Janet Guthrie: Paving the Way - Why We Watch


Three Women at Indy. Pioneering Guthrie says Winning would Help Acceptance
To write Janet or send something to be autographed, send mail to: Guthrie Racing LLC, P.O. Box 505, Aspen, CO 81612 or GRLLCwebsite@cs.com or www.janetguthrie.com
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Janet, whose 1977 Indy 500 was the first for a woman, says Patrick is the race's first woman "with top-notch equipment and the full backing of a good racing team."

Before becoming the first woman ever to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, Janet Guthrie had a diversified background. She was a pilot and flight instructor, an aerospace engineer, a technical editor, and a public representative for some of the country's major corporations. She had 13 years of experience on sports car road-racing circuits, building and maintaining her own race cars, before being invited to test a car for Indianapolis.

She was born in Iowa City, Iowa, on March 7, 1938. Her family moved to Miami, Florida when she was three. She attended Miss Harris' Florida School for Girls for all but one of her elementary through high-school years, then graduated from the University of Michigan in 1960 with a B.Sc. in physics. She joined Republic Aviation in Farmingdale, New York, as a research and development engineer, working on programs that were precursors to Project Apollo. In 1964, she applied for the first Scientist-Astronaut program, and got through the first round of eliminations. She treasures a letter from astronaut Deke Slayton, a memento of that attempt.

Meanwhile, she had purchased a Jaguar XK 120 coupe, and began competing in gymkhanas, field trials and hill climbs. This led to the purchase of a Jaguar XK 140 for competition in Sports Car Club of America races. Her career in physics slowly yielded to the allure of sports car racing, and by 1972 she was involved in racing on a full-time basis. Along the way, she posted two class victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Her big break at the top level of the sport came in 1976, when long-time team owner and car builder Rolla Vollstedt invited her to test a car for the Indianapolis 500. That year, she also became the first woman to compete in a NASCAR Winston Cup superspeedway stock car race. In 1977, she became the first woman to qualify for and compete in the Indianapolis 500; she was also first woman and Top Rookie at the Daytona 500 in the same year. She finished ninth in the Indianapolis 500 in 1978.

Janet Guthrie's helmet and driver's suit are in the Smithsonian Institution, and she was one of the first athletes named to the Women's Sports Hall of Fame. She is listed in "Who's Who." She does extensive platform and keynote speaking. Among her television credits are "James Michener's Sports in America" and over a dozen appearances on "Good Morning America." She married in 1989, and her husband has long supported her recently completed book about her racing experiences.

Ninth, Indianapolis 500, 1978, out of 92 entrants, 33 starters


  • born on March 7, 1938 in Iowa City, Iowa as the eldest of five children
  • her father, William Lain Guthrie was a pilot
  • she attended Miss Harris' Florida School for girls in Miami
  • she first flew a plane when she was 13
  • first flew solo at age 16
  • earned her pilot's license at age 17
  • by the age of 21 she was capable of flying more than 20 types of aircrafts
  • she received a bachelor's degree in physics in 1960 at the University of Michigan
  • for the next seven years she worked in aerospace research and engineer for Republic Aviation Corporation in Farmingdale, Long Island
  • in 1965 NASA considering making her an astronaut. She was one of four women who passed NASA's first tests but was eliminated because she didn't have a Ph. D. degree.
  • she began racing in 1961 and high speed racing in 1963
  • in 1967 she quit her job at RAC and until 1971 she worked as one of the Macmillan Ring-Free Motor Maids
  • with her co-drivers they finished 31st in the 24 hour endurance race at Daytona in 1966
  • in 1975 she started work for Toyota as a consumer information specialist
  • first women to qualify for a major American automobile race, the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
  • she raced a 1975 Chevrolet Laguna provided by Lynda Ferrari and finished 15th in the World 600 in May 1976
  • competed regularly on the Winston Cup circuit
  • posted 10 top-12 finishes in 1977
  • Finished 9th in the Indy 500 in 1978. She was at the disadvantage because she raced with a broken wrist and had to reach across the cockpit to shift gears
  • first time since 1949 that three women competed in a race together: Janet Guthrie, Lella Lombardi, and Christine Beckers
  • had 33 career starts including 19 in her rookie season (1977) driving the Kelly Girl sponsored Chevrolet Laguna owned by Lynda Ferrari
  • she outqualified Bill Elliot, Ricky Rudd, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Neil Bonnett and Johnny Rutherford for the Talladega 500 in August of 1977
  • she qualifed and/or finished ahead of Bill Elliott in 7 out of 10 races they ran together
  • she qualifed and/or finished ahead of Dale Earnhard in 2 out of 3 races they ran together
  • she qualifed and/or finished ahead of Johnny Rutherford in 3 out of 3 races they ran together
  • she was the first woman to qualify for the Daytona 500 finishing 11 and 12 (1980, 1977 respectively)
  • she also lead the Times 500 in Ontario California in November 1977
  • in 1977 she qualified as the first woman in the Indianapolis 500
  • inducted into the Women's Sports Hall of Fame in 1980
  • currently lives in Aspen Colorado

