When people think of NASCAR, the last thing they think about is female drivers. And we don’t blame them. The sport is pretty much run by men, and the mental picture of a stereotypical female driver doesn’t help. But what most people don’t know is that, just like men, there are plenty of ladies with a need for speed.
The racing world is filled with successful women who like to get their hands dirty and race with the boys. The women in NASCAR have not only won races, series competitions, and awards for their contribution to the sport, they have also led the way for other girls to join.
Let’s take a look at the gorgeous ladies taking NASCAR by storm!
Angela Cope-Ruch was born in Puyallup, Washington, on August 18, 1983. She is the niece of Derrike Cope, the winner of the 1990 Daytona 500. Angela and her twin sister, Amber Cope, were the third generation of Copes to enter the world of NASCAR. Angela and her sister realized that if they wanted to make it to NASCAR, they were going to have to leave Washington State.
So, in the early 2000s, they moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where most of the US race teams are located. Angela made her NASCAR debut with the 2010 Camping World Truck Series, where she made one start. The next year, Angela made her debut in the 2011 Xfinity series, where she had seven starts and her best finish of 55th place.
Amber Cope, the twin sister of Angela Cope-Ruch, was born in Puyallup, Washington, on August 18, 1983. Amber and Angela made history on October 23, 2010, when they became the first set of twins to compete in one of NASCAR’s top three series. Amber and her sister started out racing go-karts at the age of nine and were racing late-model cars before their 16th birthday.
In July 2012, when she was 28 years old, Amber created some controversy during the final laps of the Nationwide Series race when she forced lead Kevin Harvick off the track, slowing down his momentum and costing him a win. Brad Keselowski ended up winning that race, fueling a rift between Kevin and Amber.
Kim Crosby was born on December 8, 1964, in Tallahassee, Florida. Before her career in NASCAR, Kim was a middle school principal in Slidell, Louisiana, with a master’s degree in Educational Administration. But in 2004, Kim decided that she wanted to focus on her racing career full-time, so she retired from the education world.
Originally a drag racer, Kim made her debut in 2004 at the Xfinity Series. She made ten starts and achieved her best place of 72nd that year. After a few tumultuous years, Kim found her way as a driver for Monster Jam, driving trucks such as Monster Mutt Dalmatian and Madusa. While she continues to pursue sponsorship for her monster truck driving, she is still looking to return to NASCAR if the right opportunity presents itself.
Erin Crocker is a broadcaster and former NASCAR driver originally from Wilbraham, Massachusetts. Erin started racing quarter midgets when she was seven years old. She eventually became the Quarter Midgets of America Northeast Regional Champion from 1993 until 1996. The 39-year-old made her debut in NASCAR in 2004, when she had the opportunity to drive for Ford’s driver development program.
The following year, Erin made her debut in the 2005 Xfinity Series and made ten starts that year. She also made her debut in the 2005 Camping World Truck Series, achieving her best place of 25th in 2006. Erin left racing after posting poor racing times and beginning a romantic relationship with her former boss and team owner, Ray Evernham. The two married in 2009 and have a daughter, Cate Evernham.
Born in Andrews, North Carolina, Tina Gordon is a former NASCAR racer. She made her debut in the 2001 Xfinity Series and completed her best finish of 51st place in 2004. The 51-year-old competed in rodeos and horse shows before she began racing her husband’s short track car at the Green Valley Speedway in 1995 and 1996.
The next year, Tina and her husband Gary bought a hobby stock car, and she began racing full-time in 1998. Tina retired from her racing career in 2005 so she could spend more time with her husband and son. Tina and her family currently reside in Cedar Buff, Alabama. In 2008, Tina opened up Tina’s Dream Ranch, a therapeutic riding camp for people with special needs.
Jennifer Jo Cobb
Originally from Kansas City, Kansas, Jennifer Jo Cobb is a current racecar driver and team owner. The 47-year-old started her racing career in 1991 at the Lakeside Speedway, where her father, Joe Cobb, still races. Jennifer made her debut in NASCAR in the Busch Series in 2004. She currently competes in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series for her own team, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing.
