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Ford Motor Company has decided it would like to see more women driving race cars, so it's doing something about it. The Blue Oval has begun the Ford Female Driver Development Program, which currently counts 18-year-old Stephanie Mockler (shown) and 17-year-old Alison MacLeod as participants. Ford's ultimate goal is to these young ladies progress into more competitive series and someday win the Holy Grail of racing for female drivers in the U.S. – a NASCAR Nextel Cup race. Can you believe it hasn't happened yet?
More and more women are joining the ranks of racing, as this Wikipedia page that hosts 47 names attest to, but it hasn't been fast nor easy for any one of them. Just like Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, these females have had to work extremely hard to crossover from fan to female racer and owe a lot those who went before them like Janet Guthrie, Shirley Muldowney and Lyn St. James, among others.

While Danica Patrick is every racing fan's favorite femme fatale at the moment, we're fairly certain she won't be the only lady in pit row for long. There is, however, a slim chance that she might be the first female to win a NASCAR race.

(For Ford's press release on its new program, follow the jump)

[Source: Ford]
FORD RALLIES WOMEN INTO RACING

DEARBORN, July 13, 2006 -- Katherine Legge of Northhampton, England, was celebrating her sixth birthday when her father wheeled out a special gift -- a go-kart. One ride was enough to hook the young girl.

"Racing is fun -- the adrenalin, the competition. And the car doesn't know if you're male or female," she says.

Decades later, Legge (pronounced "leg") has progressed from a small go-kart to a 750-horsepower open-wheel car on the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series powered by Ford. She is the first full-time female driver in the series and currently holds down 14th place in the championship standings.

Ford Motor Company would like to see more women behind the wheels of race cars, and has implemented the Ford Female Driver Development Program to do just that.

"Ford's customer base is diverse, and its driver roster should be diverse," said Dan Davis, director, Ford Racing Technology. It also makes good business sense for Ford, since the popularity of racing is increasing in many demographics and fan enthusiasm can translate into an enhanced image for the company and support of its products, added Davis.

NASCAR estimates that women represent 40 percent of its 75 million race fans.

The first participants in the program are 18-year-old Indiana native Stephanie Mockler and 17-year-old Alison MacLeod from Ontario. Both are competing in series sanctioned by the United States Auto Club (USAC).

Bob East, a noted chassis builder and USAC championship team owner, directs the program Clorox also provides support.

"This has been a great experience," said MacLeod who races in the Ford Focus Midget Series. "I've had a chance to work with Bob East, who is a legend in the sport, and with the support of great companies like Clorox and Ford, which is the dream of any young driver."

Ford's goal is for female drivers to progress to more competitive series, eventually winding up in the seat of a NASCAR Nextel Cup car.

Female drivers have periodically participated in NASCAR since the series' early days in the 1940s. However, none has ever won a race or stayed on the circuit for any extended length of time. Janet Guthrie had 33 Cup starts from 1976-80.

"It is Ford's intent that when the first woman wins a NASCAR Nextel Cup race and drives into Victory Lane, she'll be driving a Ford," said Davis.

Ford has a long history of developing diverse driver talent, such as Lyn St. James and African-American Willie T. Ribbs during the 1980s. Currently, the company is supporting NASCAR Busch Series driver Michel Jourdain, Jr. in his attempt to become the first Hispanic driver to pilot a Nextel Cup car.


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  • 14 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      I have always had the desire and I possess the skills to drive professionally. Unfortunately, I do not possess the financial means of accomplishing my dream. I agree that a driver should have to earn the chance to drive a Cup car, but unfortunately the marketing gurus choose looks over skill. I have spent all of my life as a mechanic, as far back as pestering my grandpa in his auto repair shop at the old age of 4. I have earned the respect of the men in this area by proving my skills and abilities. I am always shocking people when they learn that I turn wrenches and drive stock cars (when I get an opportunity). Many people think I'm a model - my friends use this to their advantage. I thoroughly inspect a car before I will drive it, its my life on the line, whether it's drag racing (boring, but its legal speeding) or stock car racing (oh yes!). It will be interesting, most of these new drivers have never turned wrenches in 110+ deg heat, built motors, set-up a chassis, used anything more than a shop vac & screwdriver (LOL) or actually had to determine why a stock car is running out of straightaway before you can catch the leaders! Stock cars are totally different than IRL-they don't have the auto adjusting control pad on the steering wheel. What you hit the track with is pretty much what you are going to run. I am NOT afraid of speed, love competition, have a determination for success, and there is NOTHING that compares to speed and the feeling of being that little bit ahead of the car beside you on the track!
      • 9 Years Ago
      My "good 'ole boy" antenna seems to detect a little female updander eh? I don't mind a girl in a car, just be sure she don't put my ass into the fence. Now, that may sound somewhat chauvinistic, but I have personally been on the track with some "rising stars" at my local speedway. Yea, there are men who can knit and women who play hocky, but for the most part, somebody always seem to be ever so slightly off the mark when gender trades happen. That's the reality even if you don't like it.
      • 9 Years Ago
      "You could have a short special event prior to the big NASCAR race. The race could consist of cars that all weigh the same and use pump gas. Except for safety items, that should be the only rules. The cars would then be monitored for emissions while racing and then the total fuel economy calculated at the end of the race."

