Female NASCAR Drivers Making History: 1949 to Today

Female NASCAR Drivers Making History: 1949 to Today

In 2023, 100% of NASCAR Cup Series racers are men, and more than 90% of them are white. The motor sport has in the past and continues to have trouble increasing diversity within the sport’s ranks, both in the car and in the pit. Which is one of the many reasons to celebrate those doing the work to open the sport up to be more inclusive and diverse. Enter, women in NASCAR.

And since NASCAR’s inception 75 years ago, there have been several women drivers who have made it part of their mission to grow the rate of women in NASCAR. This post will go over some of the most prominent women in the NASCAR industry and the impact they have had.


Over NASCAR’s history, at least 125 women have qualified for and started a race in one of NASCAR’s series. And while that sounds promising, very few women have been full-time. Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent women who made their mark on the track.

SARA CHRISTIAN (1918-1980)

Sara Christian became the first woman racer in NASCAR history when she competed in the first NASCAR race in 1949. Which not only makes her the first female driver in NASCAR, but also one of the first drivers ever to race in NASCAR.

Her career in the Premier Series (now Cup Series) consisted of 7 races over the course of two seasons, with her husband, Frank Christian, acting as her pit team and manager. Some of her top accomplishments include:

  • Finishing 6th at Langhorne Speedway, becoming the first woman to get a top 10 finish
  • Finishing 5th at Heidelberg Raceway, earning her the highest finish of any woman in NASCAR’s premier league
  • 1949 United States Drivers Association’s ‘Woman Driver of the Year’ Award

Two other women important to mention are Ethel Mobley and Louise Smith, two female racers who competed alongside Christian in 1949. In fact, the 1949 Daytona and Langhorne races were the first and only times three women have competed in the same race of NASCAR’s top league.


The first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500, Janet Guthrie, started her full-time racing career in 1972. Over the course of four seasons, she raced in 33 races. Her previous career as an aerospace engineer certainly helped her upward trajectory in the league.

Some of her top accomplishments, in addition to be the first woman to compete in the Indy 500, include:

  • First woman to compete in the Daytona 500
  • First woman to lead a lap in the Winston Cup Series
  • Five top-10 finishes

Since the end of her career, Guthrie has continued to be an activist for gender equity in racing, including calling out corporations for the lack of sponsorships given to women racers.


Shawna Robinson raced for 11 seasons in NASCAR and is one of the 16 women to have raced in the Cup Series. Shawna’s drive to excel in NASCAR has inspired more women to become drivers today.

Her biggest claim to fame, however, is being the first woman in history to win a NASCAR sanctioned race at the Charlotte-Daytona Dash in 1988 (at just 23-years old). The Charlotte-Daytona Dash race itself is renowned for being a difficulty course, demanding exceptional skill, precision and endurance from its participants. Her ability to navigate the high-speed turns, strategically overtake opponents and maintain composure under intense pressure demonstrated her exceptional racing prowess. 


One of the racers inspired by the mark Robinson left on the sport, Danica Patrick, may be the most well-known female NASCAR driver in history. Since her debut season in 2005, Patrick has won many titles, including:

  • 7 Top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series
  • First woman to win an IndyCar series race
  • First woman to compete in a full 36-race NASCAR Cup Series season
  • First woman to win a pole position in the Cup Series at the 2013 Daytona 500

Not to mention her six top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Cup Series, breaking Janet Guthrie’s previously held record. Danica’s skill and charisma quickly made her a role model for women in sports. Unlike Guthrie’s experience with sponsors, Patrick’s huge fan base and media-minded marketing meant more sponsorships, not less.

Before her retirement in 2017, she held sponsorships from Coca-Cola, Secret, Hot Wheels and other top corporations.


One of the only fulltime women in NASCAR today, 22-year-old Hailie Deegan competes in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driving for ThorSport Racing. 

Born in 2001, she began racing at a young age and quickly made a name for herself in the sport. With her natural talent and determination, Deegan caught the attention of top corporations, similar to her predecessor, Danica Patrick.

In 2022, Deegan had a breakthrough moment when she made her debut in the Xfinity Series. Driving for the SS-Green Light Racing Team in Las Vegas, she faced tough competition. However, Deegan’s skills and determination shone through as she finished the race on the lead lap, an incredible feat for a rookie.

Her 13th place finish made history, marking the best debut result a woman has achieved in the Xfinity Series. This accomplishment not only showcased Deegan’s talent but also broke barriers for women in NASCAR. She has become an inspiration for aspiring female drivers, proving that gender is no obstacle in the world of racing.

With her impressive debut, Deegan’s future in NASCAR looks promising. She continues to compete in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, driving for ThorSport Racing. As Deegan continues to make her mark in NASCAR, she serves as a role model for young girls who dream of pursuing a career in racing. Her success story is a testament to the power of hard work, dedication, and breaking down barriers.

Being so young, she may not have found her place in NASCAR history yet, but she is surely inspiring other young women to follow their passions and be who they are. And we can thank the female NASCAR drivers on this list for helping get Deegan where she is today.


While these female NASCAR drivers deserve to be celebrated always, it is interesting to note how many of them had male figures (fathers, brothers and partners) already invested in NASCAR before they joined.

For NASCAR to truly boost diversity in racing, they will have to engage themselves with more women than just those tangentially associated with the organization. Thanks to NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, this is starting to take shape. Read more about the initiative here.

And for now, make sure to catch your favorite racers every weekend with your DIRECTV subscription. If you aren’t a DIRECTV customer yet, find out which package works best for you here. 

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