BARBARA PARKS HONORED POSTHUMOUSLY WITH MILDRED MARCUM PIONEER AWARD AT WOMEN IN WINNER'S CIRCLE LUNCHEON Melanie Troxel and two NHRA race teams also earn awards during event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- The Lyn St. James...
BARBARA PARKS HONORED POSTHUMOUSLY WITH MILDRED MARCUM PIONEER AWARD AT WOMEN IN WINNER'S CIRCLE LUNCHEON
Melanie Troxel and two NHRA race teams also earn awards during event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- The Lyn St. James Foundation recognized the late Barbara Parks' achievements in the world of NHRA drag racing today by presenting the Mildred Marcum Pioneer Award in her honor during the fourth annual Women in the Winner's Circle luncheon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Mrs. Parks, wife of NHRA founder Wally Parks and a driving force behind the early successes of the 54-year-old sanctioning body, succumbed to cancer in late January after a long battle with the devastating illness. In contrast to the many women who take the much deserved spotlight as a result of their untiring efforts to contribute to the progress of automotive hobbies and racing, Mrs. Parks, by her own choice remained in the background. But she was a force -- an important, determined and very creative influence -- in the earliest days of the founding of hot rodding and, of course, the National Hot Rod Association and championship drag racing.
She was active to the end, remaining at her husband's side as he pursued with painstaking effectiveness the efficient operation of an NHRA museum, a monument to the sport's illustrious history and a showcase of the archival record of NHRA drag racing. Many of the features showcased in the museum, now named for its founder as The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, are the product of Barbara's vision, creativeness and talents.
The Mildred Marcum Pioneer Award annually recognizes the achievements of a woman who through her passion and dedication for many years, demonstrates how much women have contributed to the motorsports industry.
NHRA President Tom Compton accepted the prestigious award and read a statement from Barbara's devoted husband, who was unable to attend the event.
"On behalf of Barbara and all of us at NHRA, let me express our genuine appreciation for this premium recognition and for the years of friendship she enjoyed among you -- especially here in Indianapolis," Wally Parks said in the statement. "She was a trooper -- totally dedicated to a very special sport's advancements in which the ladies have been active in important roles since day one. As she often pointed out, it was the people involved -- not the race cars -- that she appreciated most in five decades with NHRA. Thank you for honoring her memory with this very special tribute."
Said Compton: "On behalf of Wally and the entire NHRA family, we want to thank Lyn St. James and the Lyn St. James Foundation for recognizing Barbara's immeasurable contribution to the sport and honoring her with the Mildred Marcum Pioneer Award as part of the Women in the Winner's Circle Luncheon. The entire NHRA family owes a tremendous amount of thanks to Barbara Parks for what she accomplished and her influence on the sport will be everlasting."
NHRA Top Fuel driver Melanie Troxel was the surprise recipient the USAC Kara Hendrick Spirit Award, which honors a female driver whose spirit, determination and driving ability are reminiscent of the excellence demonstrated by the promising Western States Midget Series driver before her untimely death in Oct. 1991 due to injuries suffered in a racing accident.
Troxel has raced to two victories this season in seven final round appearances in her Skull Shine/Torco Race Fuels dragster and posted two No. 1 qualifying efforts as she is trying to become only the second female in NHRA history to win a Top Fuel world championship title. The quickest (4.458 seconds) and fastest (331.04 mph) woman in NHRA history, Troxel's other season highlights include being nominated for two ESPY awards and named the first quarter recipient of the Driver of the Year award.
"This was totally unexpected," Troxel said, "and I am extremely honored to receive this very special award. I've been very fortunate with the opportunities I have been given and I also thank Lyn for everything that she has done. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to race for Don Schumacher Racing and I'm grateful to everyone involved with the team. It takes a talented group of people to put a car out there that can win races and have success. When I first started coming to Lyn's events I was in between rides and she has been a great source of inspiration to me over the years, encouraging me to stick with it and stay out there in front of the teams and sponsors and the people who would make it possible for me to get back out there."
Two high-profile NHRA race teams -- Don Schumacher Racing and Frank Pedregon Racing --also received Opportunity Awards during the event for creating racing opportunities for female drivers.
The event was hosted by St. James and basketball legend Nancy Lieberman. Anne Stevens, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Ford Motor Company, was the featured speaker. More than 30 professional female drivers from all forms of auto racing were in attendance, including NHRA's Troxel, Ashley Force and Hillary Will.
"The 'Women in the Winner's Circle' luncheons have proved to be a great success," said St. James, the first female driver to be named Indy 500 Rookie of the Year and named one of the top 100 women athletes of the century by Sports Illustrated for Women. She started the Lyn St. James Foundation and Driver Development Program to provide leadership, vision, resources and financial support in order to create an open environment for women's growth in automotive fields.
"Bringing together the top female drivers and technical experts in motorsports has helped in discussing the opportunities currently available to women in the industry," she continued. "It is our goal to continue to expand these opportunities and encourage more women to experience the thrill of motorsports."
NHRA has had 39 different women earn national event victories during its 55-year history, including eight at the professional level. Shirley Muldowney, a three-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion with 18 career victories, was the first woman to win a professional category race (1976, Columbus, Ohio) and the first to ever earn an NHRA season championship (1977). Angelle Sampey is NHRA's winningest female driver, with 40 career victories and three world championship titles in Pro Stock Motorcycle. More than 150 women currently hold competition licenses at NHRA's top levels of racing.