Ever since there have been people racing cars, there have been attractive women in the crowds and on the sidelines cheering them on. On top of that, there have also been ladies behind the steering wheel, proving their talent and setting records of their own. Whether as audience members, trophy girls, or drivers, women have been an ever-present aspect of automobile racing over the years. Take a look to see some of the most iconic women in racing’s history.
Born in 1943, Linda Vaughn is an American motor racing personality who has been described as “the preeminent beauty of stock car racing,” and the First Lady of Motorsports.”
At just 18, she was named “Miss Queen of Speed at Atlanta International Speedway” and Miss Hurst Golden Shifter. She’s been an ambassador and promotor for numerous forms of American motor racing for several decades and was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2019.
Playboy Bunnies Weren’t An Unusual Sight
Playboy Bunnies were not uncommon to see on the racetrack or handing out trophies to the winners. Pictured here is June Cochran, a model who was also a Hurst Girl for the Indianapolis 500 and received a lot of attention.
Furthermore, she was Playboy’s Playmate of the month for December 1962, and Playboy of the Year for 1963. Among her other accolades, in 1960, she was also the winner of the Miss Indiana USA pageant
As Classic As They Come
When a lot of people think about race car trophy girls, images from the 1970s and ’80s come to mind, trophy girls have been a part of racing since its earliest days. Here is a trophy girl proudly sporting a Speed Week banner for Daytona Beach.
This is clearly an advertisement for the event considering the sign says, “Meet me at Speed Week,” something that would definitely be enticing to male audiences specifically at the time.
Of Course, Hooters Is Involved
With a restaurant chain whose waitstaff is primarily young attractive women to showcase sex appeal to the majority male costumers, it’s no surprise that Hooters eventually made its way into the racing scene.
Here is a picture of some “Hooters Girls” posing with some of the #24 team crew members prior to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on May 7, 2017, at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Clearly, the team members are thrilled to be there.
Kathleen Hughes Getting In On The Action
Here’s an image of film, television, and stage actress Kathleen Hughes as a trophy girl for a racing event. Hughes was an extremely popular actress in her day, first being discovered in a Little Theater production in 1948, and almost immediately being signed for a seven-year contract with 20th Century Fox, for which she made 14 films.
She then went on to work in television for a multitude of shows, so the fact that she was a trophy girl shows that it was an esteemed position to hold.
Professionally known as “Cha Cha,” Shirley Muldowney is considered to be “The First Lady of Drag Racing.” She was the first woman to ever receive a license from the National Hot Rod Association to drive a Top Fuel Dragster.
She won the National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel championship in 1977, 1980, and 1982, making her the first driver to win two and three Top Fuel titles. In total, she has won 18 NHRA national events.
Making A List, Checking It Twice
This is an image of what could be considered an early trophy girl taking notes on the race, or maybe just posing for the picture. Nevertheless, when this picture was taken, the outfit she is wearing would be considered nothing less than scandalous, even by today’s standards.
This photo goes to show that the world of car racing has always involved women dressed to intrigue audiences. What’s better than fast cars and beautiful women?
In the 1970s, Barbara Roufs came onto the drag racing scene as a trophy girl for events that were put on at tracks around Southern California.
Barbara clearly resembled the ideal look of a classic trophy girl of the time and was a fan favorite of many race enthusiasts around the world. Unfortunately, she passed away in 1991. Yet, it’s undeniable the legacy that she left behind in the world of racing.
Milka Duno is a Venezuelan race car driver who competed in the IndyCar Series and competes in the ARCA Racing Series. Currently, she holds the record of the highest finish for a female driver in the 24 hours of Daytona.
Duno holds a master’s degree in Organizational Development, Naval Architecture, Maritime Business, and Marine Biology, and has prior experience working as a naval engineer. In the past, she was also a model, which has drawn a lot of attention.
Danica Patrick is an American former professional racing driver. At the age of 10, she discovered her talent in racing while driving karts, eventually winning the World Karting Association Grand National Championship three times during the mid-1990s.
