By Jennifer Lemon
Women have been legally allowed to compete in auto racing since its introduction to the United States in 1895, although they have always been a minority in these sports. Only two women have ever competed in the most famous race of them all, the Grand Prix, out of only five female qualifiers. A lack of knowledge about motor vehicles or racing may deter prospective women from beginning their journey into auto racing. The belief that auto racing sports are too dangerous for women may also contribute to low participation from females in the field. Dirt racing is especially dangerous with increased risks of vehicles losing traction, compared to racing on concrete and asphalt tracks. Despite these potential obstacles, women today are challenging those beliefs by competing in all types of auto racing, including, but not limited to, dirt racing.
The Track to Success
One woman in particular is a clear example of how upbringing can affect interest in motorsports. Allison Ricci is a 3rd-generation dirt racer from New York began competing when she was 10 years old. During her first full year of competition in 2015, Ricci won an impressive six races, two of which were at the Orange County Fair Speedway. This weekend, she will participate in her final competition of the year before donating the money she has raised this season to breast cancer research, as she has done every year that she has competed. But Ricci is not the only female racer who uses her racing for a cause. Another racer from New York, Caley Weese, has used her racing prowess to support anti-bullying campaigns. Even though she is the only female competitor in her division of dirt racing, Weese campaigns to make bullied individuals feel included.
Since the days of playground competition, men have never wanted to be beaten by a woman. This competition is still seen in dirt racing, but biological differences have little impact on the performance of men and women in this field. It is only participants’ knowing the ins and outs of cars and how to best handle them on the track that leads to victory. But as more and more women compete in dirt racing championships, it is becoming more clear that men and women are equal opponents on this playing field.
Bringing More Women on the Track
One factor that may be discouraging women from participating in dirt racing could simply lack of awareness of the sport. A woman who is not exposed to dirt racing is not going to participate in competitions. Fortunately, dirt racing is becoming increasingly popular, and there are hundreds of tracks all across the country, from New York to California. Tickets to see dirt races are inexpensive, and the dirt races themselves are often casual but exciting. There is also the matter of not knowing the skills necessary to dominate the track. But professional female racers like Shelina Moreda have made it their priority to bring more women in motorsports. Moreda is the founder of a program and camp called She’z Racing that is directed towards teaching women how to manage a vehicle on dirt tracks. With more chances to experience dirt racing and access to need-to-know techniques, it is quite likely that even more women will join dirt racing in the upcoming years.