Drivers in all NASCAR Series have been predominantly male throughout its history. The same fact applies to most forms of Motor Sport Racing. If you look at the line up on the grid you will see lists of mens names, in the programme there will be biographies of male drivers, . So have there been any female drivers in NASCAR. The answer may be surprising.
There have been 124 Female NASCAR drivers across the major tiers of the motorsport. NASCAR Cup has seen 16 women drivers start a race. The most prolific female driver is Danica Patrick with 191 NASCAR cup starts, however there has been steady female representation in Xfinity, Truck and ARCA NASCAR events.
NASCAR. despite its reputations as a male dominated motorsport, turns out to be one of the most woke of the Motor racing Industry, certainly much, much more than formula 1!! Which we will explore later. However seeing as NASCAR has had over 120 Female drivers in its history let’s take a look the women in NASCAR in more detail and see how many female NASCAR drivers there have been.
Female drivers in NASCAR History
There have been 124 and counting women drivers in NASCAR. Way more than other forms of racing and the number continues to grow. So far from the male dominated sport reputation NASCAR is an inclusive, albeit underrepresented, form of motor racing. The table below highlights some of the achievements that female NASCAR drivers have had in NASCAR history.
|Notable NASCAR Achievement||Nascar Driver Name||Notes|
|First Women to Race in NASCAR Race||Sara Christian||Competed in the inaugural race, and was joined in the next race by two other women, Ethel Mobley and Louise Smith. Mobley finished in 11th!|
|First Woman to win Pole Position in NASCAR Nationwide||Shawna Robinson||In 1994, Shawna Robinson won the first pole position by a female driver in NASCAR at the I-95 Speedway. She also repeated the feat twice more.|
|How many women have competed in the NASCAR cup||16 Female Drivers – Full list here.||The top tier of NASCAR, the cup series, has had 16 Female NASCAR drivers in its history.|
|First Female to win Pole Position at Daytona 500||Danica Patrick||In 2013 Danica Patrick put in the fastest qualification lap to win pole position at the Daytona 500.|
|How many female drivers have raced in the Daytona 500||Janet Guthrie|
|Only 3 women drivers have raced in the Daytona 500.|
|How many female drivers have won Nascar races||Shawna Robinson, Hailie Deegan, Manami Kobayashi, and Gracie Trotter||Five female NASCAR drivers have won NASCAR series, none in the top tier as of yet, but in K&N, ARCA and Whelen|
|The most successful female Nascar driver||Danica Patrick||With 7 Top ten finishes, a pole at Daytona makes her, so far, the most successful female NASCAR driver|
|Most NASCAR cup starts||Danica Patrick||Danica had 191 starts in the top tier of NASCAR with a best points finish of 24th.|
Why are There Not Many Female Nascar Drivers?
There are many many reasons that less girls and women become involved in motorsports, which may reduce the number of female NASCAR drivers, these can include:
- Stereotypical attitudes to what are male and female sports: Parents may be willing to include their sons in a start in go-karting but less so their daughters.
- Low numbers of women entering go karting. It has improved but where it used to be 1 in 1000 children entering go-karting where female it is now 3 in 1000. This needs to increases dramatically to give a large pool of female talent to choose from. There are female classes in autocross however
- Role Models: There are a few female NASCAR driver role models, and more coming through. If this number increases it can help other younger female drivers to aim to emulate their achievements.
- Motorsport is too tough for girls: There is still an attitude that motorsports, especially at elite levels is too physically demanding for girls. Although this is incorrect it disaudes many girls from entering Motorsports at a young age.
- Looked on a novelty it is unfortunate, and frankly outdated, but there may be a focus on looks over merit.
How to Encourage More Women into MotorSport.
There have been multiple suggestions on how to increase female participation in NASCAR and all motorsport. Some of the top female NASCAR drivers have had their say here.
The suggestions that appealed to us here were:
- The introduction of female karting leagues, not because boys are better, but to take away the novelty of a female racer, and to be able to talent spot female racing. Bernie Ecclestone actually suggested a female F1 series, but starting lower down at the developmental stage may help bring more women into the sport.
