Al Holbert—winner at Daytona, Sebring, and many times at Le Mans; Peter Gregg—4 times winner at Daytona; and Jim Busby—2 times winner at Le Mans, were the great drivers I looked up to, and tried to learn from when I first went racing. Yes, they are all men, but the gender issue has never been anything that has meant much to me. I just wanted to be the best racing driver out there, male or female. My first thought was to be able to consistently run at a speed of most of the guys, maybe get some good finishes, and which may lead to a deal. To get the Ford Motor Company as a sponsor in 1981, and maintaining that deal until 1994, on one-year contracts, was a huge thing for me. In some ways, the gender thing was a help; in others it was a hindrance; there was nothing I could do about it other than just get on with my racing.
Motor racing is all about relationships, synergy, and creating win–win situations, so that’s what I did. In every drive, I had to earn my way. I think that goes for all drivers though, male and female alike. I am really pleased to see the current crop of female drivers coming through: Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, and Erin Crocker. All these drivers came through my driver-development program. It is important, especially in this day and age, for youngsters—male and female alike—to start with karts and become part of a program that prepares them not only for racing but for other elements of the sport, which once didn’t exist but are now commonplace.
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