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Iowa History Daily: March 7 - Janet Guthrie

Iowa History Daily: On March 7, 1938, Janet Guthrie, the first woman to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, was born in Iowa City. A glass-ceiling shattering driver still stands as the highest finishing woman in a top-tier NASCAR race.

Born to Jean Ruth Guthrie and Lain Guthrie, both professional pilots, Janet Guthrie went on to earn her own pilot’s license at just 17 years old in 1955. By 1963, Guthrie took her talents to ground-bound motorsports as she debuted on the SCCA circuit.

By 1972, Guthrie was racing full-time. In 1976, a 15th place finish at the World 600 made Guthrie the first woman to compete in a NASCAR Winston Cup race. The following year, she raced to a twelfth pace finish at the Daytona 500. A sixth place finish at Bristol in 1977 still stands as the best finish by a woman in a top-tier NASCAR race (tie, Danica Patrick, 2014). Guthrie ran the Indianapolis 500 on three occasions, and even finished ninth in the 1978 race despite a fractured wrist concealed from race officials. Although her performance merited otherwise, Guthrie struggled to gain sponsorships, and she was forced into retirement in 1979.

The glass-ceiling breaking Iowan was elected into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Her helmet and race suit are held in the collection of the Smithsonian Institute. In 2005, Guthrie released an autobiography, Janet Guthrie: Life at Full Throttle. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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