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Ranking the Top 9 Women to Ever Compete in IndyCar
One of the best aspects of motorsports racing is it’s not exclusive to one gender. It’s a primarily male sport, but we’ve seen multiple females drive in the IndyCar Series. These women weren’t there to ride around. Their success is something we remember well after their driving days.
Nine women have competed in the Indy 500, which seems like a good number to recap the best female IndyCar drivers. Let’s count them down, starting with Katherine Legge.
9. Katherine Legge
- Years Active: 2
- Wins: 0
- Top Accomplishment: Top 10 Finish at Auto Club in 2012
Before making her debut in the IndyCar Series, Katherine Legge had an extensive open-wheel background. She competed in Champ Car and the DTM Series before returning to the United States for IndyCar.
Legge drove for Dragon Racing in 2012. The team had a rough start, overheating in her first start. Legge only had one top 20 finish in her first five starts, including a 22nd-place finish in the Indy 500.
From there, Legge began to show more speed. She had a pair of 15th place finishes over the next three races. Then, she had the best performance of her career in the season finale at Auto Club.
- Starting Position: 7th
- Finishing Position: 9th
That impressive performance should’ve given her momentum for the 2013 season. Unfortunately, this was his final season in IndyCar. Legge went to the United SportsCar Championship in 2013.
Legge returned for the 2013 Indy 500 but finished seven laps down in 26th.
She might not have the longevity to be one of the top female IndyCar drivers, but she showed much improvement towards the end of the 2012 season. I believe she could’ve developed into a consistent top 15 driver.
8. Pippa Mann
- Years Active: 7
- Wins: 0
- Top Accomplishment: Two Top 15 Finishes in 2015
Pippa Mann raced in the IndyCar Light Series before moving up to the IndyCar Series in 2011. Mann only made select starts in 2011, finishing 20th in the Indy 500. She didn’t compete in 2012 but returned for the 2013 season.
Mann was one of four women to compete in the 2013 Indy 500, but a crash ended her day after 46 laps.
Four women have qualified for the 2013 Indy 500. Simona de Silvestro (24th), Ana Beatriz (26th), Pippa Mann (27th) and Kathrine Legge (33rd)— Gordon Clay (@WomenInRacing) May 19, 2013
Three races later, she earned a then career-best 15th-place finish at Pocono. She showed flashes of being a top female IndyCar Series driver. Unfortunately, that was the only time she didn’t crash in four races.
In 2014, she only competed in the Indy 500. It wasn’t about her performance, as she was raising money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Her bright pink car was to raise support for breast cancer research.
Mann participated in a personal-best six races in 2015. That proved to be her best season as she scored a pair of 13th-place finishes.
She only competed in four IndyCar races, making three Indy 500 starts over the next four years. Mann looked competitive, finishing 17th or better in all three Indy 500s. A more consistent schedule could’ve made her a top woman in IndyCar.
7. Milka Duno
- Years Active: 4
- Wins: 0
- Top Accomplishment: Leading 5 Laps at Chicagoland
Milka Duno spent three years in the Grand-Am series before announcing she would drive seven races in the IndyCar Series in 2007. Duno looked strong early, finishing top 15 in two of her first three races. Duno finished top 20 in six of her seven races.
That season gave people hope that she could become one of the top IndyCar female drivers. Duno returned to make 11 starts in 2008. She finished top 20 in her first four starts, including a career-best 19th in the Indy 500.
Duno led her first laps in the IndyCar Series in the 2008 season-finale. She went on to finish 14th.
The biggest issue for Duno was she could never take the next step. She made nine starts in 2009, finishing between 16th and 23rd in every race. Her final season in IndyCar was a disaster. She made 16 starts but only finished seven races. Duno also failed to qualify for the Indy 500.
She spent the next few seasons in the ARCA Menards Series but never found much success. Still, Duno’s consistency makes her a top female IndyCar driver.
6. Ana Beatriz
- Years Active: 4
- Wins: 0
- Top Accomplishment: Five Top 15 Finishes in 2011
We continue the theme of international IndyCar drivers with Brazilian Ana Beatriz. She raced in the Indy Light Series before moving to the IndyCar Series in 2010. She only made four starts in 2010 but scored a 13th-place finish at Sao Paulo.
