There’s only one major sport where women compete equally with men. It’s not basketball, football, baseball or hockey. Those sports all separate the genders. The NBA, MLB, NFL And NHL all put men and women on different fields. Golf and tennis even stage different professional events for men and women. We define a major sport in terms of money made, with the average player or competitor making over $500,000 per year. We additionally define “competing” as a situation where women are not only allowed to participate but do, and one of them is actually in the sport’s top 50 competitors. By those criteria, NASCAR is the only sport where women and men challenge each other on a level playing field. Women are also allowed to drive in Formula 1 competitions but there has only ever been one woman who ever scored points in that sport, and she is now retired.
NASCAR: The Only Major Sport where Women Compete with Men
NASCAR is the only sport where men and women go head to head in the same events. In fact Danica Patrick is the eighth highest paid NASCAR driver in 2016 in terms of total money made. Her salary and winnings come to $7.9 million but it’s her popularity that puts her in the top ten. That is, Patrick’s fame has landed her an estimated $6 million a year in money from endorsement deals. That puts her ahead of drivers like Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne, who both make bigger salaries than Patrick but only earn about a fifth of her endorsement money. It’s true Patrick is the only woman in the top ten highest paid in NASCAR, so it can’t truly be said that the sport offers equality of results for men and women. But stacked up against the other major league sports, it does pretty well. Just consider that there’s not one woman out of all 450 NBA players, all 1,500 NHL players, all 1,696 NFL players or all 1,200 MLB players. Even golf, with just 241 active pros competing in the PGA tour, has zero females on the roster. All women must compete instead in the LPGA or Ladies Professional Golf Association tour.
How Many Women Drivers Are there in NASCAR?
There are twelve total active women NASCAR drivers out of 82 drivers total. That means 15% of all NASCAR drivers are female. That makes the sport sound a bit more gender equal than it actually is, since seven of those women compete only in minor NASCAR series’, kind of like the minor leagues in baseball. Another four of NASCAR’s women compete only in the Camping World Truck Series. That’s pickup truck racing, and while it’s one of the top four NASCAR pro series’, it’s still not the center of the money in the racing world. In fact, in NASCAR’s top two series’, Sprint Cup and Xfinity, Danica Patrick is the only professional female competitor. However, throughout the sport’s history there have been 15 women drivers in the Sprint Cup Series, 20 in the Xfinity Series and 24 in the Camping World Truck Series. There have also been dozens of other female drivers competing in NASCAR’s minor series’. Again, compare that to any of the other major sports like baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer or tennis where there are no women at all and never have been.
Yes Women Can Compete in NASCAR, but Is it a Sport?
NASCAR is not a sport in the same way as the other major leagues in that it is machine assisted. However, it is still incredibly physically demanding and yes, it is considered to be a sport. The drivers must withstand a G-Force of 1.9 G’s for three solid hours. That doesn’t even include the skill required to jostle around a track at speeds over 150 mph with dozens of other cars.