Patty Moise could wheel a stock car. For more than twelve years she competed in what are now the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series. On Jan. 23, 1990, she put all of her experience to the test and drove into the record books at Talladega Superspeedway, setting a women’s closed course speed record of 217.498 mph. The car she drove that day is proudly displayed at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum (IMHOF). Visitors to the IMHOF will also find several other famous female drivers honored in its hallowed halls.
Located in the Union 76 building is a 1938 Ford Coupe driven by one of the pioneers of stock car racing, Louise Smith. A peek inside the trophy room located in the same building reveals a biography and portrait of Smith from her induction to the IMHOF in 1999. She is joined by famous female drag racer Shirley Muldowney (inducted 2004) and the first female Indy 500 competitor Janet Guthrie (inducted 2006).
Smith made a career out of racing in the early years of NASCAR. She won 38 Modified races during 11 years of competition, at tracks from New York to South Carolina to Alabama. During those years, she held her own against the top drivers in the sport, legends such as Buck Baker, Curtis Turner, Fonty Flock, Red Byron and Roy Hall.
Muldowney earned her NHRA license in 1965 and spent five years match racing before entering the ranks of Funny Car competition. While she won her first race in Funny Cars, she switched to Top Fuel dragsters in 1974 and won her first national event in 1976. She would win three championships in the Top Fuel class in 1977, 1980 and 1982.
Guthrie was the first woman to ever compete in the Indy 500, doing so in 1977. In only her second attempt at the Brickyard in 1978, she finished 9th, which remained the highest finish of a female driver in the race till 2005. Her best IndyCar finish was a fifth at Milwaukee in 1979.
The courage and dedication these female racers displayed in a male-dominated sport helped pave the way for current drivers such as Danica Patrick and Ashley Force. Their stories are inspirational and should be experienced by all race fans.
Opened in April of 1983, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of motorsports. It is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 7 days a week with the exception of major holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and Easter). Admission to the museum is $10 for adults, $5 for kids age 7 to 17 and free for kids age 6 and younger. Combo packages that include both tours of the museum and Talladega Superspeedway are $12 for adults, $8 for kids age 7 to 17 and free for kids age 6 and younger.