As an adult, she is the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing. Her win in the 2008 Indy Japan 300 is the only time it was won by a woman in an IndyCar Series race.
A Quick Kiss
Incredibly, back in the day, the trophy wasn’t the only thing waiting for the first driver to cross the finish line. It wasn’t unusual for the driver to receive a kiss from the girl who handed him the trophy. Of course, these were different times, and something like this certainly wouldn’t fly today.
It looks like some of the drivers lucked out before the times started changing and kissing a random girl at the finish line became taboo.
Pamela Hardy, otherwise known as “Jungle Pam,” was the sidekick to funny car drag racer Jim Liberman. Liberman used Pam to get fan’s attention on the track, initially hiring her to stage his funny car on the line.
Typically, she would wear a tank top and jean shorts with a “zero-inch inseam.” Her involvement in the performance has been described as a “stroke of genius” and raised the popularity of Liberman, his team, and Funny Car racing all around.
A Different Kind Of Branding
Rewind a few decades, and there was no issue with people advertising products such as tobacco that might seem taboo today. However, back in the day, these were some of the biggest companies to sponsor the sport, as fast cars, women, and cigarettes seem to go hand-in-hand.
While nobody may have batted an eye at such advertisements during the 1980s, everything changed not much later, and it became out of the norm to advertise such products.
Caroline “Bunny” Burkett
Nicknamed “Bunny” in the racing world, Caroline Burkett was an American Alcohol Funny Car Driver, and in 1986, became the second woman to win a national title in a professional class.
During her career, she raced under both National Hot Rod Association and International Hot Rod Association. In 1995, she was involved in a near-fatal racing accident at Beaver Springs Dragway. She initially earned the nickname “Bunny” because she had been a Playboy Club hostess in the past.
Back In The Day
As long as drivers have been racing each other on the track, there have been girls waiting on the sideline to congratulate the winner. This picture is a testament to how far back this tradition goes.
By the looks of it, this picture was taken some time around the 1920s, based on the woman’s hair and attire. Although more recently, the trophy girls are dressed a little bit differently and holding bigger prizes, not much has changed.
In this vintage photo taken in Phoenix in 1971, Golden Shifter Girl Linda Vaughn looks up at the camera from her promotional ride on the back of a car.
The lovely Ms. Vaughn is such a fixture in the world of racing that she’s earned the nicknames the “preeminent beauty queen of stock car racing,” and “The First Lady of Motorsports.” No story about women in racing is complete without her!
Bikinis Were A Big Fad
Sometime around the 1980s, the trophy girls began wearing bikinis while handing out the trophies, which gained a lot of attention for many of racing’s fans.
This fad went on for quite some time because people knew that audiences already enjoyed the trophy girls, so putting them in as little clothing as possible would attract even more viewers. As it turns out, the racing executives were right and bikinis were there to stay for some time.
Posing For The Cameras
When it comes to having their photo taken, clearly, many of the trophy girls are happy to oblige. This is a photo taken of model Kathi Price in 1998 in Barcelona, Spain as she straddles a racing automobile and poses for the countless male photographers surrounding her.
Judging by how the photographers are reacting, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this photo on a poster in a racing fan’s room. It most likely wouldn’t be hard to sell either!
When it comes to girls and automobile racing, it’s also not unusual for groups of them to wear matching outfits in order to advertise a brand or to show that they’re a part of a specific team.
Pictured here are the Union 76 Girls waving to the crowd from the Camaro pace car during festivities surrounding the World 600 NASCAR Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Sporting their white go-go boots, it’s not a surprise that this photo was taken in 1969.
Owning The Track
It’s obvious that except for the racing aspect, the second main draw to the sport is the bevy of girls that walk around the track, or in this case, drive a golf cart. This photo was taken on September 8, 1971, at the NHRA National Drag Races in Indianapolis.
Pictured are June Cochran, Nikki Phillips, and the iconic Linda Vaughn driving around in a cart. It’s unclear what they’re exactly doing, but it’s guaranteed that the crowd is enjoying it.