The 107th edition of the iconic Indy500 race is officially here with Practice 1 having commenced on Tuesday 16th May, and Qualifying having set the grid on Saturday, May 20th - Sunday, May 21st. Drivers will once again race around the intense 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday 28th May.
To honour the female drivers that have competed in the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’, we thought we’d tell you a little more about them!
Janet Guthrie was the first-ever woman to qualify and race in the Indy500 in 1977, becoming one of the most well-known female drivers in the history of the series. She qualified in 25th place, but engine issues meant that she dropped down to finish 29th overall in the race.
Image Credit: Robert Alexander, Getty Images
In her career, she raced in three Indy500s - from 1977 to 1979, finishing an impressive 9th in the 1978 event (whilst driving with a fractured wrist we might add, which she hid from race officials!). Guthrie is an inspirational, hardcore figure that we look up to at FinM - and it’s not hard to see why!
Fisher made history as the youngest-ever female driver to have started the Indy500, when she made her debut at just 19 years of age in 2000. She also holds the record for the most career starts, having started every Indy500 race she entered. Sarah made nine appearances in total, between 2000 and 2010 - with her best qualifying position as 9th.
Image Credit: Bennett Raglin
In 2008, she founded ‘Sarah Fisher Racing’ and only competed that year due to fan funding. In 2009 however, she managed to record her highest-ever finish of 17th place and was awarded the Scott Brayton Trophy. This trophy is awarded to the driver who best displayed the spirit, competitive drive and attitude of the late Scott Brayton, who passed away in a practice session during the 1996 Indy500 event.
More recently, Fisher became a team owner and also went on to become the official pace car driver for IndyCar between 2016 and 2020.
Danica Patrick, also known as ‘The Queen of the Brickyard’, quickly became a star within Indy500 after her debut in 2005. She qualified in an impressive fourth position - the best starting place of any female driver yet - and led 19 laps of the race before finishing in fourth position overall.
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In total, Patrick started eight Indy500 races between the period of 2005 and 2018, and in that time achieved six top-10 finishes! She went on to make history in 2009, finishing in a fantastic third position - becoming the first-ever female driver to stand on the podium (and still is, to date).
Although she officially retired from racing in the Indy500 in 2018, she later returned in 2021 - this time, behind the wheel of the pace car, and also as an analyst for NBC’s event coverage!
Lyn St. James
Lyn St. James quickly made an impression in the world of Indy500 - starting from 27th place on her debut in 1992 and finishing in 11th place, securing Rookie of the Year. She is also currently the oldest driver to have received the award, after making her debut at age 45.
Image Credit: IndyCar Series
St. James' best qualifying performance was seen in 1994 when she lined up sixth on the grid. After she retired from racing, she continued to be an iconic figure for women in sport - establishing the ‘Women in the Winner’s Circle’ in 1994, as well as creating a scholarship fund to help female racing drivers progress.
Simona De Silvestro
Simona De Silvestro is a Swiss-Italian racing driver, who competed in the Indy500 for several years. Her debut was back in 2010, in a record-breaking year where four female drivers lined up on the grid for the very first time in history!
Image Credit: Autosport
De Silvestro qualified P22 on her debut, fighting her way to finish in a respectable 14th place - earning her the prestigious ‘Rookie of the Year’ award in the process. In 2012, she showed her determination after a major crash left her with serious second-degree burns during practice. Despite this setback, she continued to drive and qualified in 24th position.
De Silvestro is one of the most recent female drivers on our list to have lined up at the Indy500, taking part in both the 2021 and 2022 races with Pandretta Autosport.
Milka Duno is a Venezuelan racing driver who made her debut at age 24, after obtaining an impressive four master’s degrees, as well as experience working as a navy engineer.
Image Credit: Motorsport.com
In 2007, Duni became one of only two rookies to qualify for the Indy500 race that year - which was the first race in its history to have three women on the starting grid.
She then qualified again in 2008, finishing in a respectable 19th place - the highest-finishing female driver, ahead of both Sarah Fisher and Danica Patrick.
Ana Beatriz Figuereido
Ana Beatriz Figuerido is a Brazilian racing driver, who was one of the record-breaking four-woman line-up in the 2010 Indy500 race event! She went on to finish in 21st place on her debut, before then going on to qualify for three more races - in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Image Credit: Women Fitness
Figuereido’s best qualifying performance was in 2012, lining up in 15th place on the grid - but her best race performance was in 2013 after she fought her way to finish an impressive P15 after starting only in 29th.
Pippa Mann is an inspiring British driver - becoming the first-ever British woman to start the race in 2011 after qualifying in 32nd place, with an exceptional drive to finish P20. Her results were deemed even more impressive, as she experienced a mechanical problem with her onboard water supply - yet continued to race despite suffering from severe dehydration.
Image Credit: IndyCar Series
After her debut, Mann then went on to qualify for a further six races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway between 2013 and 2019 - recording a best finish of 16th place in 2019. Due to a lack of sponsorship (as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic), she was unable to compete in the 2020 Indy500 - which unfortunately ended the 20-year streak of female drivers featuring on the grid.
She is particularly well-known for her performance at the event in 2014, when she teamed up with Dale Coyne Racing and Susan G. Komen (a breast cancer awareness charity). As a result of her partnership, she raced in the iconic pink car and fans were encouraged to donate for each lap that Pippa completed. How inspiring!
British racing driver, Katherine Legge, made her Brickyard debut in 2012 for Dragon Racing - with her best result (so far) coming from her rookie outing - finishing in 22nd place.
Image Credit: Motor Sport Magazine
Legge was scheduled to race in the 100th Indy500 in 2016, working with IndyCar’s first-ever all-female team - Grace Autosport. Despite having the backing of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, they were forced to pull out of the event due to a decrease in the number of entries leading to a shortage of cars available.
She is however due to race in the 2023 Indy500 event coming up this weekend and we can’t wait to see how she gets on. Good luck Katherine - we’re all behind you!
The race is scheduled for Sunday May 28th. Viewers in the UK can watch the Indy 500 from 5:30pm on Sky Sports F1. In the US, coverage of this year’s Indy 500 will begin at 9am ET on Peacock and 11:00 am ET on NBC and NBC.com.