Has anyone in major motorsport done more to advance the careers of women racers than Lyn St James? The former Indianapolis 500 combatant and sports car driving standout has made it her goal to see a more feminine look to grids, pit roads and paddocks around the world.
In conjunction with the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard's week-long racing festival in Indianapolis, St James held her third annual Women in the Winners Circle luncheon on the grounds of the University of Indianapolis.
The program acknowledged the contributions of 38 racing women and a full 33 of the champion drivers made the Midwest trek to loud applause from more then 300 on hand to cheer them. A silent auction raised funds for the Foundation, from which St James takes no financial benefit.
Among those on hand, Janet Guthrie, the Indianapolis 500 pioneer autographed copies of her book "Janet Guthrie: A Life at Full Throttle" and answered questions from many of the guests and honorees, many of the latter still in their teen years.
USAC president Rollie Helmling accepted the Kara Hendrick Spirit Award for honoree Sondi Eden, who was busy as a participant in the annual Jack Roush "Gong Show" for up-and-coming drivers. The two previous winners were Sarah McCune and Erin Crocker, the latter driver on hand for the afternoon's festivities.
A new honor, the Mildred Marcum Pioneer Award recognized the ARCA co- founder who still, well into her ninth decade works daily in the sanctioning body's offices. Marcum easily made her way to the dais to accept her prize.
While current media sensations and racing standouts Erin Crocker (NASCAR and USAC), Toyota Atlantic Championship 3-race winner Katherine Legge and Danica Patrick have shown the way during the past few months, there are women racing in all phases of the business and at all ages and levels.
Current champions range from 13-year-old Sloan Henderson of Franklin, OH, who has posted wins at every quarter-midget track on which she performs to Venezuelan Milka Duno, 33, the first woman to score an overall victory in a major North American professional sports car race (Grand American and American Le Mans).
To that end Dan Davis, the head of Ford's racing endeavors in the United States has put together a multi-year program that will take women from the grass roots of USAC Ford Focus and National Midget competition (with Bob East's outstanding organization) to, hopefully NASCAR Busch Series and Nextel Cup competition.
For 2006, Ford will support for Alison MacLeod, 15, from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and Destiney Hays, 22, of Oroville, CA. In 2002 Hays became the first woman to lead a race in The Civil War Series and won the 2004 Western Sprint Car feature event at Las Vegas Speedway during the USAC Midget Nationals. MacLeod, following a stellar karting career that has brought her the first women's podium at the WKA Winternationals in Daytona Beach, became the first Canadian woman to win a Ford Focus feature race.
Also during this third annual "Women in the Winners Circle" luncheon St James handed Opportunity Awards to Erin Crocker, Danica Patrick, Katherine Legge, Sarah Fisher and Deborah Renshaw.