Women Drivers of NASCAR: Louise Smith

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Born July 31, 1916, Louise Smith hailed from Greensville, SC. In 1946, three years before he started NASCAR, Bill France Sr. needed a novelty driver to promote a race at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway: he chose Louise.

While she had never been to the racetrack or driven a race car, she was rumored to have "outrun every lawman and highway patrol" in the area.

Smith's fearless and aggressive style of driving earned her a Third-Place finish that day in 1946. Although Smith was only chosen as a publicity stunt for one race, she made a name for herself in the racing world by recording 38 minor-league victories over an 11-year span. Along with those wins she broke nearly every bone in her body, and one crash that left her with 48 stitches and four pins in her knee. Although she retired from racing in 1956, she remained associated with the sport and returned in 1971 as a car owner for numerous drivers.

In 1999, Smith was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

On April 15, 2006 she died at the age of 89. Although she was not truly the first woman driver in NASCAR, barnstormer Louise was known as "The First Lady of Racing."