Tuesday, May 30, 2017

40 Years Ago Car Racing Gender Barrier Broken with Janet Guthrie, But WIth Loads of Sexism

On May 14, 1977, forty years ago, Janet Guthrie saw a sign that might have been encouragement for any other driver trying to make the cut in the Indianapolis 500, but "JANET GRAB THAT POLE" was in the shape of a penis. Guthrie, now 74, put up with nasty sexist insults along the way to making a lot of cracks in racing's glass ceiling.

Guthrie was welcomed to Charlotte Motor Speedway by a throng of men chanting, "No tits in the pits!" 

"The strangest thing was the rubber chicken hex," Dick Simon, Guthrie's former teammate, recalled two years ago, during the Indy 500's 100th anniversary celebration. "One of the Yellow Shirts [Indianapolis Motor Speedway track guards] that was positioned at the entrance to Gasoline Alley would shake this rubber chicken at Janet every time she passed by him. Just cursing at her and shaking that chicken. It sounds stupid, but his intent was very hateful."

Janet Guthrie holds the record for the best finish by a woman in a top-tier NASCAR race, a sixth-place finish at Bristol in 1977.