INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, July 27, 2001 - There are a lot of firsts on Shawna Robinson's racing resume. First woman in history to win a NASCAR series pole ... First woman in history to win a NASCAR Busch Series pole ... First woman...
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, July 27, 2001 - There are a lot of firsts on Shawna Robinson's racing resume.
First woman in history to win a NASCAR series pole ... First woman in history to win a NASCAR Busch Series pole ... First woman in history to win a NASCAR touring series event ... First woman in 20 years to finish a NASCAR Winston Cup event in June at Michigan.
Robinson will try again next week when the Winston Cup Series comes to Indianapolis for the eighth annual Brickyard 400 on Aug. 5. She's bidding to become the first woman to make a Brickyard 400 field and only the fourth woman to make a race field at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway behind Indianapolis 500 veterans Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James and Sarah Fisher.
"This is my first time here," Robinson said July 24 during the two-day Winston Cup testing session. "I'd never been on this racetrack until this morning. It's quite an experience. You think about the drivers who have run here, and the careers that have been made. I can't even imagine what Jeff Gordon felt when he won the inaugural (Winston Cup) race here.
"It was a little intimidating at first, but I needed to push that away immediately. I think any racetrack can be intimidating if you let it, but there's just something about Indy. It's almost like you psyche yourself up for it before you get there."
Robinson, who will pilot the No. 84 Tropicana Taurus in her bid to make the 43-car lineup, said driving the track was different.
"It's almost like driving a road course the way you drive it in a Cup car," she said of the four corners and lower banking that set the 2.5-mile oval apart from the higher-banked speedways of the country. "You enter the corner as you would on a road course."
Robinson, 36, started racing at age 18 and was the Great American Truck Racing series Rookie of the Year in 1984. In that year, she became the first woman to win a major superspeedway points race when she triumphed in the Bobtail 100 at Milwaukee.
From there, it was short-track stock cars and trucks until she joined NASCAR in 1988 and won both the Rookie of the Year title and the Most Popular Driver honor in the Goody's Dash Series.
It was on to the Busch Series in 1991, and she got her first top-10 finish in 1994 at Watkins Glen and established a series track record of 174.330 mph in taking the pole at Atlanta the same year.
She said making the Brickyard 400 field would be huge. "It means my career is what it means," she said. "I'm at a situation now where every racetrack I go to, it's extremely important to make the race and get some seat time under my belt because I'm running a limited schedule.
"But to make the Brickyard is like 10 times more. It's like going to Daytona and making the Daytona 500. That's the way I'm going to start next year, so to come here and make this race is probably what will put me at Daytona. That's how important it is for me."
Robinson has met Fisher, 20, who made her second "500" start in May. "I met her in Kentucky when we ran there last year," Robinson said. "She was testing, and I was racing in the ARCA car, and she was super-nice. I think we know we're kind of special in our areas - me with NASCAR and her with IRL.
"There are a lot of differences there. She's a lot younger, and she's got a very large future ahead of her. I've been out here for a while, and I don't know how big my future is, but I'm going to make it as big as it can be."
Practice starts Aug. 3 at the Speedway, with NASCAR Winston Cup qualifying and the True Value International Race of Champions season finale Aug. 4 and the Brickyard 400 at 1:30 p.m. (EST) Aug. 5.