In 2006, Jennifer released a clothing line dedicated to her female racing fans, with all the proceeds going towards her racing career. In 2015, Jennifer was the first driver to be penalized for getting out of her car and approaching another driver on foot. She received a $5,000 fine for approaching Tyler Reddick after he caused her to spin out.
Johanna Robbins, formally known as Johanna Long, is known for her 2010 win at the Snowball Derby. She was the second woman to win the race after fellow American racer, Tammy Jo Kirk, did in 1994. Born and raised in Pensacola, Florida, Johanna’s love for racing began when she was only five years old. She started off racing go-karts when she was eight years old. By 12 years old, she was racing late models.
Johanna made her transition to NASCAR in 2009. After 38 events, the then 17-year-old had 27 top ten finishes, 17 top five, and five wins. Talk about a strong start! After competing in various series over the years, Johanna married Kyle Busch Motorsports’ engineer and racecar driver, Hunter Robbins, in 2016.
Shawna Robinson is the youngest of five children born to former amateur diesel truck driver and promoter, Richard Robinson. Growing up, both of Shawna’s parents worked as truck driver racers in De Moines, Iowa, until one day, her mom’s truck flipped, and Richard asked her to quit racing. After graduating high school in 1983, Shawna hitched along with her dad to promote a few races.
She fell in love with the sport and started racing that year at the Toledo Speedway with a 1976 international semi-tractor. Shawna finished third place in her first event and went on to win 30 feature races before leaving trucks behind for the superspeedway division in 1984. Shawna made her NASCAR debut in the spring of 1988 at the Charlotte/Daytona Dash Series.
Patty Moise is a former NASCAR driver and wife of the former driver, Elton Sawyer. Born in December 1960, in Jacksonville, Florida, Patty began racing at the age of 16. Her racing career started with the IMSA Series before making her Busch Series debut in 1986. Patty qualified for third, but because of engine problems during her first lap, she unfortunately finished in 30th place.
The next year, Patty formed her own team, where she had two top ten starts, but six races that she didn’t finish. 1990 was a defining year in Patty’s career: She sold her team to Mike Laughlin, made 24 starts (the most she had ever made), and finished with a career-high of 22 points.
38-year-old Danica Patrick is one of the most successful female NASCAR drivers to date. Not only is she the most successful woman in the history of IndyCar racing, but she is also one of the most successful women in NASCAR. Originally from Beloit, Wisconsin, Danica started racing go-karts when she was ten years old.
After winning the Grand National Championship three times from 1994 until 1996, Danica dropped out of high school and moved to the United Kingdom to focus on her racing career. Danica participated in the 2010 ARCA Racing Series, marking her official transition to stock car racing. She is one of the richest NASCAR drivers to date, with a net worth of $60 million.
Natalie Decker, the cousin of fellow racecar drivers Page and Claire Decker, has taken NASCAR by storm over the past few years. The Wisconsin native began racing go-karts at the age of nine, after begging her father to buy her one. Her father, Chuck Decker, was the owner of Eagle River Derby Track, before selling it in 2018.
After winning four karting championships, Natalie moved to stock cars at the age of 12. The 22-year-old made her NASCAR debut in 2016, after becoming one of seven drivers to compete in the Alan Kulwicki Driver Development Program. Natalie made her truck series debut in Daytona, but she ruptured an oil line, setting her truck on fire on the first lap.
Born in March 1938, Janet Guthrie is remembered as the first woman to qualify and compete in two major races: the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500. Before her career in racing, Janet was an aerospace engineer at Republic Aviation in Long Island, New York. Her first race was in 1963, and, by 1972, she was racing full-time.
By 1976, Janet became the first woman to compete in a NASCAR Winston Cup superspeedway race. The next season, Janet raced in her first Daytona 500 and won Top Rookie. Her highest finish was in 1977 when she came in sixth place in Bristol. Janet held the record for female finish until she was beaten in 2014 by NASCAR driver, Danica Patrick.
Born in 1916, Louise Smith was known as the “first lady of racing.” Louise attended her first race in 1949 as a spectator. But, after becoming restless watching everyone else race while she sat in the stands, she entered her family’s new Ford coupe. Although she ended up crashing it, Louise helped make history that day.
