Story Behind the Picture, Motorsports Photography, Assignments
Back in 1986 I was covering the ARCA 200 stco car race at Daytona for United Press International. One of the drivers, ARCA star Bill Venturini, had shown up in Daytona for this year’s race with a new, all-girl pit crew. While this was a pretty obvious publicity stunt designed to draw media attention (which worked, by the way) and while true journalists tend to shy away from such stunts, I couldn’t resist stopping by the Venturini pit during the race to see how things went. I was rewarded with a fairly interesting set of photos.
While women obviously took the job very seriously, as well they should in those days of no pit road speed limits, where the cars would scream in and out of the pits at well over 100 MPH, there were still some obvious differences from the usual stock car pit stop.
In those days, the driver was directed into his pit stall by a very brave sign holder, who staked his or her life on the hope that the race cars brakes were in good condition and not going to fail as the car streaked in for service. Venturini’s sign holder needed a little coaxing from the male crew chief to get into the proper position on pit road. As this photo shows, a gentle tug on the sleeve moved her out into harm’s way.
Once the car slid to a stop, the women went to work and serviced the car in impressive fashion. Unfortunately, as Venturini was poised to roar away at the end of the stop, the engine failed and the car did not move from it’s spot, treating those of use along to pit road to the view of a group of decidedly non-masculine forms pushing the race car backwards up pit road toward the garage and out of the race.
In this day of Danica Patrick mounting the latest challenge to the historically male dominance of the sport, this photo gallery provides a unique look back at the history of women in motorsports!