top of page

Iowa History Daily: May 29 - Janet Guthrie Races at Indy

Iowa History Daily: On May 29, 1977, Iowa City born Janet Guthrie raced the Indianapolis 500. The first woman to race both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, Guthrie left a legacy of speeding through barriers for women in a male-dominated motorsports.

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


bottom of page