It was the first time that three female drivers (Louise, Sara Christian, and Ethel Mobley) took part in the Daytona Beach Road Course. Louise continued to race from 1949 until 1956, winning a total of 38 races. In 1999, Louise became the first woman inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Sadly, Louise lost her life to cancer at the age of 89.
Originally from Venezuela, Milka Duno didn’t start racing until she was 24. Before she started racing, Milka was an academic, with a master’s degree in Organizational Development, Maritime Business, Marine Biology, and Naval Architecture. She also worked as a model, which caused quite the stir when she first made her debut in the sport.
Milka started out racing in the Indy Racing League in 2007, before moving on to the ARCA Racing Series in 2010, and eventually to NASCAR in 2014. Although Milka moved her way up to NASCAR, her racing career was still controversial. During her IndyCar career, she was accused by her fellow drivers of driving too slowly and was eventually put on probation for her consistently poor performance.
Ethel Mobley was born in 1914 in Fort Payne, Alabama. Her brothers, Tim, Fonty, and Bob Flock are considered NASCAR pioneers. Ethel is tied with Louise Smith for the second woman to drive in a NASCAR race. Throughout her career, Ethel participated in over 100 NASCAR events in the modified division.
Like her brothers, Ethel was a pioneer. She raced against her three brothers at the Daytona Beach Road Course, marking the first time a brother and sister participated in the same race. She beat her two brothers, Bob and Fonty, and ended up finishing in eleventh place. Her third brother, Tim, finished in second. Ethel continued to break barriers when she became the first woman to compete against men in Georgia the following month.
Born in 1918, Sara Christian was the first woman to ever drive in a NASCAR race. The race took place at the Charlotte Speedway on June 19, 1949, when Sara was almost 31 years old. Sara also raced in the second Daytona Beach Road Course, alongside Louise Smith, Ethel Mobley, and her husband, Frank Christian.
This race made history for a number of reasons. Not only was it the first time three female drivers participated in the same race, but it was also the first time that a husband and wife competed against each other. No couple competed together until 1986 when Patty Moise and Elton Sawyer competed in the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series. After making history, Sara was inducted into the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame in 2004.
18-year-old Hailey Deegan is the daughter of freestyle motocross rider and racecar driver, Brian Deegan. Her dad first introduced her to the world of racing when he got her involved with off-road and dirt racing. After winning a few titles in the off-road series, Hailie made her transition to asphalt in 2016 as a driver for the Drive for Diversity.
The following year, Hailie was one of nine drivers to be named NASCAR Next class. Then in 2018, it was announced that she was going to become a full-time driver for the K&N Pro Series. She went on to win races in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, making her the first woman driver ever to win races in the series.
Paige Decker, the older sister of Claire Decker and cousin of Natalie Decker, started her NASCAR career as a driver for the Drive for Diversity program in 2014. The Wisconsin-native started her racing career when she was just three years old! Her dad, Allen Decker, came from a snowmobile racing family and wanted his daughter to get a head start, so he introduced her to the sport.
After falling in love with snowmobile racing, Paige made the move to go-karts at nine years old before eventually transitioning to asphalt racing when she was 17. Paige attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout, studying Early Childhood Education, but took a short break from 2014 until 2015 to focus on racing full time. After competing in the Whelen All-American Series, the 27-year-old reenrolled in college. She graduated in December 2016.
Brittney is one of NASCAR’s newest female drivers. The 21-year-old made her debut in the K&N Pro Series, competing full time in the western series and part-time in the eastern series. Before she started her career in NASCAR, Brittney raced in the Super Late Model circuit. Super Late Models are considered the best in dirt racing and can go as fast as 100 miles per hour.
Brittney competed in the Northwest Super Late Model Series in 2017 and 2018, winning the championship both years. She was also the first woman to ever win a race and a championship in that series. Later that year, Brittney won the Washington State Rookie of the Year.
Born in 1980 to a family in Ohio with a background in racing, Sarah Fisher began racing in quarter-midget racing at the age of five. After competing for three years, Sarah moved to karting, winning three World Karting Association championships. She made her IndyCar debut in 1999 and raced in the NASCAR West series from 2004 until 2005.
