List of female Indianapolis 500 drivers

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Janet Guthrie qualified for the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in 1977.

This is a list of female motor racing drivers who have entered an Indianapolis 500 race. Ten women racing drivers have officially entered at least once, with Janet Guthrie being the first. Sarah Fisher has the most career starts with nine, and Danica Patrick has the best result with a third place in 2009. Lyn St. James, Patrick, and Simona de Silvestro have all won the Rookie of the Year Award.


Female participation of most sorts at Indianapolis was discouraged and essentially disallowed throughout the first several decades of competition. As such, female reporters were not even allowed in the pit area until 1971.[1] At the time, journalist Denise McCluggage was notably one of the first to challenge that antiquated norm.[2]

A number of female owners/sponsors participated in some capacity throughout the first several decades, and off-the-track duties were common. While not behind the wheel of race cars, women were frequently and routinely performers during the pre-race ceremonies, invited as dignitaries to attend the race, and many were employed by the track, working in the ticket office, motel, and other administrative positions. The first female owner to win the race was Maude "M.A." Yagle, who owned the car of 1929 winner Ray Keech.[citation needed]

In 1935, Amelia Earhart was selected to serve as the "Honorary Referee", a ceremonial position for a dignitary at the race. In 1972, Dolly Cole (wife of GM executive Ed Cole), became what is believed to be the first woman ever to ride in the pace car at the start of the race.[citation needed]

In 1974, Johnny Rutherford's wife Betty scored for him in his team's pit area. She was perhaps the first driver's wife to spend the entire race in the pits. Rutherford won the race, and Betty's presence drew some media attention, leading many other wives to follow suit in future years.[citation needed]

Janet Guthrie's Wildcat 3-DGS, which she drove to ninth place in the 1978 Indianapolis 500.


The first female to arrive at Indianapolis looking to qualify was Janet Guthrie in 1976. However, she fell short on speed and preparation time. She was able to pass her rookie test but suffered numerous mechanical problems during the month. On the final day of time trials, Guthrie was loaned a back-up car owned by A. J. Foyt. She quickly reached a suitable speed; however, she did not make an attempt to qualify. Guthrie returned to Indy and qualified for the first time in 1977, and made three total starts. She earned a 9th-place finish in 1978 and later revealed she drove with a broken wrist.[3] During her career, she received a mixed welcome among the competitors and fans but was mostly viewed in a positive light by the media. Her experiences were at times frustrating, as setbacks and difficulties ranged from engine troubles to the lack of female restrooms in the garage area at the time.

In the early 1980s, Desiré Wilson became the next woman to try to make the race, but she failed to qualify. Lyn St. James entered the 1992 race driving for Dick Simon Racing. Due to a services contract with Ford, St. James was initially relegated to the older, under-powered Cosworth DFX engine, and she had trouble getting up to speed. Later in the month, the team secured a Chevrolet engine, and St. James recorded a qualifying speed of over 220 mph. After starting 27th, she finished in 11th place and was named the Rookie of the Year. Overall, she made seven career starts, qualifying 6th in 1994. St. James never managed to finish in the top ten. In 1997, she was running 9th with eleven laps to go when she was taken out by another car in a crash.

Danica Patrick on Pole Day at Indy, 2007

21st century[edit]

Since 2000, when two female drivers (St. James and Sarah Fisher) started the race, female participation has been growing. Since that year, at least one woman has started every race, and at least two started every race between 2007 and 2015. Since 2001, seven women (five of them foreign) have started the 500.

Before 2005, Guthrie held the record for best finish in the race. That year, Danica Patrick, made her Indianapolis debut, qualifying 4th. She led 19 laps, finished in 4th place, and was named Rookie of the Year. In 2008, she was the first female winner of an IndyCar race when she won at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan. She bettered her record in 2009, finishing 3rd, and also led laps in the Centennial Race in 2011. As of 2017, she is also the first female driver to have led laps in the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, and the Coca-Cola 600.

In 2010, four women (Patrick, Fisher, Ana Beatriz, and Simona de Silvestro) started the race, while a fifth (Milka Duno) failed to qualify. Patrick finished 6th, and de Silvestro received the Rookie of the Year award. Four women also started in 2011, and three of them finished the race. Four women qualified for the 2013 500 as well.

Starting command[edit]

Traditionally, the starting command for the race has been "Gentlemen, start your engines!" When female drivers are competing, the call has been amended to "Lady and Gentlemen..." or "Ladies and Gentlemen..."

