As the calendar turns to March, we recognize National Women’s History Month, and what better way for us to do that than to take a look at a few of the women who have made a significant impression on the Sport Car Club of America’s 76-year history.
Women have affected every facet of the club, from breakthrough competitors to leadership that forever changed the direction and voice of the organization. In fact, some of the best-known women in all of motorsports include SCCA Hall of Fame members Denise McCluggage, Janet Guthrie, and Lyn St. James – and now we take a moment to recognize a few other women who have marked significant milestones within the SCCA.
SCCA ROAD RACING
In the early days of American racing, women were often thought of as a sideshow, relegated to unofficial races held between the main events. Understandably, the women wanted the opportunity to measure themselves on equal ground with the men.
In 1960, Donna Mae Mims, an executive secretary at Yenko Chevrolet, began road racing and, by the end of that year, she had won her first SCCA race behind the wheel of a B Production Corvette. By 1963, Mims had become the first woman to win an SCCA National Championship, having earned the H Production points title. For her efforts, Mims was also awarded SCCA’s Kimberly Cup.
At the 2020 SCCA National Convention, another breakthrough road racer was recognized, as Catherine “Cat” Kizer was inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame. Kizer was the 1979 H Production Runoffs champion, being the first female to win the winner-take-all championship, and she is the only woman to have been awarded SCCA’s highly coveted President’s Cup.
Women finding success on track is not limited to the club side, either, as many legendry names have scored podium finishes, race wins, and overall championships in the professional ranks. Amy Ruman forever cemented her place in SCCA history with her 2015 Trans Am championship and backed that up with a repeat performance in 2016.
Ruman got her start in SCCA Solo competition before moving on to Spec Racers, and eventually GT-1. Along the way, Ruman scored a podium finish at the 2010 Runoffs, as well as in the Spec Racer Pro Series and ALMS Women’s Global GT Series. Ruman’s first Trans Am class win came in 2011 and, since then, she has recorded 15 more.
Cindy Lux is another competitor who has held her own in both the club and pro ranks, with a Runoffs podium finish to her credit, along with numerous professional racing accolades including Trans Am wins across a number of classes and the 1999 ALMS Women’s Global GT Series title.
To this day, we continue to see women succeeding at SCCA’s pinnacle amateur road racing events, including Runoffs podium finishes most recently going to Michelle Abbate, Hanna Zeller, and Kellie Czarny.
No one really knows how the idea of competing on a temporary circuit marked with traffic cones became known as “Solo,” but it dates back to the 1960s. In 1968, the Midwest Division held the first Division Solo II Championship and, in 1973, SCCA saw the birth of the Solo National Championships. Held at Mid-America Raceway, the first Solo Nationals included 224 competitors spread over 15 classes. Among them were 22 women running in a single Ladies class. By 1979, the number of classes had grown significantly, and with that growth came parallel Ladies classes.
In 1998, the glass pylon was shattered when Shauna Marinus drove her Mazda RX-7 to the A Street Prepared Open class championship. Prior to the record-setting ASP title, Marinus found success in the Ladies classes, having won three championships. Marinus would go on to try her hand at club and pro road racing, scoring a podium finish at the 2000 Runoffs.
Rita Wilsey, a four-time Ladies class champion, would be the next to win an Open class Solo National Championship when she bested the B Street Prepared class in 2005.
Brianne Corn won B Modified Ladies in 2008 and, in 2011, she secured the B Modified Open title along with Driver of the Year accolades. Corn also has the unique distinction of being the only woman to have won both an Open class Solo title and a RallyCross National Championship. In fact, she has three RallyCross titles to her credit.
Most recently, we saw Tamara Krystinik win an Open class championship at the 2019 Solo National Championships. After a pair of C Street Prepared Ladies titles in 2015 and ’16, Krystinik moved to D Street Prepared’s Open class, where she finished as runner-up in 2017 and 2018, before claiming the overall title last year.
Might Olivia Hammac, who at 12-years old won the supplemental Formula Junior B class at the 2019 Solo Nationals (and was named one of Sports Illustrated’s SportsKid of the Year finalists) be among the next group of women to claim an Open class Solo National Championship?
As any member knows, it’s the volunteers who make the thousands of SCCA events each year happen, and women are a large part of that effort.
Ruth Nixon was inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame in 2008 along with her husband Don. The duo served the club tirelessly for many years, but it was Ruth’s service on the Board of Directors that stands out, as she was the first women to serve the Club at that level.
Perhaps inspired by Nixon’s service, Marge Binks showed she was more than capable of running the show. Binks had years of service at the Regional level, as well as working on professional events like the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Long Beach and Las Vegas, plus events with IMSA, Champ Car and USAC. Binks was elected to the SCCA Board of Directors in 1991 and, in 1995, did what no man could do: succeed Carl Haas as Chairman of the SCCA Board. In doing so, Binks became the first woman to hold that position.
In 2019, Patricia “Patc” Henry joined the SCCA Hall of Fame, in large part due to her efforts working in both club and pro road racing. Henry’s work with the Nebraska Region landed her the job of leading the new Sports Renault series in 1984. Henry would go on to work with the Playboy Endurance Series, Corvette Challenge, and Neon Cup, as well as stabilizing SCCA’s Pro Racing division during her 10-year stint. Henry would next be called on to head SCCA’s Club Racing division, and while there she accomplished the herculean task of relocating the Runoffs from Road Atlanta to Mid-Ohio.
And then there’s Lisa Noble who, in 2014, became the SCCA’s first female President and CEO, after serving as the Chairman of the Board
It should be noted, however, that this feature doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the significant women in SCCA’s past, as well as those working for the betterment of the organization today. What we do know is that the SCCA’s future is bright because of the contributions of all of the women in this club.