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Janet Guthrie and the Ides of March

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Julius Caesar’s soothsayer famously told the ill-fated Roman emperor to “beware the ides of March.” The ides, or March 15, passed yesterday in the middle of a global pandemic that is gripping much of the world in fear and forcing us to hunker down and stay distance. So now that we have that behind us, let’s celebrate some of the positive things to come out of March here at the Cocomats blog, one of which is the birth of Janet Guthrie, the first female NASCAR and Indianapolis 500 driver, in 1938.

Guthrie began as an aerospace engineer with Republic Aviation but soon transitioned to racing in 1963 in the Sports Car Club of America circuit. Her first race car was a Jaguar XK140, the stock version of which could already hit 125 mph and 0-60 mph in 8.4 seconds before being modified for performance racing. She was famously the first woman to race at the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race.

Guthrie transitioned to NASCAR in the early 1970s. Her first major NASCAR race was in 1976, where she finished 15th at a Winston Cup Superspeedway event. Her best NASCAR finish was sixth place at Bristol in 1977, and she is tied with Danica Patrick for best women’s finish at a NASCAR event.

She went on to race in three Indianapolis 500 events starting in 1977. She was plagued by engine troubles at each event, and her best finish was ninth in 1978 at her final race. She would retire shortly thereafter, and most men would blame her lack of wins on her gender, despite a large vocal body condemning this, she was never able to overcome the stigma.

In these times of unrest and uncertainty, it is especially important to remember the human spirit and all of the barriers that we have overcome. Let’s try and stay positive and think of the heroes that inspired us in trying times and remember that we have the ability to push through anything and thrive.

-Trey Fennell



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