They say that immigrants have the most motivation and passion to succeed out of any American, Milka Duno is definite proof of that. She was originally born in Venezuela and became an academic after arriving in the United States. She learned Marine Biology, Naval Architecture, Organizational Development, and Maritime Business, and went on to receive a master’s degree in all of these!
During her time studying, Milka Duno was also a mildly successful model. This strange mix of professions created much attention when she decided to officially become a race car driver and compete in NASCAR. She currently holds the record for the highest finish by a female driver in the 24 Hours of Daytona. Duno also wrote a Latin-English kid’s book titled “Go, Milka, Go!” which won the Best Young Adult Sports/Recreation Book award in 2009.
In 1988, Shawna Robinson didn’t just break the glass ceiling, she destroyed the entire building. Robinson was the first female to ever win a NASCAR Touring Series tournament and instantly became a celebrity for it. The talented, award-winning driver first began racing cars when she was just a child. She debuted as a NASCAR driver in 1988 and immediately showed promise with her incredible performance.
These victories got her awarded the 1988’s “Most Popular Driver” and “Rookie of the Year” awards. She then went up to the Busch Series, where she didn’t quite do as well as on her first try. Over time she lost some of her momentum and began shifting her focus towards raising a family instead. However, Shawna eventually got the itch to get back into racing and returned to the sport. She continued in NASCAR until 2005 when she retired for good.
Like so many female racers on our list, Robin McCall was primed to become a successful racing driver from a very young age. She began by competing in small races and quickly built a name for herself as a top racing contender. By 1982, she had already joined NASCAR and even got a chance to compete in the Winston Cup Series, making her the youngest woman to ever qualify for the competition.
In 1985, Robin McCall married a fellow racing driver, Wally Dallenbach Jr. They ended up having three children together, which led McCall to transition out of racing slowly, but surely. McCall has since been working as a driving instructor for auto manufacturers in driving events. The retired NASCAR driver also co-authored a book titled "Portrait of NASCAR."
Mackena Bell was also a graduate of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program but had only one official NASCAR race in the sport. She too began her love story with racing by racing go-karts at age five, moving up to Legend cars at age fourteen, and then officially car racing by age eighteen. In 2010, she competed in six NASCAR races during their Xfinity Series and failed to finish with a proper score, making it hard to consider her a serious driver.
Four years later, Bell crashed out during two races. She only had one top ten finish in her career. Needless to say, she didn't return to NASCAR after that, and instead, she began racing for Rick Ware Racing at the Phoenix International Raceway where she placed 29th.
Tammy Jo Kirk
In addition to being a highly celebrated and accomplished NASCAR driver, Tammy Jo Kirk is also a huge fan of motorcycles. She began racing these two-wheeled vehicles at the young age of nine and fell in love with the sport. Despite being very talented, Kirk faced a great deal of sexism and wasn’t allowed to race in male-dominated motorcycle competitions. The race driver was so frustrated that she decided to transition into car racing.
Tammy Jo Kirk was quickly picked up by NASCAR, and in 1991 she joined the All-American Challenge Series. Just three years later, she was already crowned the world’s most popular driver. The talented NASCAR competitor kept racing until 2003 when she decided to hang her helmet and open up a motorcycle dealership.