What couldn’t Cheryl Linn Glass not do? From modelling to business and driving cars, she dared do what many people, particularly black women could hardly dream about. Her parents encouraged her to pursue her dreams and that’s what she did. The result of Glass’s fearlessness was being the first African American woman to be a professional race driver. In this post, we review her life and career.
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Cheryl Linn Glass’ Beginning
Linn Glass was born to working parents. Her parents were electrical engineers. Her mother Shirley Ann Robertso, worked at Boeing Company and her father at Lockheed. By the age of three, she could read and write and began school at the age of four. Glass was head and shoulders above her peers as she reportedly scored 151 on an I.Q test at that age.
At the age of 6, she joined Bon Marche Cinderella Modeling School and went on several shows. The following year, Glass did ceramic artistry and later, a doll-making business. As if these adventures weren’t enough, Linn Glass added another to her list.
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She came across a newspaper story about kids competing in go-karts. She visited the track to watch and then expressed her interest in racing. Like most things she tried before, Linn Glass had never driven but her parents encouraged her. Her father helped her to purchase her first go-kart and she added the money from her doll business.
Before long, she was competing in the Washington Quarter Midget Association, where she was normally the only African-American person. In her rookie year, Linn Glass was named the driver of the year. She went on to win numerous races and was among the top 10 best drivers.
The prodigy had big ambitions – to compete in Indy 500 and Formula One.
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Remembering Cheryl Linn Glass. Video Credit: STARTING GRID
Amid her budding racing career, she successfully pursued her education. By the time she joined college, she moved from go-karts to middle-level race cars and then became a professional.
She started the first black professional racing team in the United States, Glass Racing Team. Glass was an outstanding driver and she’s believed to have won more than 250 trophies.
However, this wasn’t enough to compete in the Indy 500. She didn’t have sponsors to back her so she acquired more experience.
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First Racing Crash
Linn Glass wanted to be a full-time driver. To realize this dream, she left college to concentrate on driving. In the Pacific Northwest, she established herself as one of the best drivers and fans loved her. One of the tracks she raced in was the Skagit Speedway in Mount Vernon where she was the first black woman to compete here.
Before she started competing in other states, she attended the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving at Golden State International Raceway in California. Her first race out of Seattle was at the Manzanita Speedway in Arizona.
During the race, her attempts to overtake other cars were futile and she crashed into a wall. She was rushed to hospital where she underwent four operations. Despite this, Linn Glass continued competing.
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The pioneering driver made a comeback after her horrific crash to win the Northwest Sprint Car Association of the Year. Her victory didn’t go unnoticed and she finally got sponsors.
The owner of Patterson Driveshafts, Charlie Patterson gave her a seat in his car. He tried to get her sponsorship but she didn’t get any. After, she switched to the Hulman Hundred Championship.
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Chasing Indy Car Dream
Linn Glass and her family put all their efforts into helping their daughter fulfil her dream. Her father bought an Indy car and competed at a couple of events in preparation for the 1987 Indy Car season.
However, it wasn’t meant to be as she suffered her second car crash. After that, she took time off and did other things. In some of her final days on track, she raced at the CART American Racing series Indy Lights and the Laguna Seca Raceway.
Unfortunately, Cheryl Linn Glass never competed in the Indy 500 or Formula One. Nonetheless, she broke the barrier for African Americans in motorsport and her determination to strive forward was admirable.
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