to 2005 before retiring for good. Though Robinson achieved much more than was expected of her, she struggled to win the approval of the drivers in the garage but maintained a strong fan base.
Danica Patrick is the most well-known female driver in racing. Her career started in IndyCars, where she had one win, 7 podiums, and three poles. In 2010, Patrick would make the switch to stock car racing where she had several setbacks as a rookie. In 2011, she became the highest-finishing woman in national NASCAR history at the Sam’s Town 300, only racing stock cars part-time. Patrick started in the Sprint Cup Series in 2012 behind the wheel of the No. 10 Chevrolet Impala. During this season, she would finish with 4 Top 10 Finishes and land in 10th place overall in points.
In the 2013 season, Patrick clinched the pole position in the Daytona 500 making her the first woman to do so in history, as well as the first woman to claim a pole position in the Sprint Cup Series. 2015 was a big year for Patrick as she surpassed legendary Janet Guthrie for the most top ten finishes by a woman in the Sprint Cup Series history and became the first woman to start 100 races in Cup Series races. Her final Daytona 500 race was spent behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Camaro sponsored by GoDaddy. Though she had no wins in 2018, Patrick competed in 191 races and inspired women and young girls everywhere to take up motorsports.
Last but not least, is Julia Landauer who started at the age of 10 go-karting and chased the checkered flags all the way to NASCAR. The Bill McNally Racing Team scooped Landauer up after seeing her potential while driving late models and Legends cars. In 2016, Landauer became the first woman champion of the All-American Series-sanctioned Limited Late Model track championship. At the K&N Pro Series West, driving the No. 54 Toyota Camry, she secured 7 Top 5 Finishes and 13 Top 10 Finishes in 14 races. She was awarded the 2016 Driver Achievement Award and earned the series’ Top Breakthrough Driver title. She was also invited to become a part of the NASCAR Next program, where she was the only female out of 16 drivers in 2016. In 2017, she was named one of the 30 under 30 in Sports. Needless to say, Julia continues to break the barriers of what it means to be a woman in racing.
Since these ladies sat behind the wheel, more and more women are taking the stage to race in motorsports. Without these women, NASCAR wouldn’t be where it is today. Women, like Hailie Deegan, Angela Ruch, and Natalie Decker continue to step forward to continue the tradition.
“I’ve always loved racing, winning, and working with great teams. It’s also very cool that racing is co-ed, allowing women to compete with men. I like to remember that the car doesn’t know if the driver is a man or woman and it’s my job to go be the best. I’m thrilled to see more and more girls and women get involved in racing, both on the driving side and on the garage side.” — Julia Landauer
Who is your favorite female NASCAR driver?