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Sara Christian and the women of NASCAR

Our next historical post looks at the contributions of Sara Christian, who drove in NASCAR’s Strictly Stock Series. This category was the first season of professional stock car racing series in the United States. 

The Strictly Stock Series’ inaugural race was the first stock car race to be accredited by NASCAR and took place on the 19th of June 1949 at the Charlotte Speedway in North Carolina. Sara Christian drove at this very first race, an incredible achievement for the late 1940s.

Sara Christian was born August 25th 1918 in Dahlonega, Georgia. There is a lack of  information available about her early life or her racing career before the NASCAR Strictly Stock Series. It is unknown to what extent she had raced previously before 1949. 

In the first Strictly Stock Series race at Charlotte Speedway, Sara qualified 13th driving a Ford owned by her husband Frank Christian. Her race was going well until lap 38 when the team chose to remove her from the car to give it to Bob Flack whose engine had cut out early in the race. Flack then ran Christian’s car, only for it to overheat before the chequered flag. 

Christian raced in the second race of the season at Daytona Beach Road Course the following month, where she finished 18th. Christian was not the only woman to compete in this race - she was joined by Ethel Mobley and Louise Smith. These three women competed against each other throughout the season. Three women would not compete in the same NASCAR race after this inaugural season until 1977. 

Later in the season Sara would finished sixth at the Langhorne Speedway, where she took part in a victory lap alongside race winner Curtis Turner. Christian bettered this by finishing fifth at the Heidelberg Raceway in Pittsburgh. In the inaugural 1949 season, Christian competed in six out of eight races and finished a commendable 13th in the standings. These results saw her awarded the United States Drivers Association Woman Driver of the Year Award in 1949. 

Despite a successful season in 1949, in 1950 Christian entered only one race at the Hamburg Speedway finishing 14th. After that race Christian’s racing career would come to an end as she retired following the race. Her reasons for retiring are unknown and little is known about her life after her racing career. 

Sara Christian died on March 7th 1980, leaving behind a legacy of having raced in the inaugural NASCAR race. An incredible achievement for any racer, especially a women who even today remain underrepresented in motorsport. 

The amount of opportunity she was given to race in one season was impressive for the time, as many only raced in a single event rather than an entire season. The chance to race alongside two other women in the same series was remarkable for the time as a woman was often the only one in the so-called man’s world of motorsport.  

In 2004, Sara Christian was posthumously inducted into the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame. Her legacy will live on. 

Image credits: Getty


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