The very early days of NASCAR (1949) had names such as Louise Smith and Ethel Mobley. In 1965, Shirley Muldowney was the first woman licensed by NHRA to drive a gasoline-burning dragster capable of speeds over 150 mph in the quarter-mile. In 1977 Janet Guthrie was the first woman to earn a starting spot in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 (where she was top rookie). Ladies have been making their mark in the Motorsports industry for decades.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Carolyn Melendy. (Read about Carolyn Melendy here: www.competitionplus.com She is considered the first lady of Pro Modified racing, having been involved in the class since the 1990s. At the time it was male dominated, and she recalled that no one wanted to line up next to her to race. The issue to her male counterparts was that they felt she did not have the skill to drive a Pro Mod car. Finally, Bill Kuhlmann (a pioneer in the Pro Mod movement), decided to line up next to her, thinking he would have her by many car lengths. The conclusion was that he was sadly mistaken. Although Carolyn did not win the race, she was right with him all the way. It was there that she began to legitimize herself in the Pro Mod world and consequently open the door for women like me. I’m thankful for that. And on a side note, I would like to mention Annette Summer and Carol Long, two ladies in Pro Mod that I also feel may not get the recognition they deserve. Or even Bunny Burkett (IHRA Funny Car Driver and World Champion) for that matter. Ladies much like me that work hard at their craft without the accolades. True racers. And at the heart of it, that is what we are; racers, drivers and competitors.