The Driving Range
March 15, 1919-June 6, 2020
As if raising a parcel of step kids wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Detroit native Vicki Wood decided to add some “spice” to her life by becoming a stock car racer in her mid 30’s after her husband, retired racer Clarence “Skeeter” Wood dared her to get behind the wheel of a 1937 Dodge coupe in the pit at local track. There she was at Motor City Speedway, after she criticized the way women in Powder Puff races drove.
“Okay, smarty,” her husband reportedly remarked to her, “You think you’re so good, here’s a car. Now go out there.”
Although she finished 9th in her first attempt (with no training or previous experience), Vickie Rose Wood won her next race (a powder-puff event) on the dirt at nearby Mount Clemens the following night. She then came in first on the asphalt at Flat Rock a week later. It should be noted that she was the first woman to ever compete against men at that track.
It wasn’t long before she soon turned pro in 1953, following in the wake of such pioneering women as Louise Smith, Sara Christian and Ethel Mobley into the realm of NASCAR, and beating the boys at their “own” game. At short-track races in Michigan, while clad in a skirt, she also wore a scarf and heels!
Her success there paved the way for an invitation to Daytona Beach for NASCAR’s 1955 Speed Week, where Wood drove a 1937 Dodge coupe to a third place finish in the speed trial championship, despite early trepidation about “driving “on the beach.” This then led to a subsequent invitation from NASCAR founder Bill France to attempt a speed record at the newly opened Daytona speedway in 1959. She later recalled how France had to intervene after she was initially barred from the pit area after someone told her women weren’t allowed there.
“Bill France comes up,” she later told Autoweek,” and says, ‘Vickie Wood is not a woman. She’s a driver, and she’s allowed in the pits.”
Wood then ended up setting a women’s record by topping 130 mph behind the wheel of a Pontiac. A year later, Wood returned to Daytona Beach and had the fastest one-way run on the sand in history (150.375) earning her the nicknames “The Fastest Woman in Racing,” and “Lady Speedster.”
Yet, despite all her achievements, Vicki Wood continued to refer to herself as a “typical housewife, mother and grandmother,” and reportedly spent her time away from the track “ ironing her husband’s shirts and making her own clothes.”
She retired from racing in 1963, after several men made it clear they would rather “strike than face teasing when they lost to a woman.” In turn, she refused to compete only against other women. However she continued to drive in research demonstrations designed to test the extent of wear and tear a car could handle, before moving to Florida with her husband in the latter part of the decade, and finding work as a saleswoman at a Jordan Marsh department store in West Palm Beach. She later said that the biggest regret in her life was having her driver’s license revoked at the age of 99.
Vicki died from heart-related illness at a hospital in Troy, MI. at the age of 101 last June. .