DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - As one of the rare major sports which doesn't have separate leagues for men and women, NASCAR has always been a male-dominated sport. There have been several women to compete at various levels of the sport, with varying levels of success...but in NASCAR's top three divisions (Cup, Xfinity, Trucks), no woman has ever taken first place in a race. This weekend, there will be several opportunities for one or even multiple female drivers to make history.
Eight women will attempt to compete across NASCAR's four marquee events this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. None are entered in the Daytona 500, two each are entered in the Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series events, and five are entered in the ARCA Menards Series race.
United Rentals 300 - NASCAR Xfinity Series
Fresh from Florida 250 - NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
Daytona ARCA 200
Though it's never happened before in a NASCAR event at Daytona International Speedway, 2024 could well be the first time a female driver reaches victory lane. Several have had solid runs at Daytona before, and more so than most any other track, Daytona lends itself to first-time winners.
Possibly the strongest contender in the female field is Hailie Deegan, who's entered in the Xfinity Series race. Deegan is the only winner in the history of NASCAR's K&N Pro Series West, and has quickly ascended through the ranks in the time since then. Deegan recorded a second-place finish at Daytona in the 2020 ARCA Menards Series race, just her seventh start in the series and first at Daytona. In her Truck Series career, Deegan has multiple top tens at Daytona's sister track, Talladega Superspeedway. This weekend will only be Deegan's second career Xfinity Series start, but there's reason to be optimistic about her odds to pull off an upset.
Also running with a strong chance for success is Toni Breidinger, who's entered in both the ARCA Menards Series race and the Truck Series race. Breidinger has hit some stumbling blocks in her developmental career in ARCA, having only notched four top-fives in two full-time years. Breidinger has three Truck Series starts coming into Friday, and will likely need to forge a strong draft partnership to put herself in a position to win.
Natalie Decker, now a veteran racer at Daytona, isn't yet locked into the United Rentals 300 Xfinity Series race. She's recorded a fifth and sixth place finish at Daytona in ARCA, plus another fifth in Trucks. In Xfinity, however, her results are a 35th, a 40th, and a failure to qualify. Decker's top priority will likely need to be surviving wrecks if she's to earn her first career win. If she can do that, she's proven she can rally to a strong finishing position.
50-year-old Jennifer Jo Cobb is one of NASCAR's all-time most experienced female competitors, having run 232 races in the Truck Series and 31 in the Xfinity Series over the last 20 years. The good news for her chances is that she's placed 6th at Daytona in the Truck Series before. The bad news is that it was in 2011, and she hasn't come especially close to such a good finish there in the years since. Anything is possible at Daytona, but there's currently nothing to indicate Cobb is in position for a career-best run.
The robust field of female racers in this weekend's ARCA race certainly makes for an intriguing race. Venturini Motorsports, who employs two of the five, is known for having among the strongest equipment in the series. However, due to its developmental and DIY nature, ARCA can often be the most unpredictable of the four series to run. It's impossible to count the ladies out, but it's just as hard to confidently pick any of them individually to take the checkered flag.