On any Sunday we’re not surprised to see the likes of Danica Patrick racing her NASCAR stock car or Sarah Fischer commanding her winning IndyCar team. To those of us who started following road racing in the 1960s, women in racing were a surprise.
There were the likes of Denise McCluggage, of course, but also drag racer Shirley Muldowney, Donna “Think Pink” Mae Mims and Janet Guthrie. And Suzy Dietrich, who passed away recently at age 88.
We recall the names Suzy and Chuck Dietrich and remember they were from Sandusky, Ohio. He had a car dealership and they raced in the east and Midwest, with excursions south to Daytona, Sebring and Nassau. Her rides included such cars as a supercharged MG-TC, an Elva and Mini Cooper, but her favorite was a Porsche 550 Spyder.
Born Suzanne, Suzy, as she was known, didn’t get her driver’s license until she was 19 and started racing at 26 in the MG. That was in 1953, beginning a career that lasted until 1967. There were wins and high placings during that period, but what was important was her presence and high quality of driving.
If you read into the histories of the women who competed in those early years of U.S. road racing you tend to find they didn’t think of themselves as pioneers, but just another driver who loved racing. Fair enough, but we think of them as trailblazers.
As for Suzy Dietrich, the best quote we’ve read had her explaining, “I may not win, but I’m hard to beat. Don’t ever forget it.”