K2 Productions filmed a “Why We Watch” documentary in Charlotte for Bleacher Reports about NASCAR’s first female NASCAR driver, Janet Guthrie. We had a blast interviewing both Janet Guthrie and Humpy Wheeler, former President and General Manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway.
K2 created our own interview footage and combined that with stock footage from major sports and entertainment broadcasters such as HBO and Sports Illustrated.
A pioneer in a male-dominated sport, Janet became the first woman to qualify for and compete in the Indianapolis 500 in 1977. And during that same year, she was also the first woman and Top Rookie at NASCAR’s Daytona 500. She finished ninth in the Indianapolis 500 in 1978 while suffering from a broken wrist, achieving the best finish by a woman in that race until 2005!
“They thought that women didn’t have strength, the endurance, the emotional stability, and they thought women would endanger lives,” Janet said about the general attitude toward women in racing at the time. “The only way I could put a stop to this was on the race track.”
Janet Guthrie entered 19 Winston Cup races in the 1977, 30-race season, and successfully qualified for all 19 of them. She qualified three times in the top ten and earned four top ten finishes. With such success, her car owner thought that sponsorship money would roll right in. But it was quite the opposite. Despite her success, Janet brought controversy into the sport…and sponsors don’t like controversy.
“I didn’t quit willingly,” Janet said. “We just ran out of money.”
In Humpy Wheeler’s words, “Janet Guthrie will always be one of my favorite race car drivers because she did it with grace, she did it with dignity, but she also did it with a right foot that went all the way down to the floor.”
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