July 31, 2006

Today In Automotive History

1916 NASCAR's "first female" is born

Louise Smith, NASCAR's first female act, was born on this day in 1916. Known as racing's "Good ol' Gal" she competed in stock-car racing during its decidedly "good ol' boy" years. A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Smith raced various Modified, Sportsman, and Grand National series events between 1946 and 1956. Her fearless attitude made her a novelty at a time when most women were homemakers. "I enjoyed every minute," said Smith, reflecting on her career. "I traveled all over North America, racing everywhere I could, and I had fun with it. Didn't make a whole lot of money, but if I could do it again today, I'd do it and I think I'd make it." In the earliest years of NASCAR, Bill France, NASCAR's founder, president, and chief promoter, used Smith to attract spectators. Smith got her start when NASCAR held a race near her hometown at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway, and a local suggested Smith on the grounds that she could "outrun every highway patrol and lawman in Greenville." France agreed to give her a shot. In her first race, Smith explains, "They told me if I saw a red flag to stop. They didn't say anything about the checkered flag. I wondered where all the cars were and then as I was all alone on the track, I noticed them in the pits. They finally threw the red flag and I pulled in. I had finished third." In Smith's 10-year career, she captured 38 victories. In the mid-1970s, she became involved with the sport again, sponsoring drivers Ronnie Thomas, Bobby Wawak, and Larry Pearson. Smith was inducted into the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

Posted by Quality Weenie at July 31, 2006 06:56 AM | TrackBack

Didn't she die not too long ago?

Posted by: michele at July 31, 2006 10:13 PM

Yes, April 15th, 2006

Posted by: Quality Weenie at August 1, 2006 06:53 AM