Women in Sports: Auto Racing

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff
  • The first all-women auto race took place in 1909. It was a roundtrip race from New York City to Philadelphia. There were 12 competitors. The Woman's Motoring Club cup went to Alice DiHeyes of New Jersey; she drove a Cadillac with four female passengers.
  • Maria-Teresa de Filippis of Italy was the first woman to compete in a European Grand Prix auto race, which she did in 1958.
  • The first girl to win the All-American Soap Box Derby was Karren Stead, of Lower Bucks, Pa., who won in 1975 at age 11. Since then 18 other girls have won at the world championships including Danielle Del Ferrao who in 1994 became the first person, boy or girl, to win twice.
  • Shirley “Cha-Cha” Muldowney became the first female licensed drag car racer in the United States in 1975 and was the first woman to drive a quarter of a mile in under six seconds. She won the Top Fuel segment of the NHRA's Winston Drag Racing Series in 1977, 80 and 82, becoming the first person, male or female, to win it three times.
  • The first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500 auto race was Janet Guthrie in 1977.
  • In 2000, two women qualified for the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in history. Racing veteran Lyn St. James, making her seventh Indy start, and 19-year-old rookie Sarah Fisher coincidentally knocked each other out of the race when they crashed in lap 74.
  • Danica Patrick, the first woman to lead a lap in the Indy 500, was named the 2005 Rookie of the Year by the Indy Racing League. She came in fourth in the 2005 Indy 500.
  • In 2007, for the first time in Indy 500 history, three women, Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, and Sarah Fisher, qualified to race.
  • In 2008, Danica Patrick became the first woman to win an IndyCar race when she won the Japan Indy 300.
  • In 2012, Danica Patrick switched to the NASCAR racing circuit. The following year, she became the first woman to have the pole position at the Daytona 500. She finished 8th in that race.

Sources +