Beatriz drove full-time for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2011. She suffered a wrist injury in her first race, forcing her to miss the second race of 2011. She struggled initially after returning, but Beatriz was competitive in the second half of the season.
Here is a comparison of her numbers in the first and second half of 2011.
|Stats||First Eight Races||Final Eight Races|
|Top 15 Finishes||1||190|
|Top 20 Finishes||2||7|
Unfortunately, that was the end of her full-time IndyCar career. Beatriz competed in two races in 2012, finishing 20th and 23rd. She picked up a bigger schedule in 2013, competing in seven races.
Beatriz scored a pair of top 15 finishes but failed to finish in four of her seven races. That marked the end of her IndyCar career.
Following the 2011 season, it looked like she would become one of the best female IndyCar drivers. Ultimately, it didn’t come to fruition.
5. Lyn St. James
- Years Active: 7
- Wins: 0
- Top Accomplishment: Starting 6th in the 1994 Indy 500
Lyn St. James only has 11 IndyCar starts across her seven-year career, but her success in those starts makes her one of the best IndyCar women drivers.
James wasn’t your typical rookie. Most rookies are young, but we’ll see some in their upper 20s or low 30s. Well, James went to the 1992 Indy 500 as a 45-year-old rookie. She didn’t show any rust in her performance.
Celebrating Lyn St. James, the first woman driver to hit 200mph on an oval track.— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) March 8, 2021
She then went on to become the 1992 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year. #InternationalWomensDay @OnHerTurf pic.twitter.com/u27ALsxYxt
James came from 27th to finish 11th. It was quite an accomplishment for an Indy 500 rookie. That was her lone start in 1992, but she ran in six races in 1993. James scored three top 20 finishes, including a 13th-place finish at Phoenix.
In 1994, she surprised everyone with a sixth-place qualifying effort in the Indy 500. James finished 30 laps down in 19th, but her qualifying effort was a determining factor in her being one of the best female IndyCar Series drivers.
Following the 1995 season, James only made five starts in IndyCar. She scored a career-best eighth-place finish at Disney and finished top 15 in two of her final Indy 500 starts.
James didn’t have a long career, but her success in the Indy 500 makes her one of the best IndyCar woman drivers.
4. Simona De Silvestro
- Years Active: 6
- Wins: 0
- Top Accomplishment: Finishing 2nd at Houston in 2013
It didn’t take long for Simona De Silvestro to make her way to the IndyCar Series. She was 21 years old when she began her first season in 2010. She showed promise, scoring a pair of top 10 finishes.
Early in the 2011 season, Silvestro not only looked like the best woman in IndyCar but a championship contender. She opened the season with a fourth and ninth-place finish. She couldn’t maintain the momentum, finishing 20th in the standings.
Following a down 2012 season, Silvestro returned to the spotlight in 2013. She kicked off the season with three top 10 finishes in four races. However, her best performance came late in the season.
Simona de Silvestro got her best #IndyCar finish at Houston in 2013 by finishing second.— Random IndyCar Facts (@FactsIndycar) May 19, 2021
Driving for KV Racing Technology, this came in her most recent full-time season.#Indy500 pic.twitter.com/OKpwskWfK3
Silvestro’s second-place finish made her the third woman in IndyCar history to score a podium finish. That came amidst a stretch with five top 10 finishes to close the season.
It looked like she was on her way to becoming a star, but the 2013 season was her final full-time year in IndyCar. Silvestro made three starts in 2015, scoring a fourth-place finish at NOLA Motorsports Park.
Silvestro makes the top five of top female IndyCar Series drivers without the longevity. With more time, I believe she could’ve been No. 1.
3. Sarah Fisher
- Years Active: 11
- Wins: 0
- Top Accomplishment: Winning the Pole at Kentucky in 2002
We’ve talked about a few female IndyCar drivers not racing long enough to be near the top of the list. That doesn’t apply to Sarah Fisher, as she spent 11 years in the IndyCar Series. Her nine Indy 500 starts are the most for a female.
