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The history of women in the Indy 500
Auto racing is often thought of as a man's sport, but more and more women are becoming involved. In the history of the Indianapolis 500, eight women have attempted to make the race, and seven have competed in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" - in 2011, a ninth woman will make her first attempt at the Indy 500.
Janet Guthrie was the first woman to pass her driver's test for the Indy 500 in 1976; a year later, she made the first of three straight starts (1977 to 1979). Guthrie was not only the first woman to compete in the Indy 500 in 1977, she did so after becoming the first woman to compete in a NASCAR superspeedway race in 1976, and becoming the first woman to compete in the Daytona 500 in February 1977.
Desire Wilson passed her Indy 500 driver's test in 1982, but failed to qualify for the race. Ten years later, Lyn St. James passed her driver's test and successfully made the field in 1992; that was the first of seven starts St. James made in the Indy 500. Her highest starting position was sixth in 1994, and her highest finishing spot was 11th in her rookie year.
Sarah Fisher currently holds the record for most starts by a female in the Indy 500 with nine. She passed her test in 2000 and competed in her first Indy 500 that same year; Fisher had a high start of ninth in the race in 2002, and a career-best finish of 17th in 2009. Fisher left the cockpit for the 2011 season, and her Sarah Fisher Racing team will be fielding a car for Ed Carpenter at the Indy 500.
Danica Patrick is currently the most successful woman at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She competed in her first Indy 500 in 2005 and has a career-best starting spot of 4th in her rookie year; in 2009, she finished 3rd in the race, the highest finishing position by a female driver in the race's history. Patrick has led 19 laps at the famous speedway in her career.
Milka Duno has competed in three Indy 500s (2007 to 2009), with a top starting spot of 27th and career-best finish of 19th, both in 2008. She failed to make the field in 2010, a year when four other women competed in the race.
Ana Beatriz and Simona de Silvestro were both rookies in the field in 2010, starting 21st and 22nd, respectively. Beatriz came home in 21st, while de Silvestro moved up to a 14th-place finish. In 2011, Firestone Indy Lights driver Pippa Mann will attempt to make her first Indianapolis 500; in 2010 Indy Lights competition, she became the first woman to win a pole at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and went on to win a race at Kentucky Speedway.
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