INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The 102nd Running of the Indy 500 is set for Sunday.
Danica Patrick has said it will be her last behind the wheel, ending an iconic career as a woman in racing. Her name sits at the top along with drivers like Janet Guthrie, Sarah Fisher and Lyn St. James.
Dominating female drivers are few and far between but there’s no doubt women have shaped the Indy 500 from the very beginning and will continue to do so.
“Women have had a lot of roles that we don’t always see,” Ellen Miller said.
Calling the Indy 500 “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is a habit for Hoosiers and other race fans, but for Ellen Miller, it’s a reminder of her mom.
“We knew about it as kids and don’t remember exactly how,” Miller said. “I think our dad probably mentioned, ‘You know your mom wrote that, right?’ And we were like ‘No, you’re kidding, dad!’
Alice Greene was a copywriter at Indy’s WIBC in 1954 when she came up with the catchprase “The greatest spectacle in racing.”
No one really gave Greene credit until Miller mentioned it in her mother’s 1996 obituary. That’s when Donald Davidson, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian, was able to confirm the contribution.
“It’s really nice to know that she had that little part,” Miller said.
Now big names like Danica Patrick are working to make sure women continue to contribute on an off the oval. She took time away from the track this month to speak to girls at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s part of Fuel the Female – a push to encourage young women to pursue careers in motorsports.
“I’m just here to tell you that you can make a career out of anything,” Patrick said.
“We have women engineers. We have women tire techs. The head of Firestone racing on the car side is a female,” former driver Sarah Fisher said.
Fisher has the most career starts of any woman at the Indy 500. Now she’s retired from racing, but is a business owner in Speedway. She opened Speedway Indoor Karting and 1911 Grill in 2016.
“The most starts is one check mark, but I think I’m most proud of being the fastest still,” Fisher said.
Allison Melangton, a woman, even serves as Senior VP of Events at IMS.
There’s no lack of ladies, but will a woman win the greatest spectacle in racing? Danica Patrick is the only woman competing in the Indy 500 this Sunday. She will start in row three.
Pippa Mann was part of the initial 35 drivers, but didn’t make the cut last Saturday.