Considering the recent celebration of International Women’s Day, I felt it fitting to recognize the women in motorsports, and there are many. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “It’s true that behind every great man is a more great woman,” but I have news for you. There are times on the racetrack that men are behind great women, and it’s not only on the track where woman excel in motorsports. A dear friend of mine, Angelica Fuentes Garcia, from London, and a notable racer in La Carrera Panamericana, says, “Some girls chase men. I race them.” Besides being a successful woman in motorsports, Angelica uses her notoriety to teach others about Lyme disease, a noble cause, and she’s just one example of women in motorsports.
I recently was honored to be invited to the induction ceremonies at The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Daytona Beach, Fla. This three-day event allowed me not only to meet, but to spend quality time with inductees like Helio Castroneves, Jack Roush, Peter Brock as well as Roger Penske, Rusty Wallace, Al Unser Jr., Donny Allison, Vice Chairman of NASCAR Mike Helton and many others.
One of the women posthumously inducted into the Hall was Denise McCluggage, an American auto racing driver, journalist, author, photographer and a pioneer of equality for women in motorsports and in journalism. I am fortunate to be good friends with Denise’s close friends, who are my neighbors, as was Denise before her passing, which has given me so much insight to what an amazing advocate for women in motorsports she was.
During the three-day event, I was fortunate enough to spend time and dine with two individuals during the inductions, who impressed me not just because they were so charming, but because of all they do for women in motorsports. One of these amazing ladies was none other than Lyn St. James, the first woman to win the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award. She has more racing accolades than can be listed here and also has been inducted into The Automotive Hall of Fame in Detroit. Equally recognized for her many contributions off the track, Lyn has received numerous awards for distinguished service to racing, driver education, the automotive industry, and as an advocate for women’s participation in sports. She also served as president of the Women’s Sports Foundation from 1990 to 1993. In 1993, she founded the Lyn St. James Foundation to provide support for women’s participation in automotive fields. She truly inspires women in motorsports. NASA members might find it interesting that Lyn’s favorite daily driver is a Miata. Zoom zoom!
Another inspiring advocate for women in motorsports, who I had the distinct honor of getting to know was Cindy Sisson. Cindy is known for saying, “I am 100 percent advocating for women in the automotive industry. My goal is to get ladies in the left seat.” Cindy has worked with the Olympics, the LPGA, NASCAR, the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and PGA and youth sports programs. While in NASCAR, she worked with Roush Racing and Kyle Petty’s Charity Ride Across America, which my friend Hershel McGriff has ridden in. Cindy founded GS Events, an elite consulting group that brings decades of marketing, operational, experiential and branding expertise to life. I was amazed while reading articles on her website, which includes programs she has developed for women to participate in car events around the United States. She is a truly fascinating woman of motorsports.
It goes without saying, this was an amazing gathering of motorsports individuals, but what really impressed me were these amazing women of motorsports, none of whom take a backseat to anyone. I raise my glass to all women in motorsports, including, of course, the women of NASA.