Female diversity stalled in NASCAR
It wasn’t that long ago - barely two years - that Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet seemed to be trying to be the first Detroit car manufacturer to get a female driver to victory lane on NASCAR’s Busch or Nextel Cup tours.
But over the past year, that competition has been pushed to the back burner.
Maybe that goal was a little overly ambitious. Nevertheless, Detroit seems to have given up on the effort, at least in any meaningful sense.
That comes just as Danica Patrick has become one of the biggest stars in Indy-car racing - certainly the most marketable.
So it seems odd that NASCAR team owners and sponsors have all but bailed out of the game.
But Toyota is now part of the big mix in NASCAR, and will it pick up the ball here?
Les Unger, Toyota’s national motorsports manager, said that finding a woman who can handle a wheel in NASCAR is daunting - and a very expensive proposition.
Toyota, Unger said, has had female racers on its marketing side for some time.
“We have had this event in Long Beach for 31 years, and for the last 10 years we’ve had virtually every woman who is either now in open wheel or trying to get into open wheel in our race,” Unger said. “Sara Senske, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Lyn St. James. Even Shelly Anderson, on the NHRA side.
“So we feel there is obviously an opportunity out there for women.”
That part of the annual spring Long Beach Grand Prix, however, is a pro/celebrity race, a promotional event, with a field including such people as tennis star Martina Navratilova and TV soap-opera actors.
That is visibility, probably more than some of the NASCAR drivers get for winning at California Speedway 60 miles west in Fontana.
But it’s not a career-making race.
Unger, part of a large Toyota contingent in Indianapolis for last week’s forum on women in motorsports, said that the first woman who can prove she can really cut it in NASCAR could reap a marketing whirlwind. More at Winston Salem Journal