When our third child and only daughter arrived in 2009 my husband beamed proudly and proclaimed in the delivery room that she was to be, “The first female, first rookie champion of the Daytona 500 in 2027.”
I smiled dreamily – it’s a lot of work having a baby – and thought little else of it.
As this is the world of social media I came home 48 hours later to hundreds of Facebook messages congratulating me on my daughter’s arrival. By the time I got to look at my husband’s Facebook page, realization struck.
He had written the very same thing about our daughter winning the Daytona 500 18 years in the future that he had boldly stated upon her birth.
This pleased me immensely as I could see my husband harbored no resentment over having a daughter.
In fact, he was overjoyed with the prospect of piecing together an entire NASCAR Sprint Cup team with his wife as crew chief, his middle boy as jack man, his oldest son as the front tire changer, and he himself as his daughter’s spotter.
The only thing that still rings sadly to my ears is that our daughter may well be the first all those years later.
NASCAR has provided several female drivers throughout the years, some tougher than others and some more successful than others, but none that ever completely capitalized and became a champion.
Currently there is a crop of women in NASCAR who hold promise.
The most visible and reported about is Danica Patrick, the IndyCar driver who is spending her first full season in NASCAR in the Nationwide Series in addition to driving 10 races in the Sprint Cup series.
To date Patrick has had a lackluster beginning in both series. Her critics are quick to judge, harsh in their criticisms and offer the woman no learning curve in her first season.
They tear apart Patrick’s character and motives in terms of the lady’s marketability and her shrewdness in capitalizing on it.
Patrick’s supporters are patient and staunch, but would certainly like to see the driver perform better than she has this season.
Patrick does have the record for finishing highest for a woman among NASCAR’s top circuits; she earned a fourth place finish in a Nationwide Series race in Las Vegas on March 5, 2011. This feat was good enough to beat Sara Christian’s record for her fifth place finish in October 1949 that had stood for over six decades.
I have nothing against Patrick and would personally love to see her succeed. It bothers me not one iota that she uses her looks, notoriety, and presence to sell for her sponsors, something Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, and Carl Edwards have all done.
But, as the mother of a little girl who may just one day be a competitor in NASCAR’s top tier, I would like for her to see women improving, succeeding, and even winning in the Cup Series.
Many complain that too much media is dedicated to Patrick when Nationwide Series driver Johanna Long is a far more impressive driver.
Long has had a decent climb in NASCAR. After two years in the Camping World Truck Series, Long improved her ranking considerably and got herself a ride in the Nationwide series this year.
Though “holding her own,” Long seems far from a championship run this season. But the young woman does have tenacity and talent and those two traits should take her far in NASCAR.
Jennifer Jo Cobb was headed down a successful path in NASCAR, it seemed, when she finished 17th for the 2010 season in the Camping World Truck Series, making her the top finishing female in one of the top three NASCAR standings.
But lack of funds, poor finishes, and a career in fashion has diluted Cobb’s potency, making it unlikely that at her age she’ll get to NASCAR’s premiere level.
Chrissy Wallace seemed like a great racer with a ton of potential ready to be tapped.
Wallace is related to the Wallace clan that has raced in NASCAR for decades. She had a career high when she earned the 2011 Lebanon I-44 Track Champion honors. This seemed like a great jumping off point for earning sponsorship to take her more heavily into competition in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series
Unfortunately, according to Wallace’s website, they team is parked and looking for sponsorship.
Of all the women, Long seems to have the most promise though Patrick has a longer career in motorsports and certainly more monetary backing.
For either woman, or both, to succeed and, better yet, thrive in NASCAR would be ideal.
I’m on the record as appreciating attractive people and wanting more of them in NASCAR, both male and female. It pleases me to see empirically good-looking men and women on my television.
I truly ache to see sexually appealing people make commercials since I have to watch them during NASCAR races.
But make no mistake, I have another agenda.
My goal is for my daughter to see a starting grid filled with women in NASCAR. My hope is that by the time my daughter entertains driving at NASCAR’s top level, being a woman is no longer shocking or interesting.
That how well a woman drives is what she is judged upon and not her looks alone.
If my daughter has to stand on the backs of the women who came before to achieve the level of greatness her father prophesized, so be it.
She’s got the mettle, I can guarantee you that.
Until that 2027 Daytona 500, I’ll have to keep rooting for the women NASCAR puts before me.