Friday, November 20, 2009

Women of Nascar: Past and Present



Ladies, Start Your Engines:

As I explored the subject of Women in Nascar, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's not unusual. Women have been competing in auto racing since the 1940's, and with great success. Acceptance within the different organizations was not without criticism. Having to fight against the preconceived notion that women do not belong on any track or in any vehicle moving at a high rate of speed.

It was at the first official Nascar sanctioned competition in the late 1940's that we were first introduced to three female drivers. These women would be racing modifieds and participating in more than 50 races throughout their careers. Their names, Sara Christian, Louise Smith, and Ethel Flock(Mobley) Combined these 3 women won 20 races in the late 40's.

Louise Smith, a longtime residence of Barnsville, GA. began her NASCAR career with help from the young promoter, Bill France. Mrs. Smith was married to the owner of a junkyard, Noah Smith. Although her husband did not approve of her career choice, he couldn't slow her down. Driving fast was her passion, often being dubbed as a "Hot Shot Driver". She would race anyone she came up against without question.

Louise Smith found her passion racing stock cars. In her career she alone won just under 40 modified events. She had the tendency to be a very aggressive driver and was also known for her breathtaking crashes; Having suffered broken bones in every part of her body at one time or another. It was a race Hillsborough that almost took her life. She had almost 50 stitches not to mention pins in one of her knees. She had been learning how to broadslide her car on dirt-tracks, when on one of the turns she actually went airborne, causing her to roll.

Mrs. Smith traveled to watch the Daytona beach races in 1947. She drove her the families new Ford Coupe for the trip. Upon arrival to the competition, Louise decided to enter the race herself. This was, in Benny Parson's words "The greatest story of all". She ended up wrecking the new car.. Her husband had seen the story in the local paper before she returned home. When asked where the car was , her response was "That 'ol trap broke down in Augusta, Ga." Parsons went on to say "He(Louise's husband) showed her the newspaper, the wrecked car was on the front page."

As the first woman to be inducted in the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame, Louise Smith made a major impact in Nascar. In an interview in 1998 with The Associated Press she was quoted having said "It was hard on me. Them men were not liking it to start with and they wouldn't give you an inch".

After a career that spanned from the mid 1940's through the mid 1950's, Louise Smith put in a decade as a grand patron at Darlington Raceway. She retired in November of 1989. She was quoted by the Associated Press for having said "It's still hard for me to leave a race track, I could stay for ever.'

"The First Lady of Nascar" died on March 4, 2006 at the age of 89 from cancer.

Thanks to the website of:
http:/motorsportshalloffame.com/halloffame/1999/Louise_Smith and
Wikipedia.org

Photo contributed by:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/fordracinginsidetheoval/3471357480/

Photograph of Louise Smith with her wrecked car from the following websites:
http:/www.legendsofnascar.com/louise_smith/html
This was the car that she rolled in 1947 at Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsborough, NC

All opinions are of this writers and not that of Skirts and Scuffs or its contributors

4 comments :

Thanks for this great post Lindi! Loving this column! Can't wait to read more.

She sounds really interesting. It's a shame that none of us got the chance to meet her!

Lindi, fantastic post. Smith sounds so interesting -- sounds like she could keep up with any of the drivers in NASCAR today! Looking forward to reading more. Love the idea for your column.

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