Courtsey of www.Tennessean.com
In a sport that continues to grow, auto racing also has seen an increase in female drivers. But the sport has yet to see a woman break into the top-tier NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on a regular basis.
While Danica Patrick, perhaps the most well-known of the female drivers, has run in three Nationwide Series this year — at Daytona, Fontana, Calif., and Las Vegas — most women are making their mark in the IndyCar Series and the National Hot Rod Association. That could be about to change.
“I think there’s a lot more girls now that have started a couple years back in stock car racing and starting to develop those techniques,” said Sarah Fisher, an IndyCar driver and owner of Sarah Fisher Racing. “Hopefully that will change in the future.”
Fisher and several other motor sports drivers and personalities were in Nashville on Wednesday for Dollar General’s Annual Race Day.
The NHRA currently has seven female drivers, such as Ashley Force Hood, one of the top funny-car drivers, and Melanie Troxel, who also competes in funny-car racing.
“I think it’s just an easier form of motor sports to progress in,” Top Fuel drag racer Bob Vandergriff Jr. said. “They get started in a slower category and work their way up to the professional categories. Drag racing is the most diverse form of motor sports. We have more women competing and more minorities, and we have women competing at the top levels and doing very well.”
Fisher has competed in the IndyCar Series since 1999, having been introduced to the sport at an early age.
“I started when I was 5 years old,” Fisher said. “I think a lot of little girls when they first start, they land a dream and want to be at the Indy 500, and they’ve seen folks like myself and Danica go after it.”
Five female drivers — Fisher, Patrick, Simona De Silvestro, Milka Duno and Ana Beatriz — currently race in IndyCar. Fisher is the first and only woman to own her own team and is the youngest owner in the series.
“I’m really happy in jumping off the cliff and starting my own race team,” Fisher said. “That was a really big commitment for me, and that’s an everyday commitment.”
“She’s done a great job,” said Brad Daugherty, a NASCAR analyst for ESPN. “I’ve followed her actually for the past decade. She’s obviously a very, very talented young lady. She’s been around awhile, so she’s not the new thing like Danica, but she’s obviously a heck of a race car driver. I’m sure there’s a lot of young ladies out there that admire her and aspire to have a career like hers.”
Being a female driver has its pluses and minuses, Sprint Cup driver Reed Sorenson said.
“Obviously, if you’re a girl in this sport it’s a little bit different for you,” Sorenson said. “You get a little bit more attention on you, which is good and bad. It’s good because you’re able to attract sponsors because you do have that extra attention on you, and it’s tough at the same time because you have so many people looking at you … expecting you to still meet the standards that everyone else has to.
“I think it’s cool to see a female in basically a man’s sport, trying to make it. It’s tough I’m sure, and obviously she’s doing a great job, and she’s still in the sport and still in the top league.”