2012 Women in the Winners Circle banquet, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Ladies Night at IMIS


photos and words by Tim Hailey except where noted

Accepting awards for the NHRA, Eric Enders and Victor Cagnazzi kept Tom Compton busy with Lyn St. James

at her Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation banquet. MORE PHOTOS

Former IndyCar driver Lyn St. James now puts her bountiful energy into her Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation. The Women in the Winner’s Circle Awards is the foundation’s major fundraiser, celebrating the success of women in racing, helping them build strong ties with each other and with the motorsports community, and honoring those who have provided leadership and opportunities for women in racing. The Foundation’s banquet at the International Motorsports Industry Show honored NHRA, Pro Stock racer Erica Enders, her Victor Cagnazzi owned team, Indy 500 driver Janet Guthrie and others.

St. James presented the Leadership Award to NHRA President Tom Compton. This award recognizes individuals or corporations that have undertaken extraordinary measures and show outstanding initiative in promoting diversity with the racing industry. “The credit goes to our founder and my mentor Wally Parks, who created this organization 62 years ago. He did it to find places for people to enjoy this great sport and his hobby,” Compton said. “We have racers at every level across the country and it has always been that way. It is the most accessible major form of motorsports in the world and we are very proud of that and this award means a lot to the NHRA.”

Erica Enders. with new husband Richie Stevens, flanked by Tonglets at Reading earleir this year

Enders received the Outstanding Achievement Award after her history-making season by becoming the first woman to win in the Pro Stock class at the race at Route 66 Raceway in Chicago. She scored two No. 1 qualifying spots and won four races to finish fourth in the 2012 points standings. Enders joins Ashley Force Hood who received the award in 2010 and 2011 recipient (and Eatmyink dinner guest), Danica Patrick. "This is a huge honor to receive the Outstanding Achievement Award by Lyn St James,” said Enders. “I have been a part of Lyn's program from day one. She does so much for women in all forms of motorsports and it means the world to me for her to recognize what we accomplished this year. To have my name on a list with women like Ashley Force Hood and others who have received this award is pretty awesome."

“NHRA has a tremendous history of participation and success for women in racing, and I’m extremely proud of Erica, who is also a graduate of our driver development academy,” St. James said. “Women now have victories in every national class of NHRA. Unfortunately, she’s not able to be here due to the fact that she’s getting married this weekend, but I suspect she has her sights set on a championship in the future. NHRA has a commitment to cultural, technical, and geographical diversity and has generated championships for drivers, such as this year when Antron Brown was the first African-American to win a Top Fuel championship, and dates back to Shirley Muldowney, the first driver ever to win three national championships in Top Fuel. We applaud their leadership.”

Janet Guthrie poses with her helmet that now resides at the Smithsonian. MORE PHOTOS

Auto racing legend Janet Guthrie was honored with the prestigious Mildred Marcum Pioneer Award, a tribute to the inspiring spirit, work ethic, and determination of ARCA founder Mildred Marcum. In 1977, Guthrie became the first woman to start the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, where she was top rookie. Her ninth-place finish in the 1978 Indianapolis 500, with a team she formed and managed herself, was the best by a woman until Danica Patrick’s fourth place finish in 2005. Guthrie’s helmet and driver’s suit are in the Smithsonian Institute. She is a charter member of the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame and in 2006 was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

“Lyn St. James and her foundation do so much to call attention to the successes of very talented women drivers in the racing business.” Guthrie said,. “Events like the Women in the Winner’s Circle Awards are really significant.”

Midget driver Shannon McQueen collects some hardware from St. James. MORE PHOTOS

2012 Mopar Western Midget Series champion Shannon McQueen was presented with the USAC Kara Hendrick Spirit Award, which honors the memory of one of USAC’s most accomplished female drivers. The award is presented annually to a woman driver whose spirit, determination and driving ability are reminiscent of the excellence demonstrated by Hendrick during her brief career.

Opportunity Awards recognizing those who create significant opportunities for women drivers to excel were presented to ML Motorsports for signing Johanna Long to a limited season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and to Victor Cagnazzi’s GK Motorsports for providing Erica Enders with the team that helped her make history as the first female to win in the NHRA’s Pro Stock class.

Audi Sport Engineer Leena Gade, photo courtesy of Audi

Audi Sport Engineer Leena Gade received the C&R Racing Woman in Technology Award which acknowledges successful women who excel in the technical area of motorsports, and who serve as role models for women to pursue technical opportunities in the field.

On stage with Chris Paulsen and others, Sohelia Kimberly accepts the award for Gade. MORE PHOTOS

An interview with Gade:

You won the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC as engineer with Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer. You have now received awards for this. Were you surprised?

"To be perfectly honest I didn’t expect any of this whatsoever. It was a wonderful surprise and reward for a long and hard season, which we experienced together. However, the World Championship victory was a genuine team effort from every Audi Sport employee and Audi Sport Team Joest. Many thanks to them all. "

You have filled another role at Audi Sport since the beginning of 2012. What has changed?

"Over the last few years I was race engineer working at home in Great Britain. This year I moved over to Germany and work for Audi Sport in Ingolstadt. I’m now integrated more closely in the early development stage of new race cars. On top of my original workload, I also have a lot of organization and development work now. This is interesting, but also a challenge because the there is much more work now. I always wanted more responsibility at some point in my career. This materialized a little earlier than expected."

In 2012 you not only won the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) as engineer with your drivers, but also the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second time. What was the biggest difference to the win in 2011?

"I’ll remember the win at Le Mans in 2012 for completely different reasons than victory the year before. In 2011 I had a very good feeling throughout the course of the week leading up to the race. This year we didn’t know just how strong our new opponent Toyota would be. There was healthy competition within our team between start number ‘1’ and the car number ‘2’. I was relieved when the race was finally over. Immediately after the checkered flag fell I was glad to be completely alone on the pit wall for a few moments. For the first time my guys and I had taken victory ourselves, the year before we have received a great deal of support from the teams of the two cars that had retired."

Dr. Jacques Dallaire. MORE PHOTOS

The Women in the Winner’s foundation’s Contribution Award was presented to Dr. Jacques Dallaire, President of Performance Prime, who has contributed his knowledge about the body and mind of a high performance individual to every racer who has attended the foundation’s driver development academy since its inception in 1994.

Deaf MX superstar Ashley Fiolek and St. James. MORE PHOTOS

“I’m extremely proud of all our award winners, as well as all the drivers who attended our event this year. Attendees were given a glance of just how much talent is out there and helped us celebrate the people who have contributed to the many successes these drivers have earned and had the opportunity to learn about the impact Title IX has had on motorsports. A wonderful evening!” said Lyn St. James.

Indy resident Jeanette "Black Widow" lee with Brownsburg's own Annisa Rainey. MORE PHOTOS

Speed Channel's boisterous Krista Voda (shown with Guthrie) MC'd the event. MORE PHOTOS

Motorsports Photojournalist Annie Proffit with Indy Car team owner Sarah Fisher. MORE PHOTOS

Linda Vaughan, Sandy Jackson and Cindy Hayes are all smiles. MORE PHOTOS

NHRA PR scribe Scott Smith. MORE PHOTOS

And last but not least, a whole lotta ladies. MORE PHOTOS