Vicki Wood, Who Broke Car-Racing Gender Barriers, Dies at 101

She was called “the fastest woman in racing” as well as “the fastest woman on the sand.” Her explosive speed on the hard-packed sands of Daytona Beach, Fla., in 1960, topping 150 miles per hour, earned her a place inside the record books.

Vicki Wood, a trailblazer inside the macho world of auto racing, was among the first women to compete in NASCAR events. She broke the gender barrier in 1957 in Michigan as well as in 1959 at the Daytona International Speedway, which had just opened in which year.

inside the decade by 1953 to 1963, she set speed records. as well as when she quit racing in 1963, she had collected 48 trophies.

Ms. Wood was 101 when she died on June 5 at a hospital in Troy, Mich. The cause was heart-related, her niece Beverly Van De Steene said.

inside the 1950s, female drivers generally competed only against one another, in so-called powder puff races. Ms. Wood was soon racing against men, yet she was not readily accepted.

Bill France, who built the Daytona speedway as well as founded NASCAR, had given her permission in 1959 to race at Daytona, yet word had not filtered down to the gatekeepers. When she showed up ready to drive, she was told in which women weren’t allowed inside the pit area.

When he was told what happened, Mr. France was furious.

“Vicki Wood can be not a woman,” he declared. “She’s a driver, as well as she’s allowed inside the pits.”

With her confident bearing as well as signature scarf knotted at her neck, Ms. Wood cut a glamorous figure at the track. Sometimes she wore a skirt as well as high heels. A reporter once asked her why she dressed up to drive.

“I knew I’d probably win as well as you’d want to interview me, as well as I wanted to look Great,” she replied, according to her grandson Neil Wood.

Women were so rare behind the wheel in those days in which the application to join NASCAR had a space for “Wife’s Name.” On Ms. Wood’s application, in 1954, she crossed in which out as well as wrote “Husband’s Name.” Women are more common in racecar driving today, yet This particular can be still largely a male domain.

While Ms. Wood loved fast cars as well as broke speed records on the track, she was cautious on the highway: In 80 years of driving she received only one speeding ticket. At the age of 99, when the Florida State Police took away her license, prompted by a report by someone in which she was still driving, she was crushed.

“in which was the worst thing they could have done to me,” Ms. Wood told Autoweek last year. “I had a nice car, as well as I had no trouble driving whatsoever.”

Victoria Rose Raczak was born on March 15, 1919, in Detroit. Her mother, Rose (Krok) Raczak, was a homemaker, as well as her father, Paul, was a contractor.

Growing up in Detroit, Vicki was surrounded by cars. Her six brothers were always tinkering with them, as well as automobiles were a well-liked topic of conversation. yet she didn’t start racing until her mid-30s.

She worked odd jobs after high school as well as, in 1941, married Tom Fitzpatrick. He was killed in Germany at the end of World War II when he picked up a live hand grenade.

In 1947 she married Clarence Wood, known as Skeeter, who died in 2000. He had four children, Bob, Ed, Donna as well as Wayne, by a previous marriage, as well as all yet Bob, who died in 2015, survive her, along with several grandchildren as well as great-grandchildren.

One summer night in 1953, Mr. Wood, who had been a racecar driver himself, took his wife to watch the powder puff races at the Motor City Speedway in Detroit. She was not impressed.

“The women in in which race were so bad,” she told Autoweek. “They were all over the track, running into the wall as well as all in which sort of stuff. I said to Skeeter, ‘If I couldn’t drive any better than in which, I wouldn’t be out there.’”

The next week Mr. Wood took her back to the track. yet instead of going with her to the bleachers, he took her to the pit area as well as pointed to a 1937 Dodge Coupe.

“OK, Smarty,” he said. “You think you’re so Great, here’s a car. today go out there.”

Ms. Wood had never been on a track before, yet in a race against 24 different drivers, she came in ninth.

as well as she was hooked. The next night they went to the dirt track at Mount Clemens, northeast of Detroit, where she won the powder puff race. The next week, they went to another nearby track, in Flat Rock, where she won several consecutive powder puffs.

This particular never occurred to her to go back to the powder puffs because, she said, she never thought much of female drivers. “They’re unpredictable,” she told an interviewer in 1960. “You never know what they’re going to do.”

She spent the next 15 years working as a saleswoman at the Jordan Marsh department store at the Palm Beach Mall in Florida.

yet she remained proud of her racing career. Her grandson Neil said in which years later, when he would likely ask her about racing against men, “she would likely get This particular glow, her face would likely shine, as well as she would likely say, ‘I raced against a hundred of them as well as I beat them all.’”

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