Throughout her 11-year career, Sarah faced many problems with sponsorship, which limited her participation in the Indy series. After she retired in 2010, she focused on the team she had formed in 2008, the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team. She ended up merging her team with Ed Carpenter Racing, changing the name to CFH Racing. Sarah is married to Andy O’Gara, a front-left tire changer.
Like her older sister Paige, Claire Decker was a driver for the Drive for Diversity program in 2014. The program was formed to attract minority and female drivers to the sport. Like her sister, Claire was introduced to racing at a young age, first starting with snowmobiles before moving to go-karts and then asphalt racing. Claire races for the Decker Racing team that is owned by her family. She races alongside her sister Paige Decker and cousin, Natalie Decker.
Claire made her transition to trucks in 2015 when Mike Harmon called to ask her to race one of his trucks, the number 74 Chevrolet. As of today, Claire only has a NASCAR certification to run short tracks in the trucks series, but she hopes to make it to the Xfinity Series.
Kenzie Ruston Hemric
28-year-old Kenzie Ruston started racing Bandolero race cars at the Texas Motor Speedway when she was just 14 years old. Two years later, the Oklahoma native moved to Legends car racing, where she finished third in the Young Lions Winter series. When Kenzie turned 17 in 2011, she moved to North Carolina, where she began competing in stock cars.
In 2013, Kenzie signed with Turner Scott Motorsports to participate in the K&N Pro Series East. Later that year, she became a member of NASCAR Next, making her the first female driver to join the program. Kenzie married Camping World Truck Series driver Daniel Hemric in 2017 and gave birth to a baby girl in May 2020.
Mara Reyes is a 43-year-old stock car driver from Mexico. She was first introduced to racing at ten years old when her father would have her co-drive for him, but she didn’t officially start racing until 1991 at the age of 14. Her first race was in a regional championship, where she was the only girl competing out of 35 drivers.
Mara ended up taking fifth place and was awarded Rookie of the Year. She later participated in the NASCAR Series in Mexico, making her the first Mexican to receive a NASCAR license. Throughout her career, Mara found some success with this series, but she didn’t stand out from the crowd. As of today, Mara races in the Super Copa Telcel with the Arris Group.
Although she wasn’t a NASCAR driver per se, Betty Skelton still earns her spot on our list. Born in 1926, Betty was an aerobatics pilot and a land speed record holder. In 1953, two years after Betty moved to North Carolina, the founder of NASCAR called to ask her to fly some race car drivers into North Carolina for their races.
A year later, Betty became a racer in her own right and entered the Daytona Beach Speed Week, where she drove a pace car and a Dodge sedan. She ended up setting the fastest stock car speed for a woman. It was during that race that Betty found her second passion after flying. From there, Betty went on to work in advertising for General Motors and later became a spokesperson for Chevrolet.
Like many other NASCAR drivers, 28-year-old Julia Landauer began racing go-karts when she was ten years old. By 13, Julia was already racing cars. Julia continued racing through her college years at Stanford University until she caught the eye of team owner Bill McAnally. She made her NASCAR debut in 2016 while racing in the K&N Pro Series West.
During the 2016 season, Julia became the highest-finishing female driver ever when she came in fourth place. In addition to racecar driving, Julia has also worked as a motivational speaker and has even spoken at TEDx. She was also named in the Forbes Magazine 30 under 30 list for sports. As of today, Julia is still racing. She currently competes with PK Carsport in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Arlene Hiss’s career began in 1964 when she competed in the Sports Car Club of America-sanctioned Showroom Stock racing. After years of competing and winning two championships in California, Arlene was awarded the “Most Outstanding Woman Driver.” In 1976, Arlene went on to become the first woman to start in an Indy car race, but she was flagged for driving too slow.
This sparked some controversy from people in the sport, who blamed her slow driving on the fact she was a woman. Arlene didn’t give up and tried qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 later that year and the NASCAR Pro Series West the following year, but she failed to qualify for both of the series. Frustrated, Arlene retired from racing in 1978 to pursue a career in business.
