Remembering Louise Smith, the all-in First Lady Of Racing

By popular demand, we continue our look at the women who defy convention, and a whole lot of reluctant men, to pursue their love of racing by getting behind the wheel.

Louise Smith was one of many drivers who got a start by driving away from the police. Back in the '40s, a young racing promoter by the name of Bill France, who was not then known as "Senior," was looking for a woman to run at his South Carolina track, hoping to get more people interested in watching racing. A friend of a friend told him about Louise's talents in cop evasion, so he asked her, and she came a'running.

At the race, Smith was given explicit instructions not to stop unless she saw a red flag. (Apparently they weren't big on pitting around those parts.) However, the race promoters also failed to tell her what the checkered flag meant. Louise finished in third place and continued to run around the track all by herself until someone thought to throw a red flag. (Wonder how much time they spent giggling before they rescued her?)

A year later, she drove her husband's new Ford to Daytona Beach, entered the race, and wrecked the car. She told her husband it had broken down, but then he showed her the photo of her wreck, which had made the front page of the local newspaper! Since history records that he didn't approve of her racing habit, one can imagine the frosty silence around the dinner table after that transgression.

In a decade of racing, between 1945 and 1956, Louise won 38 events and broke darn near every bone in her body. She was the first woman ever inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. She never made a lot of money, but she had a good time, racing with the likes of Ralph Earnhardt and Buddy Baker. And that's what it's really all about, right?

Now it remains to be seen if the likes of Danica Patrick can stand up to the legacy of the "First Lady of Racing."

Legends of NASCAR: Louise Smith