A Class Of Its Own

Vicki Wood, pioneering and record-setting race driver, dies at 101

Vicki Wood’s racing job is a plum matter for a documentary, mainly because it is the variety of detail that only transpires in flicks. A flippant remark Woods produced to her husband in 1953 turned into a decade of breaking boundaries and location documents until finally 1963, collecting 48 trophies in the system and earning the titles “swiftest lady in racing” and “swiftest lady on the sand.” Then she retired over one more remark, this one particular from one more competitor, that was just as unexpected as the original line. Any documentary will want to be stitched with each other with out its protagonist, unfortunately, as The New York Occasions experiences Wooden died because of to a heart issue earlier this month at the age of one hundred and one.

Born Victoria Rose Raczak, her upbringing in Detroit and her 6 brothers regularly toying with cars and trucks aren’t what place gas in her veins. It was a trip to the race keep track of in 1953 with her next husband, Clarence “Skeeter” Wooden, that did it. They ended up looking at the powder puff races at Motor City Speedway dust keep track of — races held just for ladies motorists — and Wooden wasn’t amazed. She instructed Autoweek in a profile from very last yr, right after her one hundredth birthday, “The ladies in that race ended up so terrible. They ended up all over the keep track of, working into the wall and all that type of things. I stated to Skeeter, ‘If I could not push any superior than that, I would not be out there.'”

The next week, Skeeter took Vicki to the keep track of yet again, this time strolling her up to a 1937 Dodge Coupe in the pits and telling her, “Okay, Smarty. You consider you’re so superior, here’s a auto. Now go out there.” Wooden had under no circumstances been in the auto and under no circumstances raced on a keep track of. Even while she rated her driving “terrible,” she qualified very last but finished ninth out of 24 cars and trucks. The next evening, at Mount Clemens dust keep track of, she won the powder puff race. One week later on, at Flat Rock, she won five straight powder puff races. Racing became a regular detail as she also commenced instructing other ladies motorists, having superior enough for billing in a clip about a powder puff race and a profile in the Detroit Cost-free Push in 1955. 

That exact yr, her husband convinced Chrysler to set her up in a 1955 Chrysler three hundred for the duration of Speedweek in Daytona Seaside. The automaker had produced four cars and trucks for events which include the Chrysler three hundred Daytona Traveling Mile. Wooden obtained at the rear of the wheel of VIN 001, the auto that race driver and Chrysler Plymouth seller Brewster Shaw drove. Wooden had under no circumstances driven on sand. According to a history of Speedweek on Allpar, Warren Koechling took 1st location in the out-and-back again mile at 127.6 mph, Shaw took next at 126.five mph, and Wooden obtained 3rd at a hundred twenty five.eight mph. The prior yr, Shaw had set the 300’s mile report at 117.one mph.

In 1956, Wooden returned to Speedweek, having the wheel of a Chrysler 300B for the branded celebration. For some purpose she’s not categorized, but a be aware suggests, “Wooden drove (Tim) Flock’s auto 136.one mph. That velocity would have place her in next location at the rear of Flock at 139 mph, ahead of Koechling at 129. mph.

In 1957, Wooden started off racing in opposition to men, breaking the gender barrier in Michigan. She also conquer quite a few of the fellas, telling Autoweek, “I was a superior driver than half of the men they had.”

Vicki Wooden at Daytona in 1960, when she set her report mile of one hundred fifty.375 mph on the sand. (Getty Visuals)


In 1959, one more trip to Daytona garnered Wooden one particular of the two documents she’s most known for, the woman’s lap report at Bill France’s then-brand-new Daytona International Speedway. She stated when she experimented with to enter the pits, a keep track of employee stopped her mainly because ladies were not authorized in the paddock. When France listened to about it, he instructed the employee, “Vicki Wooden is not a lady. She’s a driver, and she’s authorized in the pits.” Wooden took a 1959 Pontiac to one hundred thirty.three mph all around the two.five-mile oval. She desired to test qualifying for the men’s race, the 1st-at any time Daytona 500, but France instructed her that her Ford Thunderbird wasn’t risk-free. 

The next yr, Wooden checked into Daytona Speedweek to set a one particular-way mile sprint down the sand that attained one hundred fifty.375 mph, a mark that however stands.

She raced putting on a scarf, and in some cases in a skirt and superior heels. Her grandson Neil Wooden in the Occasions stated that when a reporter requested why, she replied, “I understood I’d possibly earn and you’d want to job interview me, and I desired to seem superior.” 

Nonetheless racing in opposition to men and beating them in 1963, she stated, “One evening, we went back again to Flat Rock Speedway in Michigan, and this man that I passed stated, ‘If you’re heading to keep on racing with us men, we’ll go on strike.’ I resolved to give up. I could have however driven with the ladies, but which is not what I desired. I had had enough.” The fellas she passed, it appeared, failed to like getting teased about it. And that was that. 

It took decades for Wooden to start off to get her because of, but she’s been inducted into the Michigan Motor Sporting activities Hall of Fame, The Villages Motor Racing Supporter Club in The Villages, Florida, and there’s a “Vicki Wooden Cheese Steak” sandwich at Racing’s North Turn Bar & Grille in Ponce Inlet, Florida.

She drove until finally age 99, when Florida took her license. “That was the worst detail they could have done to me,” she instructed Autoweek. “I had a great auto, and I had no issues driving by any means.”

A racer to the conclusion, when a collector requested her which auto she raced was her favorite, she replied, “The swiftest one particular.”