Racer, pilot and aerospace engineer Janet Guthrie, the first woman to qualify and compete in the Indy 500 and Daytona 500, will be immortalized in film in the coming movie “Speed Girl.” She’ll be played by no less a star than two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank. The movie will be based on author Stephan Talty’s book of the same name.
“This is an incredible true story about female empowerment and going after your dreams,” said Swank. “When I was approached with Janet Guthrie’s story by the great team at (production company) Balcony 9, I immediately said yes. I can’t wait to bring her inspiring life to the screen.”
“Janet Guthrie was a fighter who wouldn’t let anything stand in the way of her dreams. Her excellence in the face of sexism, hardship, and sabotage resonates even more profoundly today,” added producer Joel David Moore.
Guthrie, who was born in 1938, started out competing in SCCA races at age 25 in a Jaguar XK140. She wasn’t racing full time until 1972, when she was 34, an age that would be considered a late start by today’s standards, where kids are in karts full-time by age five. Nonetheless she qualified for and competed in 33 NASCAR races from 1976 to 1978, with two more done in 1980. She finished in the Top 12 ten times in Cup, with a best of 6thplace in 1977. She was the first woman ever to compete in the Daytona 500, where she tallied an 11th-place finish in 1980 and a 12thin 1977.
Her first year at Indy was 1976 but she failed to qualify. A.J. Foyt recognized her talent, though, and lent her one of his backup cars just to show naysayers she could really race. Guthrie’s laps in the Foyt car did not count for qualifying but her times would have put her on the grid and in the show. She qualified each of the next three years at Indy, with a highest finish of ninth place in 1978. Overall her highest finish in 11 Indycar starts was a fifth place at the Bettenhausen 200 in Milwaukee in 1979. Her highest qualifying was fourth on the grid at the Pocono 500 that same year, where she lined up behind Foyt, Danny Ongais and Johnny Parsons.
She also won her class at two Sebring 12 Hours, in 1967 and 1970, and even drove two Trans-Am races with a high-finish of fourth overall in Mexico City in 1978 in Porsche 935.
No word yet on when the movie will start shooting or when it will come out in theaters, but all indicators suggest it should be good. Go Guthrie!
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