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Fearless Women Who Pioneered Motor Sports
From Zero to 300 Meet the Women Who Pioneered Motor Sports While Danica Patrick and Courtney Force are well known as modern faces in motor sports, they’re far from the first women to cross the finish line. Since the early 1900s, women have been a constant fixture of automotive racing, including the following three who each left their marks on the sport. racing career in 1963. After taking home two class wins in the famed 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race, Guthrie became a well-known figure among racing gurus. In 1976, she became the first woman to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series when she finished 15th in the Coca-Cola 600, then called the World
600. To date, Guthrie’s storied career has landed her in the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and the Automotive Hall of Fame.
Shirley Muldowney Shirley Muldowney is professionally known in the drag racing community as “The First Lady of Drag Racing.” In 1973, she was the first woman to earn a Top Fuel license from the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and, despite backlash from competitors, went on to win the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series an unprecedented three times. Twentieth Century Fox documented her trials and accomplishments in the 1983 biopic “Heart Like a Wheel.” Muldowney famously loathed her own characterization but still lauded the film as required viewing for anyone interested in the sport of drag racing. Janet Guthrie Janet Guthrie had her sights set on the stars from day one. A skilled aerospace engineer, she began her
Dorothy Levitt Dorothy Levitt is known for her driving skills on both land and water, setting the first water speed record and an early women’s world land speed record. Her motor racing career started slow in 1904 due to illness and various car troubles, but Levitt eventually went on to garner a reputation for her speed and earn the nickname “The Fastest Girl on Earth.” When she wasn’t racing, she spent her time writing. In her book “The Woman and the Car,” Levitt recommended that women carry a small mirror with them for driving in traffic, effectively inventing the rearview mirror five years before it went into production.
If you want to learn more about these women and others in motor racing, pick up Todd McCarthy’s book “Fast Women: The Legendary Ladies of Racing.”
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