Source: ca.geocities.com/womeninnascar/janetguthrie.html


Guthrie congratulates Patrick on Daytona pole

Danica Patrick has found more than the success that eluded Janet Guthrie in her brief NASCAR stint.

Patrick also has the acceptance in the garage that Guthrie never did.

Guthrie struggled in an era when women were still viewed in stock car racing as unwanted outsiders. Guthrie, the first woman to race in NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 in 1976, received an icy reception from the sport's biggest drivers as she tried to build her career.

It was in stark contrast to the scene on pit road moments after Patrick clinched her Daytona 500 pole - with a hug from Tony Stewart and a handshake from Jeff Gordon

Guthrie congratulated Patrick on Sunday for becoming the first woman to win the top spot for any race in NASCAR's top circuit. But Guthrie was more proud of the way NASCAR's attitude toward women has evolved over the last 30 years. Guthrie was heartened at seeing a women succeed in a man's world.

"It took time for that attitude to change, but it did change,'' Guthrie told The Associated Press by phone Sunday. "That was one of my biggest pleasures was seeing that attitude change.''

Guthrie was the previous best female qualifier in a Cup race. She started ninth at Bristol and Talladega in 1977.

She was the first woman to drive in the Indianapolis 500 in 1977, that same year she became the first to run in the Daytona 500. A ninth-place finish at Indy in 1978 stood as the best by a woman until Patrick finished fourth in 2005, then third in 2009.

"I'm ancient history,'' Guthrie said, from Colorado. "It's about time my little record got broken.''

She raced in a decade well before a female driver could pose for bikini shoots or star in a Super Bowl commercial. Women were largely unwelcome in the men's club of racing, leaving competitive rides and scant sponsorship dollars at a premium. Guthrie fought for those spots, and then had to prove her mettle in the car, even if acceptance into the driving fraternity never came.

In her book, "Janet Guthrie: A Life at Full Throttle,'' Guthrie recounted the reception she received from other drivers when she came to Lowe's for the 1976 race.

"When I shook hands with Richard Petty, I thought I'd get frostbite,'' she wrote. "Later, he would be quoted as saying of me: `She's no lady. If she was, she'd be at home. There's a lot of differences in being a lady and being a woman.'''

Petty, a seven-time NASCAR champion and Hall of Famer, called Patrick's triumph, "a big deal for NASCAR.''

"From that standpoint, it's a good deal,'' he said. "She can bring a lot of attention and hopefully we can all gain some new people watching. We have a big stage to play on next week and this helps set it all up.''

Petty did not congratulate Patrick in the statement.

Gordon said NASCAR was one of many sports where views toward women and minorities have grown over the decades.

"It's not about the color of your skin or your gender, it's about your abilities,'' Gordon said. "You have to prove that. I think Danica's a talented race car driver.''

Guthrie raced in 33 Cup races and made 11 IndyCar stars over five years. And while she said her racing career was mostly viewed with "absolute heresy'' by men, she did have her backers. Well, as long as she kept them quiet.

"I soon learned not to acknowledge them publicly, because if I thanked them, and that got into the newspaper, the next day they wouldn't speak to me,'' she said. "It was a completely different thing. Danica's been driving NASCAR for three years or something like that. All the guys know how she drives by now and that's 95 percent of the battle right there.''

The next step is sparking the desire to race in other little girls. The new generation never followed Guthrie. She was skeptical Patrick could usher in a generation of female racers.

"There's so many talented women drivers out there that do not have access to the kind of machinery that Danica has,'' he said. "I think if they had top-notch equipment, they might be capable of doing the same type of thing.''
Source: sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2013/racing/wires/02/17/3010.ap.car.daytona.500.guthrie.patrick.1st.ld.writethru.0914/index.html?eref=si_motorsports#

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