Bad Ass Woman of the Week: Lisa Noble

As a woman interested in cars and motorsports, I couldn’t think of a more interesting and inspiring woman to introduce you to than the president of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA): Lisa Noble. Motorsports are one of the few fields where women are found very few and far between. With stereotypes and assumptions made about female drivers, there is always shock, animosity, and condescending comments when a female car enthusiast shows up at a car meet or joins a car group on Facebook. Instead of offering assistance and encouragement, women and girls are told to ask men to fix or diagnose car issues and take care of vehicle maintenance for us. Often, I will walk into a parts house or call a mechanic knowing exactly what I need or want and am met with condescending comments and an assumption that I don’t know what I am talking about. Lisa Noble has not only broken gender stereotypes by being a female racing driver, but has continued to break down barriers to show that women are just as good as men in the motorsports world.

Lisa is a native to Kansas (where the SCCA national office is located), but has found herself around the US working a variety of jobs. As a kid, cars were never an interest or an activity that her family was involved with. At 14 years old, a boyfriend took her to a major racing event close to the Kansas City Area called the Lake Garnett Grand Prix (which was a pretty major racing event in US that drew a lot of big names). “A very true story,” She said, “I walked through the gate and I stopped and I said out loud ‘this is what I want to do the rest of my life’”. A friend already involved with the SCCA made it possible for her to work during the event doing timing and scoring. It was the experience of doing something unlike anything else she had ever been a part of that set the hook.

It was never her goal to become a racecar driver, and for a lot of years she worked as a track official in the SCCA. By the time she was 16, she had three specialty licenses and continued to work at that for many years. For a young woman, the motorsports community is a very “target rich” environment. Many of the people she dated were drivers or workers involved in the racing world. This is where she eventually met her husband (a five time national champion). His business was in racing and provided the experience and opportunity that got her into the car.

In 1980, a bad crash kept her out of racing for about ten years. When she came back, she was back for good. Lisa became a national driver, setting six track records across the country and was the first woman to win a national race in Formula V racing class. Lisa continues to compete on a national level.

Working the track she did not experience much gender discrimination until she became a driver, and unfortunately learned a lot of really hard lessons. In fact, she found that she had to take her name off the side of her car to avoid being harassed on the track. A lot of guys did not want or did not accept a woman on the race track (in one case a fellow driver ran her off the road as a “hard lesson”). In 1995, after being the first woman to win a national championship race, a male driver came up to her, hands behind his back, and proclaimed that he never thought he would have to congratulate a woman and refused to shake her hand. Another cried and quit racing altogether. Lisa feels she has finally gained acceptance and a lot of respect for becoming a pretty darn good race car driver. However, it continues to be hard on a lot of different levels.

Lisa served on the SCCA board of directors prior to being selected and hired as President and CEO of the SCCA. She did feel some resistance, as some did not want a woman to be the leader of the club. The position of President & CEO is a job that you apply for, and out of eight candidates (all with exceptional credentials and experience in motorsports) found herself chosen for the job. Lisa is now about two years into her position, working around 60-70 hours a week and  managing a staff of 35 as well as 50 independent contractors.

As an SCCA member, we receive monthly magazines that highlight track scores, events, and up-and-coming racecar drivers. I always like flipping through to see how many female drivers are being talked about in the magazine, and I have noticed an influx of female drivers being featured. Could this be a new focus for the SCCA? As a woman shooting a competitive shotgun for most of her life (which is another field that is male-dominated), the group she is involved in saw the potential of having women in that sport and has been making a concerted effort in trying to target women to join by featuring women in and on their magazine, using female writers, and providing dedicated programs for women. As a leader, she hopes to use that as a model for what they want to do for the SCCA in the future to increase not only diversity between sexes, but also between age and ethnic groups. As Lisa says, “I think it’s important for people no matter who or what they are to be able to see themselves doing an activity; whether they are shooting a gun or racing a car or playing tennis.”

Cars may feel like a scary subject for some women. Being told to go to others to fix our car problems or treated as if we are unable to learn auto mechanics perpetuates the idea that women don’t belong in motorsports or that we are not allowed to be interested in cars. I am going to leave you with this bit of advice from the FEMALE president of the Sports Car Club of America:


“You can do it by yourself. You don’t need a father, son, or boyfriend to do it. You are fully capable. You have every skill that any man has. If you have an interest, you have enough gumption to figure it out even if it is difficult to figure out.”