Tammy Jo Kirk
Born and raised in Dalton, Georgia, Tammy Jo Kirk is the first woman to race in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Tammy was first introduced to the racing world when she was seven years old. Back then, she raced motorcycles but moved to racecars after companies refused to give her spare parts because she was a woman.
She first joined NASCAR in 1991 as the first woman to compete in the Winston All-American Challenge Series. Tammy won Most Popular Driver in the 1994 series. After taking a hiatus, Tammy returned to NASCAR in 2003 for one last year, making her best finish in 21st place at the Trim Spa Dream Body 250. Currently retired, the 58-year-old works as a motorcycle dealer.
Born in San Antonio, Texas, Robin McCall’s love for racing started when she was eight years old. Her grandfather Roy raced in midget events, which inspired Robin to start racing in quarter midgets until the age of 14. Robin made her debut in 1982 at the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, known today as the Sprint Cup Series, but her career was short-lived.
Although she was the first woman to qualify for a NASCAR Cup Series race, she failed to finish two races, one because of engine failure and the other because she crashed out. After dropping out of the series, Robin went on to race on dirt tracks and became a driving instructor for automobile manufacturers.
30-year-old Mackena Bell was born and raised in Carson City, Nevada. Her love for racing began when she was only five years old. She started racing go-karts and eventually moved to Legend cars when she was 14. Legend cars are replicas of older American cars and cost much less than stock cars or late models.
At 18 years old, Mackena began racing late models and was eventually accepted into NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity, a program designed to attract women and minorities to the world of racing. During her time with the NASCAR program, Mackena competed in six races and had a personal record of 18th place. Unfortunately, Mackena’s NASCAR career came to an end in 2014 after she crashed during two races and only had one top-ten finish.
Sherry Blakley- Vaughn
Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Sherry Blakley- Vaughn raced in NASCAR’s Goody’s Dash Series and All-Pro Series from the mid-1980s until 1994. Sherry, who was a cheerleader at the Texas Military Institute, first started racing at racetracks near her house when she was 16 years old. She fell in love with the sport and eventually moved her way up to faster cars and better competition.
Unfortunately, as Sherry’s career grew, her times became worse and worse. She tried to qualify for the Snowball Derby in 1990 and then again in 1991, but her times weren’t fast enough. Sherry also tried to qualify for the Busch Series in 1994, but again, her times weren’t fast enough. Sherry sadly passed away in 2011, due to unknown health issues.
Alli Owen’s love for racing started when she started racing BMX bikes when she was only eight years old. Although her coaches thought she was on a path to compete in the Olympics, she switched to racing cars when she was 12 years old. Alli started out racing quarter midgets on dirt roads but eventually moved to pavement by the time she turned 15.
After racing in the ARCA Re/Max series in 2008, Alli made the move to NASCAR in 2011 when she raced in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Unfortunately, Alli’s sponsor was unable to renew her sponsorship the following year, leaving her without a sponsor and unable to race for almost five years. Alli is currently married and has two children.
Kate Teasdale was known as one of the most promising female drivers in the US and Canada. She rode in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Indy Lights, Formula 2000, Trans am, the Atlantic series, and CASCAR (the Canadian version of NASCAR). She was also the first female racer in the NASCAR Busch Grand National series. Although Kat won over 180 races during her career, she abruptly retired from driving in 1998.
Kat suffered from Lyme disease but wasn’t officially diagnosed until 2006. Lyme disease is caused by a tick bite, but doctors are still not sure how to treat it. Lyme disease made it difficult for Kat to race and took over much of her later life. She lost her life to the disease in 2016.
Born and raised in Seaford, Virginia, Diane Teel was known as the first woman to enter a NASCAR Busch Grand National series (now called Xfinity series). Diane not only raced 11 times during the series, but she also finished in the top ten twice. Diane began racing cars while working as a school bus driver. She eventually raced in the NASCAR Limited Sportsman Division in 1977.
She returned the next year and ended up winning the series, which was the first time a woman won the series championship. Diane is considered a pioneer in the world of racing. Intensely competitive, she hoped she would inspire other women to join the mainly male-dominated sport. After a nine-year racing career, Diane retired so she could spend more time with her family.