Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
What would you think if I told you that today is the birthday of a person who graduated from the University of Michigan with a Physics degree, found work in the aerospace industry in the 1960's and then decided to go another route in the 70's as a race car driver.? What if I told you this person is a woman?
Born in Iowa City, Iowa in 1938, Janet Guthrie was raised in Florida and then eventually moved to Michigan, where she graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor's degree in Physics. After graduating from college, Janet Guthrie went to work as an aerospace engineer in the 1960's during the height of the space race between the United States and Russia. It was during this time that Janet Guthrie began to dabble in auto racing and began driving a Jaguar in the Sports Cars Club of America. Circuit.
Sometime after our astronauts stepped onto the moon, Janet Guthrie left the aerospace industry behind as she stepped onto the track and began racing full-time in 1972 and never looked back. It wasn't until 1976 that she drove into the NASCAR circuit and her first professional race was in a Winston Cup superspeedway race.
In the following year, 1977, Janet Guthrie once again broke the barrier for female drivers as she was the first female driver to compete in the Daytona 500. Considered by racing aficionados to be the "Super Bowl of Auto Racing", she finished in a very impressive 12th place and won the top rookie honors that year.
Also in 1977, Janet Guthrie tried her hand at racing the then most prestigious event, The Indianapolis 500 or what has become to be known as simply, the "Indy 500". In her first Indy race, Janet Guthrie experienced mechanical issues with her car at lap 27 and had to leave the race. However, it was good enough for her to receive the Rookie of the Year trophy and the next year, Janet Guthrie went back to the Indy 500 and finished in ninth place and this record stood for twenty-seven years until Danica Patrick finished in fourth place at the Indy 500 in 2005.
Janet Guthrie retired from auto racing in 1983 as she had trouble finding sponsors for her racing team when there were teams like those of Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt still racing and sponsors were clamoring to them.
In 2006, Janet Guthrie was finally inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and if you get to Washington D.C., you can see her helmet and racing suit in the Smithsonian.
Janet Guthrie, the first female race car driver to drive in both, the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500 was born on this day in history, March 7, 1938