Female Diversity on the Rise in NASCAR
It’s been two years since Danica Patrick completed her final full season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and you’ll have to look back to the 2018 Daytona 500 to find the last time a female driver competed in the premiere series. In an effort to diversify the sport, we’ve seen drivers such as Daniel Suarez and Bubba Wallace come through NASCAR Home Tracks, bringing along a new legion of race fans.
This is a welcoming feeling as over the last three years, NASCAR has seen many of its superstars depart from racing (namely Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and has struggled with viewership numbers.
Though as new drivers continue to impress and find their identities, the argument can be made that NASCAR could be taking a turn in the right direction. According to ESPN, the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway saw a 16% increase in viewership and ratings from last season. Concluding Fox Sports coverage of the Cup Series, ESPN also reported a 2% increase from last year.
While the progression has been minimal, these should be great signs of NASCAR’s future to come. Increasing help is on the way as two of the sport’s most promising female athletes are speeding their way through the lower series in hopes of bringing a fresh look and new talent to the Cup Series – Hailie Deegan and Brittney Zamora.
Most racing fans in general have heard of Hailie Deegan. Deegan broke on to the NASCAR racing scene in 2018, running races in both the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. She has made quite the name for herself with an outgoing and bubbly personality that radiates through the garage area– but don’t let this fool you. The second generation racer is the furthest thing from a push over.
In what could be considered Deegan’s current career defining moment, she turned heads this season when she spun her Bill McAnally Racing teammate, Derek Kraus, for the win on the final lap at Colorado National Speedway (see the video below). This created tons of exposure for the 17-year old driver and now the sky seems the limit for Deegan’s career in NASCAR.
In addition to having a likable and gritty attitude that racing fans gravitate to, Deegan’s stats speak for themselves. In just 31 races run between the K&N Pro Series West and East, Deegan has three wins, 10 top-fives, 19 top-10s and four poles. This may be just a small sample of what’s to come from Deegan, but one thing is for certain – she has a bright career ahead of her in NASCAR.
To find the next female athlete making her way through NASCAR’s ranks you don’t need to go far; keep your eyes on Bill McAnally Racing with Brittney Zamora.
Zamora has not quite made the waves and headlines like her BMR counterpart, but she is silently having herself quite the rookie season in both K&N Pro Series divisions. Zamora has driven her way to four top-fives, six top-10s and one pole in just 10 races in her young NASCAR career.
The 20-year old driver from Kennewick, Washington has seen immense success racing super late models in her home state as well as Oregon. Zamora was the first female athlete to ever win a race in the Northwest Super Late Model Series and won back-to-back championships in the series from 2017-2018. She was even awarded Washington State Rookie of the Year in NASCAR’s Whelen All-American Series in 2018.
Most recently, Zamora found victory lane at South Sound Speedway this past weekend, racing Super Late Models in the Twin Mains 50’s.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has yet to see a female winner grace victory lane in the sport’s 71 years of competition. There’s no telling when or who will be the first female athlete to accomplish this monumental feat, but Deegan and Zamora should be seen as favorites to capture this historical achievement in NASCAR’s near future.
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