It’s a question that needs to be asked. For several years it looked like NASCAR had found the answer to that question but with the recent news of Nature’s Bakery virtually backing off Danica Patrick’s racecar for the 2017 season, it looks like the answer may have not be so easy after all.
Who will be the first female driver to win a NASCAR race? Danica Patrick’s career now looks like it’s on the brink. Baring a drastically improved season from her previous four seasons in Cup, it’s unlikely we’ll see Danica Patrick’s career continue past the 2017 or 2018 season. In her 154 career starts in the Cup Series Patrick has recorded just six top ten finishes.
Is it likely we’ll see Patrick’s career take a sudden turn for the better? Not likely. Stewart Haas Racing recently made a transition to Ford and with that the team will make their own chassis, a drastic change than what they’ve done in years prior. You would have to think there would be some growing pains for the team and that’s something Patrick cannot afford. Her restrictor plate record has not proven that she can get it done on plate tracks.
So if not Patrick than who? Who will be NASCAR’s first female winner. Well the answer is not that obvious.
If you look at NASCAR’s top three divisions, Patrick and truck series driver Jennifer Jo Cobb are the only two females that ran the majority of the races in their respected divisions. Cobb is an independent who does a good job with what she has but has recorded just one top ten finish in 132 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Other than those two the closet female closest to the Cup Series is probably Dominque Van Wieringen, a Canadian driver who finished third in the point standings in the K&N East Series. Julia Landauder and Nicole Behar are also on the list of female drivers who could potentially win in NASCAR but have yet to do so.
However, neither one of the drivers I listed have ever won a NASCAR race. It makes you wonder who will be NASCAR’s next female winner? Until we see a major culture change I don’t think female drivers will ever be successful in NASCAR’s elite division.
Let me state this, I do believe that we will have a female driver win in NASCAR. I just think that day is a lot further away than people think. It’s not that females can’t drive, I believe that stigma is totally untrue. It’s the fact that in NASCAR we judge our female drivers by the way they look instead of what they do on the racetrack.
A few months ago, I was in a conversation with racefans about female drivers. Most of the fans posted pictures of their favorite female drivers describing how attractive she was. Attractiveness? Who cares? In my mind, I reversed the role. What would happen if we were talking about male drivers? Would fans post pictures of them in their bathing suits on social media? Not a chance. All most fans care about is their performance on the racetrack, which is a perfectly fair way to evaluate a driver.
Just this past week I watched as a female driver who was recently in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program post a picture on her social media platforms in nothing but a bikini sitting by a pool. I scratched my head. Then there was something more disturbing. The amount of engagement the photo received was incredible. It totally out did any other post she had on there. It’s no wonder why the young lady posted the photo.
There’s no doubt motorsports are a male dominated sport and males make up the majority of the fan base. So I understand the need to get recognized but shouldn’t their performance on the racetrack determine that? I believe there will be a woman who will win races but will she make it if she doesn’t look the way we want her to look?
Maybe that’s part of the problem with NASCAR’s group of female drivers. Maybe some have gained their popularity on how they looked, not how they drive. There’s no doubt that NASCAR’s ideal female star will be both attractive and can win races, but the driving must be the number one priority.
I think as racefans we’ve gotten away from that and until we as racefans chance the way we view female drivers, we’ll never see a female driver compete and win at NASCAR’s highest level.