Where are the NASCAR Women?

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blue oval_4
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Where are the NASCAR Women?

Post by blue oval_4 » Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:20 pm

Not that women stock-car drivers try to be the “next Danica Patrick” — they want to be themselves! — but they’d love a chance to race at NASCAR’s premier level, as Patrick did for five full seasons. It might be a couple of years until we see another top female driver, though.

This marked the first year since 2000 that a woman has not raced in either of the two top levels of NASCAR. Three women drove in the trucks series — two levels down from the Cup big leagues — with Angela Ruch recording just one top-10 finish in 48 total races among them.

Patrick’s one-off appearance in the 2018 Daytona 500 marked the last time that a woman drove in a Cup race. Although women have been in NASCAR races since the very first top-level race in 1949, Shawna Robinson is the only other woman to have driven in a Cup race since 2001.

Diversity is critically important to NASCAR; Patrick appealed to female fans in a way that men just could not. Of eight women who drove at least one race in a NASCAR national series race, though, Hailie Deegan was the only winner in 2019, taking two K&N Series West races. (More about Deegan here, here and here.)

Deegan, the 18-year-old from Temecula, Calif., has lately received the most attention of any female stock-car driver, but she is not the only woman aiming for the top. Natalie Decker, a 22-year-old from Eagle River, Wis., is probably the closest woman to a Cup ride at the moment.

Decker jumped to a near-full-time ride in the trucks series in 2019, finishing 19th in the series standings but failing to post a top-10 finish in 19 races. Jennifer Jo Cobb finished 21st in the trucks series standings, with similar finishes to Decker, but Cobb is 46, riding out her career.

In 28 races in the ARCA Series and K&N Series East and West — sort of like Single-A long-season and short-season baseball is to the major leagues — Deegan had nine top-five finishes and 18 top-10 finishes, far best among female drivers. She could get a promotion to the ARCA level in 2020.

But Deegan was not the only woman who had a good 2019. Another young woman who stood out in the K&N Series East and West was Brittney Zamora, a 20-year-old from Kennewick, Wash., who finished fifth, two spots behind Deegan, in the K&N Series West.

Zamora, like Deegan, drove a Toyota for Bill McAnally, a longtime owner who has nurtured the careers of other young drivers, male and female. In her first full year, Zamora had six top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 20 races total. She also won two pole positions.

Another female driver worth following is Bridget Burgess, a 17-year-old who was born in Australia and now lives in Tooele, Utah. Her background, like Deegan’s, is in off-road racing, but she drove in two K&N Series West races last year.

Decker, Deegan and Zamora don’t appear ready to race in the Xfinity Series, a level down from Cup. Any would say they want to work for their shot and earn a big shot. Patrick had IndyCar experience, but she drove 58 second-tier NASCAR races before joining Cup full-time.

NASCAR is in no hurry to move them up, either, even though there would appear to be a little more urgency on the diversity front. Daniel Suarez, a Mexican who was the only non-American regular in the Cup series, lost his ride with Stewart-Haas Racing this month.

Cole Custer, a 21-year-old hotshot from California, will replace Suarez, who had only a one-year contract with an option. I’ve heard Tony Stewart and Gene Haas loved Suarez’s talent, personality and marketability, but the Cup seat was always going to Custer when he was ready.

Another prized Cup seat will open at Hendrick Motorsports after Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time champion, retires from racing after the 2020 season. Speculation is underway about who will get the job. No women were included in this list of possibilities.

There don’t seem to be any female drivers right now with enough seasoning to fill such a high-profile vacancy. But one move sets off a chain reaction. So something could come open for a female driver to move up in 2021. Whoever gets a promotion will have earned it.

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Re: Where are the NASCAR Women?

Post by Hadley » Wed Nov 27, 2019 8:47 am

I'm not expecting to see the "next Danica Patrick" anytime soon. I hope I'm wrong though.

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Re: Where are the NASCAR Women?

Post by alenigma » Wed Nov 27, 2019 2:11 pm

Danica brought a lot of different fans to Nascar and auto-racing in general. I don't want to see the "next Danica Patrick" neither. She raced open-wheelers and never got the hang of full-contact racing. Heck, when retaliating, she usually took herself out.
I'm hoping some of the "up and coming" talent will prove themselves and earn rides in top-notch equipment. Nice to have you on-board, Hadley!
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