Vicki Wood is especially and fondly remembered at this time of year as the Coke Zero Sugar 400 signals the beginning of the NASCAR Playoffs next week with South Carolina’s SOUTHERN 500 COOKOUT. She wasn’t called “the fastest woman in racing” or “the fastest woman on the sand” for nothing. Vicki topped 150 miles an hour in 1960, earning a place in the record books, still held.
Many lighthouse fans will remember Wood for faithfully attending and being a major-attraction to the annual Ponce Inlet Lighthouse “Beach Racing Day” held on the weekend prior to the Daytona 500 to celebrate the beginnings of NASCAR. In addition to Wood, many Beach Racing drivers and their cars would grace the lighthouse station and recount their days of glory.
A treasure and a trailblazer in the macho world of auto racing, she was among the first women to compete in NASCAR and broke that barrier in her native Michigan in 1957, and in Daytona in 1959. In 1963, the year she quit racing, she had accumulated some 51 trophies. She started in the female division races, called “powder puff events,” but was soon racing against the men. At her first race in Daytona, she was denied permission to the pits by the gatekeepers who had not been notified that she was allowed to enter. It took a blistering Bill France phone call to the gate to change that. “Vicki Wood is not a woman, “he exclaimed.” “She’s a driver.”
Her initial introduction to racing in 1953 was to witness a “power puff” race in Detroit. “The women in that race were so bad.” “They were all over the track, running into the wall and all that sort of stuff. I said to my husband, If I couldn’t drive any better than that, I wouldn’t be out there.”