In 1977, a controversy hovered over the starting command, after Janet Guthrie qualified for the race. Speedway officials did not want to alter the traditional phrase. After complaints and consideration, on race morning, Tony Hulman recited the following:


Name Country First Last Entries Starts Best Start Best Finish Wins Top Ten
Janet Guthrie  United States 1977 1980 5 3 14 9 0 1
Desiré Wilson  South Africa 1982 1984 3 - - - - -
Amber Furst  United States 1983 - - - - - -
Lyn St. James  United States 1992 2000 9 7 6 11 0 0
Sarah Fisher  United States 2000 2010 9 9 9 17 0 0
Danica Patrick  United States 2005 2018 8 8 4 3 0 6
Milka Duno  Venezuela 2007 2010 4 3 27 19 0 0
Simona de Silvestro   Switzerland 2010 2015 5 5 18 14 0 0
Ana Beatriz Figuereido  Brazil 2010 2013 4 4 13 15 0 0
Pippa Mann  United Kingdom 2011 2018 7 6 22 17 0 0
Katherine Legge  United Kingdom 2012 2013 2 2 30 22 0 0


  • Amber Furst attempted to enter in 1983, but her entry was denied due to lack of experience, and she was not allowed to participate in the rookie orientation program.[4]

By country[edit]

Country Drivers Entries Starts Top 10 Wins
 Brazil 1 4 4 0 0
 South Africa 1 3 0 0 0
  Switzerland 1 5 5 0 0
 United Kingdom 2 9 8 0 0
 United States 4 31 27 7 0
 Venezuela 1 4 3 0 0

Female records[edit]

Other notable women at Indianapolis[edit]

Upon the death of Tony Hulman in 1977, his wife, Mary Fendrich Hulman, became chairman of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. When she retired in 1988, her daughter, Mari Hulman George, took over and held the position until 2016.

There have been several female car owners at the Indianapolis 500. The first and only female car owner to win was Maude "M.A." Yagle, who owned the 1929 race winning car with driver Ray Keech. Other notable female owners include Mari Hulman George (who owned the car of husband Elmer George) and former driver Sarah Fisher.

The first professional female competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was not an automobile race, but the LPGA 500 Ladies Classic in 1968.[5] It was played at the Speedway Golf Course.

Four women (Mishael Abbott, Cyndie Allemann, Ana Beatriz, and Pippa Mann) have participated in the Freedom 100, a Firestone Indy Lights race held at IMS on the Friday before the 500. Beatriz had a best finish of 5th in 2008, and Mann won the pole for the event in 2010.

Twice, a woman has driven the pace car at the start of the race: Elaine Irwin Mellencamp (2001) and Robin Roberts (2010). Prior to that, in 1972, Dolly Cole (wife of GM executive Ed Cole), rode as a passenger in the pace car. At the time it was common for celebrities and dignitaries to ride as passengers in the pace car, and Cole is believed to be the first woman ever to do so.

Only two female drivers have ever attempted to qualify for NASCAR's Brickyard 400, the other major event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. In 2001, Shawna Robinson attempted, but failed to qualify.[6] The NASCAR Nationwide Series came to the track for the first time in 2012 with the Indiana 250. Two women (Danica Patrick and Johanna Long) raced in that event.[7] In 2013 Danica Patrick became the first woman to qualify for the Brickyard 400, joining 18 drivers that have competed in both the "500" and "400".

Female owners/teams[edit]

Partial list

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Women in Racing- Indy 500 Style!". Zimbio.
  2. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley. May 7, 2015. WFNI.
  3. ^ "Janet Proves Her Point". Milwaukee Sentinel. 1978-05-29. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
  4. ^ "Waiting game! Amber is give heave-ho". The Madison Courier. 1983-04-23. Retrieved 2012-04-04.
  5. ^ LPGA Tournament Chronology 1960–1969 Archived 2011-06-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Shaffer, Jan (2012-07-25). "Brickyard Pioneers: Where are They Now? Shawna Robinson". Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
  7. ^ Estrada, Chris. "Danica Patrick prepares for first Brickyard 400". NBC Sports. Retrieved 2013-07-24.
  8. ^,292248
  9. ^ Springfield Welding's Smith Special Archived 2011-03-01 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ Woolford, Dave (1987-05-23). "Mears Again Choice To Win The Indianapolis 500". Motor Sports. Toledo Blade. Retrieved 2012-04-25.