- Encourage / Support more parents to allow their daughters to enter karting, its not just for the boys
- More focus on the female drivers as role models. Although there may be much less than their male counterparts, there are still plenty who could receive more attention than they do or have. Feel free to google Michelle Mouton, Danica Patrick, Susie Wolf to find out more.
- Introduce more opportunities not just inside the cockpit or drivers seat but outside of it too. THe managing boards of these motorsports, NASCAR, F1 and the rest are made up almost entirely of men. Introduce a little diversity and changes can be led from the top, rather than just from the bottom.
You can read more on why women may find it difficult to enter motorsport here.
Female Drivers in all NASCAR Tiers.
As mentioned there have been over 124 female drivers across all divisions of NASCAR. We break that down a little below.
NASCAR Cup Series: There have been 16 female NASCAR drivers in the top tier of the sport since it began. The most successful of these, in modern times, is Danica Patrick, with 191 starts and 7 top 10 finishes. Including a pole position in the Daytona 500 in 2013. She also raced in IndyCar before this and made a return after NASCAR
NASCAR Xfinity Series: Patty Moise is the queen of the 26 women NASCAR drivers who have driven in Xfinity NASCAR series, at least in terms of appearances. However Danica Patrick has 7 top ten finishes in Xfinity to go along with her 7 Top ten finishes in the cup series.
NASCAR Truck Series: Jennifer Cobb has had 230 starts in the Camping world truck Series and is still driving. However natalie Decker has had the higher place finish (in the top 5)
NASCAR ARCA Series: the Arca (both East and West) has had over 56 female NASCAR drivers. Kenzie Rushton has had the most success here. Where Nicole Bahar and Halie Deegan has had the most appearances and success in The ARCA West.
|Female NASCAR Driver Facts||Cup Series||Xfinity||Truck||ARCA (East)||ARCA (West)|
|Number of female drivers||16||26||29||24||32|
|Most Races by a female driver||191- Danica Patrick||133 – Patty Moise||230+ Jennifer Jo Cobb||Kenzie Rushton||Nicole Bahar|
|Most Top Ten Finishes||7 – Danica Patrick||7 – Danica Patrick||Natalie Decker (top 5)||Kenzie Rushton||Halie Deegan (3 wins, 23 top Tens)|
(Stats taken from Wiki page. Some drivers progressed up tiers of nascar)
Female Drivers in Other Motorsports.
Other motorsports are much less representative than NASCAR. Even though female participation as whole in motorsport is rare, in other global motor racing events it becomes much more apparent with some sports unable to field more than single figures of female drivers throughout their history .
World Rally Championship: Rally has had 28 female drivers. Including Michelle Mouton who competed in 50 rally races, winning four, and coming runner up in the 1982 drivers championship. Natalie Barratt has raced in 44 rally championship races but has not seen the same success as Michelle Mouton.
Indy 500: Indy 50 fares better than formula 1 in numbers of female drivers, it has had 10 women drivers start races in its history. Sarah Fisher has had the most starts but Danica Patrick who has also raced extensively in NASCAR has had the most success in Indycar with 6 top ten finishes.
Formula 1: Formula 1 has had only 5 women drivers in its 70 plus year history and only one of these drivers had more than 10 starts, with 3 of the five not starting a race. Lella Lombardi raced in 12 races between 1974 and 1976. The other drivers are Giovanna Amati, Desire Wilson, Divina Galica and Maria Teresa de Filippis (who started 3 races)
All NASCAR is doing much better in terms of sheer numbers of female drivers there is still clearly room for improvement. Motor racing in general in massively dominated by male drivers, pit crews and teams.
The issue although obvious at the top elite levels of NASCAR actually comes from much earlier on in racing careers. There are less women and girls becoming involved in Motorsport than men. We have highlighted some of the reasons for this above.
Hopefully as we move forward in the next decade these issues can be addressed and we can start seeing more female drivers in NASCAR and all other motorsports