Fisher competed in eight races as a 19-year-old in 2000. She nearly broke through at Kentucky, finishing third after leading nine laps. The following season, she scored the then-best finish for a female with a second-place run at Homestead.
She only competed in 10 of the 15 races in 2002, but Fisher made the most of her opportunities.
- 1 pole
- 1 top-five finish
- 3 top 10 finishes
- 30 laps led
- 14.9 average finish
She became the first female to start on the pole in an IndyCar race. It didn’t take long for her to become one of the best female IndyCar drivers.
Fisher competed full-time in 2003 and 2007, scoring a pair of top 10 finishes. She made a combined 19 starts in 2004, 2006, and 2008-2010. She led ten laps at Chicagoland in 2010.
Her ability to compete on a weekly basis earns her a spot among the best female IndyCar drivers.
2. Janet Guthrie
- Years Active: 4
- Wins: 0
- Top Accomplishment: First Female to Compete in the Indy 500
Janet Guthrie’s numbers might not place her among the top female IndyCar drivers, but she significantly impacted the sport. We’ve mostly talked about drivers from the 1990s or later, but Guthrie started her IndyCar career in 1976.
She made four starts in 1976, scoring three top 15 finishes. The following season, Guthrie made history as the first woman to compete in the Indy 500.
We are 2️⃣6️⃣ days from the 106th #Indy500 pres. by @Gainbridgelife!— Indianapolis Motor Speedway (@IMS) May 3, 2022
2️⃣6️⃣: The starting position for Janet Guthrie in 1977 when she became the first female driver to qualify for the #Indy500.
🎟 >>> https://t.co/iCSVAPtOpr#INDYCAR | #ThisIsMay pic.twitter.com/03YgDaakNP
Unfortunately, she had a tough 1977 season. She failed to finish a race, including a 29th-place finish at the Indy 500.
Guthrie looked much better in the 1978 Indy 500. She started 15th and scored a ninth-place finish. She is one of two women to score a top 10 finish in the Indy 500. That marked her lone start of the season.
The 1979 season marked his last start in the IndyCar Series. She only ran three laps in the Indy 500 before a piston issue ended her race. She had a pair of impressive qualifying runs, starting fourth at Pocono and eighth at Milwaukee. Guthrie finished fifth in her final start.
There’s no denying Guthrie made a substantial impact on females competing in motorsports.
1. Danica Patrick
- Years Active: 8
- Wins: 1
- Top Accomplishment: First Female to Win an IndyCar Race
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Danica Patrick is the best IndyCar woman driver. Patrick began his IndyCar career in 2005. She had two poles and two top-five finishes. Her third-place finish in the Indy 500 is the best all-time for a female.
Patrick continued to improve in 2006 and 2007. She had a combined six top-five finishes across the two seasons. She led nine laps en route to a seventh-place finish in the 2007 Detroit Grand Prix.
It was only a matter of time before Patrick reached victory lane. That historic moment came in the 2008 Indy Japan 300.
April 20, 2008: Danica Patrick won the IndyCar race at Motegi pic.twitter.com/YBdJgXKtUB— nascarman (@nascarman_rr) April 20, 2022
Patrick led the final three laps to score her first career IndyCar victory. That propelled her to a sixth-place finish in the standings.
She finished a career-best fifth in the standings in 2009. Following a 19th-place finish in the season-opener, Patrick had 11 straight finishes of 11th or better. She led 24 laps at Iowa before falling back to ninth.
Her numbers weren’t as strong in 2010 and 2011, but she had a pair of runner-up finishes.
Patrick had a very impressive IndyCar career. It likely would’ve been better if she didn’t transition to NASCAR. She had six top 10 finishes in eight Indy 500 starts.
Looking Back on IndyCar’s Top Female Drivers
The IndyCar Series has seen its fair share of female drivers. However, only the best can have enough success to compete in the Indy 500.
The best female IndyCar drivers left a lasting impact on the IndyCar Series. Janet Guthrie paved the way for a driver like Danica Patrick to compete for a championship. Hopefully, we’ll see more female IndyCar drivers in victory lane.
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