American race car driver
As a woman stock car racer, Shawna Robinson has a long list of "firsts" behind her name, including being the first woman to start a NASCAR Winston Cup race since Patty Moise did so in 1989 and the first woman to finish a Winston Cup race since Janet Guthrie in 1980. Yet, she has said she is more interested in being remembered as a winning driver than as the first of her gender to accomplish racing feats. Competing primarily against men on the racetrack, Robinson has faced prejudice and even outright hostility from some drivers. She also struggles with finding sponsorship for competitions. Robinson started her career in Great American Truck Racing (GATR) tours. She turned to racing in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) in 1988, at age twenty-three, winning the AC Delco 100 race, which made her the first woman ever to win a major NASCAR Touring Series event. Still racing in 2002, Robinson is a single mother of two children.
Shawna Robinson was born November 30, 1964, in Des Moines, Iowa, the daughter of Richard "Lefty" Robinson and his wife, Lois, who drove a race car until she flipped it and her husband asked her to stop racing. "Lefty" Robinson was an amateur diesel truck racer and promoter who worked on vehicles in his home garage. Shawna was the youngest of the Robinsons' five children. She and her siblings were taught they could do anything they set their mind to, and they raced minibikes, snowmobiles, and motorcycles until they were old enough to drive cars. As a teen, she looked up
to racecar drivers A. J. Foyt , Steve Kinser, and Sammy Swindell. By her early twenties she admired Janet Guthrie as her interests turned to stock car racing.
When Shawna turned eighteen, her dad taught her to drive the 14,000 lb. diesel truck cabs he raced as an amateur. Only 5'6" and 110 pounds, young Shawna began racing the big rigs on short tracks, competing against male racers, who often resented her. At age nineteen, she became the first woman to win a GATR major super speedway points race, the Milwaukee Mile Bobtail 100, and was voted GATR Rookie of the Year. She went on to race big rigs at the Paul Ricard Grand Prix Truck Race in France the following year and finished second in the Grand Prix of Trucks in Mexico City in 1986. In 1987, Robinson won the GATR Big Rig 100 at Flemington, New Jersey. Then she set her sights on NASCAR racing.
Dash Division Debut
Robinson made her debut as a stock car racer in the spring of 1988, finishing third in the Charlotte/Daytona Dash Series Florida 200 in Daytona. That June, she made history by winning the AC Delco 100 NASCAR Dash Series race in Asheville, North Carolina, the first woman to win a major NASCAR Touring event. She also won her first race in the Goody's Dash series that year and was voted NASCAR Dash Series Most Popular Driver and Rookie of the Year. She won the Most Popular Driver award again in 1989.
In her first two years in NASCAR, Robinson started all thirty Charlotte/Daytona Dash Series races. She won three of them and finished in the top ten a total of twenty-one times. By 1991, she was ready to move up to the Grand National Division, competing in the Busch Series, in which full-size, eight-cylinder cars reach up to 200 miles per hour.
|1964||Born November 30 in Des Moines, Iowa|
|1983||Learns to drive and race diesel truck cabs|
|1984||Becomes first woman ever to win a major super speedway points race, at Milwaukee Mile Bobtail 100|
|1985||Competes in Paul Ricard Grand Prix Truck Race in France|
|1988||Becomes first woman ever to win a major NASCAR event, when she wins AC Delco 100 in Asheville, North Carolina|
|1989||Becomes first woman to win a NASCAR pole position, in Goody's Dash Series race at Florence, South Carolina|
|1991||Drives four Busch Series races for Huffman Racing|
|1994||Becomes first woman to win a pole position in a Grand National NASCAR race, at Busch Series in Atlanta, with track-speed record of 174.330 mph; at the race two days later, her car slams into another racer and hits retaining wall—she continues to race for 63 laps|
|1995||Races several Busch Series races in No. 36 CPR Motorsports Ford Thunderbird|
|1996-98||Gives birth to son, Tanner, and daughter, Samantha, and temporarily retires from racing; works as interior decorator|
|1999||Begins racing again|
|2000||Becomes first woman to finish in top 10 in a national ovaltrack motor sports series, at the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) series; breaks right shoulder and two ribs in wreck in Brooklyn, Michigan, at ARCA race in June|
|2001||Starts Winston Cup race at Brooklyn, Michigan, on June 10; is first woman to finish a NASCAR Winston Cup race since Janet Guthrie in 1980; begins working with BAM Racing|
|2002||Makes seven Winston Cup starts, with best at 24th at Daytona 500 in February|
Pole Position History and Crash
In 1994, Robinson became the first woman ever to win the pole position in the Busch Series, by setting a Grand National track record lap speed of 174.330 mph, at Atlanta Motor Speedway. At the race two days later, however, as Robinson started from her prime position in the first lap, racer Mike Wallace pulled in between her car and that of racer Joe Nemechek, taking air off Robinson's spoiler and causing her to bump Nemechek's car broadside. Both cars then slammed into the retaining wall. After her pit crew removed most of the damaged front of her Chevrolet, Robinson went on racing for sixty-three laps before radiator damage forced to her withdraw. Nemechek never finished the first lap and made public charges that Wallace had planned the aggression against Robinson. Wallace denied it, however, and NASCAR officials, after a review, issued a statement that no one was to blame for the crash.
