International Women’s Day March 8: Guthrie The Speed Queen

Written by on March 7, 2018

Janet Guthrie [ born March 7th, 1938, in Iowa, USA ] is a retired professional racing driver and the first woman to qualify and compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500.

She began racing in 1963 on the SCCA circuit in a Jaguar XK 140 and by 1972, she was racing on a full-time basis.

In the 1976 World 600, Guthrie finished 15th, becoming the first woman to compete in a NASCAR  Winston Cup Superspeedway race. Guthrie would go on to compete in four more races that season. The following season, she competed in her first Daytona 500, finishing 12th when her car’s engine blew two cylinders with ten laps to go. For the race, though, she still earned the honour of Top Rookie. Overall, Guthrie went on to compete in 33 races in NASCAR over four seasons.

Guthrie qualified for and competed in the 1977 Indie 500 but finished 29th with engine troubles. She would compete in two more Indy 500s, finishing ninth in the 1978 race . Overall, she competed in 11 Indy car events with a best finish of fifth. During her unsuccessful bid to qualify for the 1976 race, many of the drivers in the male-dominated sport stated that the reason she did not qualify was mainly due to her gender. These comments angered then three-time champion A.J.Foyt to the point he lent Guthrie a back-up car to conduct a shake-down test.

Her top practice lap in Foyt’s car would have been adequate to qualify for the field.

Sadly, largely because of her gender, she was unable to obtain funding through corporate sponsorship, and was forced into retirement.

Nevertheless, Guthrie’s place in history was secure. In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Guthrie’s name and picture. Her helmet and race suit can be found in the Smithsonian Institution and Guthrie was one of the first elected to the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.

She was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame on April 27, 2006. 

Janet Guthrie in her halcyon days.

Image result for janet guthrie images

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