6th Annual Women in the Winner’s Circle Luncheon celebrated women race car drivers from all Series
Indianapolis, IN (July 24, 2008) – The Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation today announced the winners of its Leadership Award, the Mildred Marcum Pioneer Award, the USAC Kara Hendrick Spirit Award, and the Opportunity Award. The honorees were recognized at the Foundation’s 6th annual Women in the Winner’s Circle luncheon held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Foundation presented its inaugural Leadership Award to Director of Ford Racing, Dan Davis. For 11 years, Davis has managed Ford’s North American auto racing programs, including their commitment to furthering grassroots racing efforts and young driver development. In 2005, Davis led the charge to create the Ford Female Driver Development Program, the first time a manufacturer created a program to identify and develop young female talent. Through this ongoing program, women are provided opportunities and resources to help them reach the winner’s circle. Ford Racing has a long history in developing diverse driver talent. Ford was an early supporter of Lyn St. James' road racing career in the 1980s, as well as a supporter of prominent African-American driver Willy T. Ribbs' road racing career in that same time frame. Currently they are supporting the racing efforts of Stephanie Mockler and Alison MacLeod in the USAC Midgets Series.
The Foundation also recognized Paul Newman and Newman’s Own Foundation for being the inaugural partner in Project Podium, the Foundation’s matching grant program. Thanks to Newman’s support and leadership, Project Podium awarded grants last month to five young women drivers to help further their careers.
The 4th annual Mildred Marcum Pioneer Award was presented posthumously to two individuals: Sara Christian and Louise Smith. This award was created to honor Mildred Marcum, who co-founded the ARCA Re/Max Series in 1953 in Toledo Ohio, and who represents what it takes to be successful in racing: show up, work hard, love what you’re doing, and be the best at what you do.
On June 19, 1949, Sara Christian became the first woman driver in NASCAR history. Three weeks later, in her second race, she competed in the first field to feature three women drivers and she competed against her husband, Frank, making them the only married couple to compete in a NASCAR race. Through seven races in 1949 and 1950, Christian had two Top 10 finishes. In 1949, she was named United States Drivers’ Association Woman Driver of the Year, and was inducted into the Georgia Automotive Racing Hall of Fame in 2004. She passed away in 1980.
Louise Smith was known as “the first lady of racing,” winning 38 races in her career. She started her career on local short tracks in 1945. On July 10, 1949, she began racing in NASCAR, competing in the first stock car race she ever saw and driving in the first race to include three women – Louise Smith, Sara Christian and Ethel Mobley. She stopped racing in 1956, but returned to the industry in 1971 to sponsor cars for drivers on their way up. In 1999, she became the first woman inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Smith passed away on April 15, 2006.
Previous winners of the Mildred Marcum Pioneer Award are: Mildred Marcum (2005); Barbara Parks (2006); and Denise McCluggage (2007).
The USAC Kara Hendrick Spirit Award honors a woman driver whose spirit, determination and driving ability are reminiscent of the excellence demonstrated by Kara Hendrick during her brief career. This year’s honoree is 19-year old Alison MacLeod. Since stepping foot into her first go-kart at age seven, MacLeod’s passion in life has been to go racing. Graduating from 4-cycle sprint karts to 80cc shifter karts by age 11; MacLeod proved she was not just a competitor but a champion. By 2004 MacLeod racked up numerous championships and caught the attention of Ford Racing as an up-and-coming competitor. She was given the opportunity to showcase her talent in the Ford Racing Sponsored Driver Development Program managed and operated by open wheel car builder Bob East, of B. East chassis. Competing in the USAC Ford Focus division Alison scored her first victory in 2005, just 3-weeks after her 16th birthday. The 2007 season included a win in Plymouth, IN, and set her on the path for 2008 to tackle the USAC Regional Midget series.
Previous winners of the USAC Kara Hendrick Spirit Award are: Sarah McCune (2003); Erin Crocker (2004); Sondi Eden (2005); Melanie Troxel (2006); Stephanie Mockler (2007).
The Opportunity Award was developed to honor racing teams, race Series and sponsors that create significant opportunities for women drivers to excel within the industry. The 2008 honorees are: Bob East for providing opportunities in the USAC Ford Focus Midget Series; Jim Jordan, Mazda for providing opportunities in the Mazda Ladder Series; Sam Schmidt Motorsports for providing opportunities to Ana Beatriz ; Mike Ashley/Roger Burgess for providing opportunities to Melanie Troxel; Newman Wachs Racing for providing opportunities to Simona De Silvestro; Jon Lewis, American Spirit Racing for providing opportunities to Cyndie Allmann; Erin Crocker for providing opportunities in the Tobias SpeedSTR Series; Kalitta Motorsports for providing opportunities to Hillary Will; Golden State Racing for providing opportunities to Kristin Bumbera.
Previous winners include: Evernham Motorsports; Rahal Letterman Racing; Richard Childress Racing; Bobby Hamilton Racing; Frank Pedegron Racing; Don Schumacher Racing; Roush Racing; and Harold Matthews.
Sponsors of the 2008 luncheon included: American Honda Motor Company; American Senior Communities; CARA Charities; Ford Racing; General Motors; George McAtee; Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Jane A. Potee/Old National Bank; Just Marketing International; Leo Mehl; Linda Conti/David A. Noyes & Co.; Mazda North America; NASCAR; Simon Property Group; The Indianapolis Star Media Group; Toyota; University of Indianapolis; and Whale Hunting Women.
About Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation:
A strong advocate for women in the motorsports industry, particularly women who aspire to the professional level in racing, Lyn St. James established the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation in 1994, is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to professional development for talented, up-and-coming young women race car drivers.
The Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation currently conducts two primary programs: Project Podium and the Women in the Winner’s Circle Academy: The Complete Driver. Project Podium is a matching-funds grant program designed to empower promising young female race car drivers and help them further their early professional careers. The Driver Academy, established in 1994, has become the most comprehensive educational and training program of its kind for talented and gifted women motorsports drivers. Since its inception, more than 230 women drivers, including Danica Patrick, Erin Crocker, Melanie Troxel and Sarah Fisher, have participated in this invitation-only Academy. More information about the Women’s in the Winner’s Circle Foundation, Project Podium and the Driver Development Academy can be found at www.lynstjames.com.
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Photography: Getty Images
photo Getty Images