After the Atlanta race, Robinson continued to compete in the Grand National division. Her best finish in a Busch Series race was a tenth place, and she retired temporarily to start a family in 1995. Married and giving birth to a son, Tanner, in 1996 and a daughter, Samantha, in 1997, Robinson worked in Charlotte, North Carolina, as an interior decorator, where many of her clients were involved with NASCAR.
By 1999, she was ready to return to racing and began her comeback with the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) Series. With a second place finish at Daytona and a fourth place in Charlotte in ARCA races that year, she won the STP-Prestone Highest Finishing Rookie Award.
She raced in ARCA again in 2000, taking the Talladega (Alabama) Pole Award at the Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series race on June 10, in Michigan, where she broke the track record with a lap speed of 184.606 mph. As she started the race, however, she crashed coming out of a turn and was briefly hospitalized with a broken right shoulder and two broken ribs. She again took home the Prestone Highest Finishing Rookie Award at Talladega on October 14, 2000. Robinson scored in the top ten finishes in approximately half of her ARCA starts.
By the 2001 season, Robinson was ready to get back into NASCAR racing. She came back with a bang, as the first female driver to start a prestigious Winston Cup Series race since Patty Moise in 1989. Robinson finished her first series race in Brooklyn, Michigan, on June 10, 2001, making her the first woman to do so since Janet Guthrie in 1980. "That was my goal, that's all they asked of me today," Robinson said after finishing the race in 34th place. She spun the car around in Turn 2 but regained control without hitting anything, thinking, "Oh no, just hold onto it" as it happened.
In October 2001, Robinson began racing with BAM Racing, owned by Beth Ann and Tony Morganthau. Robinson started in seven Winston Cup Series races in 2002. She qualified for the Daytona 500 based on her qualifying speed of 182.66 mph from the Time Trials on February 9. She started the race in the 36th position, becoming only the second female driver ever to race the 500. Guthrie finished it in 1977 and 1980, in 12th and 11th places, respectively. Robinson finished the race in 24th place, racing a No. 49 Dodge. She finished the season 52nd in Winston Cup standings.
By the fall of 2002, at age thirty-seven, Robinson had begun to feel her career was in jeopardy because she was driving so few races. The constant search for a sponsor and the introduction of new drivers to BAM had given her less time in the driver's seat. She told Tim Packman of Turner Sports Interactive that she was spending lots of time with her two children, becoming involved in their sports and school activities. She also continued to serve as a speaker for women's associations and business groups and had made several television appearances. BAM was planning to put her into some Busch Series races as well. "I really just want to race," she told Packman. "I would love to run the Busch Series, Truck Series or even the ARCA Series. I know I can drive."
Awards and Accomplishments
|1984||Voted Great American Truck Racing (GATR) Rookie of the Year|
|1986||Second place finish in Grand Prix of Trucks Mexico City Race|
|1987||Won GATR Big Rig 100 at Flemington (New Jersey) Speedway|
|1988||Won AC Delco National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) race in Asheville, North Carolina; third place finish in overall Dash point standings; named NASCAR Dash Series Rookie of the Year and Most Popular Driver; her winning Pontiac Sunbird was donated to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame|
|1989||First woman to win a NASCAR pole position, in the Goody's Dash Series at Florence, South Carolina; set new track record, captured pole, and won at Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) Speedway; named NASCAR Dash Series Most Popular Driver for second year in a row; was nominated for Sportswoman of the Year by the Women's Sports Foundation|
|1990||Qualified second for Florida 200 at Daytona|
|1992||Runner-up in Busch Series Rookie-of-the-Year standings|
|1994||Captured outside pole in Goodwrench 200 at North Carolina Speedway on February 26; set new Busch Series track-speed record of 174.330 mph at Atlanta Motor Speedway, qualifying for Busch Light 300-in that race on March 12 she became the first woman in NASCAR history to win a pole position in Busch Series, Grand National Division; finished in top ten on June 25 at Watkins Glen, New York|
|1999||Second place finish in FirstPlus Financial Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) 200 at Dayton, Florida; fourth place finish at ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series in Charlotte, North Carolina; won STP-Prestone Highest Finishing Rookie honor|
|2000||Voted Highest Finishing Rookie at Xenia, Ohio, on May 26; won Talladega Pole Award at ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series Event at Michigan Speedway on June 10, breaking track-speed record with speed of 184.606 mph; won Prestone Highest Finishing Rookie Award at Talladega, Alabama, on October 14|
|2001||Was first woman to start a Winston Cup race since 1989 when she began race at Brooklyn, Michigan, on June 10; was first woman to finish a NASCAR Winston Cup race since Janet Guthrie did so in July 1980|
Robinson has indeed proven she can drive. With the ambition and focus to become not just a great woman racecar driver but a great driver regardless of gender, she has overcome many barriers in her twenty years behind the wheel. She told Kesa Dillon of Sports Illustrated Women in November 2002, "I'm an athlete. I've always wanted to compete, and I want to win. Whatever car I'm in, whatever series I'm running, whatever track I'm racing—I want people to know Shawna Robinson was there."