      Except for the emissions part, and the fact that the races ran for 24 hours instead of being a short special event prior to a roundy-round yawner race, the formula you describe used to be called IMSA GTP Group C, and it produced some of the most amazing race cars and some of the best racing in the history of the sport.

      More topically, I fail to see why anyone cares whether or not a woman wins. What does her internal plumbing matter to me? It doesn't. It is just as ridiculous as getting hung up on race or sexual preference or other BS that we aren't supposed to care about any more. Funny how it still seems to matter so much to those who simultaneously insist that the rest of us need to ignore those same differences, isn't it?

      Ms. Devere makes the comment, "There are several issues for women drivers to overcome to get to the checkered flag in NASCAR," but then fails to list anything which is remotely related to being a woman. If the subsequent items in her post are supposed to describe those issues, well, they sound suspiciously like the exact issues EVERYBODY faces if they want to race and win. In other words: welcome to the real world, and good luck. You wanted a level playing field, you're there, go for it, but don't expect sympathy if it doesn't pan out.
      • 9 Years Ago
      You can train women all you like,but the fact is men are more into cars,hod rods,and racing that women.If the numbers were up in the developing stages such as,carting,dirt tracks,midgets,Atlantic,Formula 3000 and so on then hell ya,,there would be a bunch of divas to choose from.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Sad general commentary that it is all marketing & no sport. Never mind the gender issues.

      It was the real McCoy in the 'good ole days' when the cars were actually close to a production vehicle.

      Here is an idea to make NASCAR a little green. Remember back when you would go to a rock concert and there would be a 'kicker' band to start things off before the headliner.
      You could have a short special event prior to the big NASCAR race. The race could consist of cars that all weigh the same and use pump gas. Except for safety items, that should be the only rules. The cars would then be monitored for emissions while racing and then the total fuel economy calculated at the end of the race. The winner would be determined by a combination of who's first along with best fuel economy & emissions. Some points system. These items could be monitored while the race is in-progress to create some excitement. Hey, a car in up front may not be the leader. A lot of strategy & technology required.
      The idea has some bugs to work out, but could be innovative & kool to watch if the cars are allowed to be innovative & different. (like the good ole days again, well sorta) It could make AutoBlog Green actually intersting. Sorry!
      • 9 Years Ago
      Is this Ford's version of a "diversity initiative" for the racing world? What difference does it make if the race winner is a man or a woman? Haven't we been told for decades now that women can do anything men can do? So why are we singling women out?

      If women want to race, fine - let them get out there on the track and prove their mettle - but this corporate- or sanctioning-body-sponsored diversity crap is ridiculous. Racing is about the best drivers and the best cars - not about one's gender.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Whoa! Careful there, #1. Trust me on this one. I'm not touching that tar baby again. Oops. Uh-oh...
      • 9 Years Ago
      odd press release from ford. this is a very similar release to the one 2 years ago when they invited a bunch of young ladies to test car.

      just a note - if you get a chance to watch alison mcleod race, be sure to go. this girl is a natural. at 14 years old, she was racing shifter karts, while my 10 year old was in novice. great driver
      • 9 Years Ago

      Ford just spend the money on R&D. Nobody's gonna buy more cars if you sponsor female race care drivers.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Mr. Racetrackowner,

      The 'gender" issue is a problem for women, not men in the automotive and racing industry. If there was no issue then posts like this would not be of interest or have enough value for you to comment on.

      Are you going to be in Indianapolis on August 3rd? I'll save a seat at the Lyn St James Foundation Women event for you at my table so you can meet the women race car drivers personally, listen to theri stories and educate yourself so you can speak with more authority on the topic.

      Jody DeVere
      President
      Ask Patty
      http://askpatty.typepad.com/motorsports





      • 9 Years Ago
      "Just like Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball......"
      Lousy analogy since African Americans such as Jackie Robinson are natural athletes.
      • 9 Years Ago
      I saw Mockler finish on the podium in the midget race at IRP the night before the 500. Outstanding drive. If that performance is any indication, she'll go far.
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