In deference to the early 80s disco hit ‘It’s Raining Men’ – a song which would be appropriate for almost all major motorsports like NASCAR, IndyCar and F1 – in drag racing, women are reigning right now in the fastest sport in the world.
After just four meets of the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello schedule, Alexis DeJoria already has two wins under her belt this year in Funny Car including this past week in Las Vegas. Erica Ender-Stevens joined DeJoria in the Las Vegas winner circle, taking home the victory in Pro Stock along with the points lead. Also, Courtney Force was the quickest and fastest Funny Car in qualifying, which included a thundering 325-plus mph pass that was even faster than any of the Top Fuel competitors. The women of drag racing are definitely reigning right now.
This wasn’t a first; especially over the past few years where it seems female drag racers are breaking records and winning races at an ever increasing pace.
Where are the other motorsports?
Now let’s take that in for a moment. The three women in drag racing listed above are winning events and smashing records along the way. However, the other major racing series’ have almost nothing to show for advancing women’s presence in motorsports.
In NASCAR Sprint Cup, the only woman racing full-time, Danica Patrick, is currently languishing in 29th in the point standings and isn’t looking like she will be winning anytime soon with three finishes outside the top 30. Nationwide hasn’t had a full-time female driver since Patrick started her career in NASCAR. Johanna Long has raced part-time over the past few seasons but the still young and promising driver’s career has stalled. Veteran driver Jennifer Jo Cobb runs in Trucks but is a back-marker and hasn’t made inroads towards competitive results.
In IndyCar, well, there are no full-time women in 2014. IndyCar appeared to establish themselves as a haven for up-and-coming female open wheel drivers, but this season, they seemed have lost the gender equity momentum they had built. Simona de Silvestro had been full-time in IndyCar recently and was emerging as a viable driver with a late season podium but her career has changed from IndyCar to possible F1.
And speaking of F1, there are no female Formula One drivers … and haven’t been since the sport started (full-time, that is). The ‘Swiss Miss’ de Silvestro, along with British driver Susie Wolff, are both trying to become the first woman F1 driver to enter a race in almost 40 years. Otherwise, F1 has been devoid of any female appearances on the grid other than the flag girls that stand at each car prior to the start of an event.
However, drag racing, where women have been competing on a regular basis for over 50 years, has three very qualified drivers who have legitimate shots at a championship in 2014. A 36 year old from Venice, California, DeJoria drives under the Kalitta Motorsports banner and has finally had successes on the track after two inconsistent Funny Car seasons. The 25 year old Force, from Yorba Linda, California, also is in her third season in Funny Car and is not only known as one of John Force daughters and a record-breaking driver, but also made a huge splash as the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s Body issue. From Houston, Texas, the 30 year old Enders-Stevens has been contending in Pro Stock for almost 10 years and although sponsorship issues have kept her from being a champion, this season may be different.
All of this highlights the fact that while drag racing has and likely will always be a bastion of diverse people from all corners of life, the rest of motorsports still lags far behind in integrating an equitable balance of competitors.
In the meantime, the triumvirate of Enders-Stevens, DeJoria and Force will likely be challenging for championships in 2014. Pro Stock Motorcycle is the only division in professional motorsports with a woman champion over the past three decades (Angelle Sampey 2000-2002). Shirley Muldowney won Top Fuel championships in ’77, ’80 and ’82. Whether Alexis, Courtney or Erica can become champion remains to be seen. Still, if it happens or not, this storyline should say something about drag racing compared to the rest of motorsports.
Could this year be a breakthrough with multiple women title holders? Regardless, this might be the beginning of a reign of women champions.
Additional sources : NHRA