Related Biography: Racing Executive Michael Kranefuss
Michael Kranefuss is one of the racing business's top executives. He spent twelve years as head of Ford Motor Company Europe's international racing programs, directing races in national programs as well as in Formula One, the World Rally Championship, and International Sports Car Racing. He helped to establish Ford as a winner in every motorsport in which it competed.
After leaving Ford, Kranefuss became an executive in the United States, as co-owner, with Ken Anderson, of MK Racing. His drivers, which included Jeremy Mayfield, have participated in numerous successful NASCAR Winston Cup, Busch Grand National Series, and ARCA races.
In his mid-sixties and following numerous attempts to retire, in 2001, Kranefuss and three-time Winston Cup champion Cale Yarborough, along with several other investors and directors, created the Team Racing Auto Circuit (TRAC), a new major stock car series to begin racing with the 2003 season. Two-car teams will be represented by cities and race on oval tracks.
MK Racing has also announced that it will be one of only three chassis builders to supply Falcon Cars to the Indy Racing League for 2003-2005 specifications. The step toward manufacturing race cars is a natural one for both Kranefuss and Anderson.
When Shawna Robinson was offered a contract with Kranefuss after returning to racing in 2000, following the birth of her second child, she reentered the arena as part of his ARCA RE/MAX race team. By the spring of 2001, she was ready to race a Kranefuss car in the Winston Cup.
Robinson stayed with Kranefuss until October 2001, when she was offered a car by BAM Racing and asked to be released from her contract.
Address: c/o Shawna Robinson Fan Club, 545-C Pitts School Rd. NW, Concord, NC, 28027. Online: http://www.shawnarobinson.com.
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Lieber, Jill. "Shawna Robinson." Sports Illustrated (March 21, 1994): 78.
Akers, Shawn A. "Crash Doesn't Wreck Robinson's Dream." Racing One.com. http://www.racingone.com/ (February 16, 2002).
Benjamin, Rick. "Way Off TRAC." SpeedFX.com. http://www.speedfx.com/ (May 19, 2001).
Falcon Cars.com. "An Interview with Michael Kranefuss." http://www.falconcars.com/ (January 30, 2003).
Falcon Cars.com. "MK Racing Selected to Manufacture in the IRL." http://www.falconcars.com/ (January 30, 2003).
NASCAR.com. "Driver Profile: Shawna Robinson." http://www.nascar.com/drivers/ (January 8, 2003).
NASCAR.com. "Shawna Robinson." http://www.nascar.com/2002/kyn/women/ (December 22, 2002).
Packman, Tim (Turner Sports Interactive). "Robinson Completes Race, Finishes 34th." NASCAR.com. http://www.nascar.com/2001/NEWS/ (June 10, 2001).
Robinson, Shawna, as told to Tim Packman (Turner Sports Interactive). "Insider's View: Shawna Robinson." NASCAR.com. http://www.nascar.com/2002/news/features/insiders_view/ (October 3, 2002).
Shawna Robinson.com. "Shawna." http://www.shawnarobinson.com/ (January 8, 2003).
Utter, Jim. "Sadler Shaken up in Final Practice: Robinson Hurt in Steele's ARCA Win." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. Galenet. http://galenet.galegroup.com/ (June 10, 2000).
Williams Company of America. Shawna Robinson Press Releases. "California 500: First NASCAR Winston Cup Female Driver in 12 Years." http://www.williamscompany.com/ (May 5, 2001).
Yahoo! Sports. "NASCAR: Shawna Robinson." http://sports.yahoo.com/rac/nascar/drivers/ (January 8, 2003).
Sketch by Ann H. Shurgin