Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
There is no secret that NASCAR is still predominately a “Boys’ Club.” It's simply a matter of fact that although women have raced since cars have been invented, they have had far less success making a career out of driving a racecar.
With women like Sara Christian, Ethel Mobley, Louise Smith, Janet Guthrie, Patty Moise and Shawna Robinson doing their best in their respective generations to break the glass ceiling that suppressed their opportunities, NASCAR’s history is paved with feminine frustrations.
Currently NASCAR is sprinkled with women who are standing on the shoulders of those who came before them. These lady racers are doing their best to erase the term “lady” in front of their description and trying desperately to be thought of simply as “racer."
Most notably Danica Patrick, a controversial figure who is wildly popular with men and women alike for her advertising talents and perhaps less so for her actions on the track, is a woman in NASCAR who is earning more than any other woman to date. While Patrick’s NASCAR career started out lackluster at best in 2012, she is already making a huge splash in 2013 by earning the pole at the Daytona 500 and finishing eighth.
All sorts of comments were made about Patrick, ranging from great support for making tremendous strides to conspiracy theories intimating she was given the pole. At the conclusion of the race more mumblings began about Patrick not making the correct move which could have landed her a win.
All I know is the driver earned an eighth place at her second Daytona 500. As a former open wheel racer with not a lot of seat time in a stock car, her accomplishment is huge and should not be taken lightly. I have no doubt that throngs of other NASCAR drivers would give their eyetooth to say they earned a top 10 in The Great American Race.
Patrick struggled a bit during qualifying at Phoenix. She started the race in 40th position and finished the day in 39th. After two races Patrick is 22nd in points. But the season is long.
Johanna Long runs in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. She is known as the “anti-Danica Patrick,” a most ridiculous label that was ever coined. Nobody runs around calling another driver the “anti-Jimmie Johnson” or the “anti-Greg Biffle," or even the “anti-Kyle Busch.” It’s ludicrous and needs to be stopped immediately.
Long is a racer in her own right. She has a good resume that landed her first in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and now in the NNS. Running for ML Motorsports, Long works hard for every lap running in equipment that is good, but obviously not as competitive as other teams’.
At times Long’s inexperience shows, most recently at the NNS race at Phoenix run on Saturday. Within the first laps she got into Sam Hornish Jr. and ended her day in a frustrating way earning her no friend in the latter. But Long seemed undeterred in her determination to get back to racing “next week." She gave her perfunctory apology and put her aim to the future, which is no different than any other driver. What is different is the way her fellow competitors view her and react to her. There still appears to be a prejudice that exists simply because she is a woman. But, then again, maybe that was just because it was the heat of the moment.
Another woman who has been in NASCAR for years is Jennifer Jo Cobb, a woman who not only drives in the NCWTS but also fields her own team. Cobb has had a modicum of success, a strong and loyal following, but no real chance to beat her competition due to lack of funds.
Under the current economic climate with sponsorship dollars so scarce that even Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. is sponsor-less for a few races in 2013, it is difficult to point to Cobb’s gender as the reason she struggles in NASCAR.
What is crystal clear, however, is that no matter how many bad luck scenarios Cobb encounters and endures, she is optimistic and steadfast in her career.
It’s not easy, she assures me, but Cobb explains, “There are times when I want to give up but my team lifts my spirits and won’t allow it. And then there are times my team gets low and I have to rally them. We are like a great married couple, we never want to give up at the same time thus we continually keep each other motivated.”
The field of competition in NASCAR is still heavily male-dominated. The positive for women is that the ladies in the field are finally moving in the right direction. And hopefully, in the not too distant future, more women will populate the NASCAR field.
In the meantime, the women in NASCAR who refuse to give up are yet more reasons why I love NASCAR.
Chief 187™ is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187™Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.