Shirley Muldowney born on June 19, 1940 in Burlington,Vermont also known professionally as “Cha Cha” and the “First Lady of Drag Racing” is an American auto racer. She was the first woman that receive a licence from the National Hot Rod Association(NHRA) to drive a Top Fuel Dragster!She won the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 1977, 1980 and 1982, becoming the first person to win two and three Top Fuel titles.She won a total of 18 NHRA national events.
Muldowney start street racing in the 1950s in Schenectady, New York!She was not interested in school,al she wanted was to race!When she was 16 years old she married 19 years old mechanic Jack Muldowney,who made her first drag car!He learnt her everything,from how to start the engine to the every single detail that cars have!
In 1958, the then eighteen-year-old made her debut on the dragstrip of the Fonda Speedway. Muldowney obtained her NHRA pro license in 1965She competed in the 1969 and 1970 U.S Nationals in a twin-engine dragster in Top Gas. With Top Gas losing popularity, Muldowney switched to Funny Car, buying her first car from Connie Kalitta.
Muldowney won her first major event, the International Hot Rod Association(IHRA) Southern Nationals, in 1971. From 1972 to 1977, she teamed up with Kalitta, competing in match races as the “Bounty Hunter” and “Bounty Huntress”!
She stepped up to Top Fuel, getting her license in 1973.An unprecedented three NHRA Top Fuel world championships followed, in 1977, 1980, and 1982.
Muldowney said : ”NHRA fought me every inch of the way, but when they saw how a girl could fill the stands; they saw I was good for the sport.”
A crash in 1984 crushed her hands, pelvis, and legs, necessitating half a dozen operations and 18 months of therapy. Muldowney was sidelined for a long period, but returned to the circuit in the late 1980s. She continued to race, mostly without major sponsorship, throughout the 1990s in IHRA competition as well as match-racing events. She returned to the NHRA towards the end of her career, running select events until her retirement at the end of 2003.
Award and Honours:
1. In 1975,she was voted the first woman member of the ten-person Auto Racing All-American team by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association.
2. In 1976, she was named Drag News Top Fuel Driver of the Year and voted to the Auto Racing All-American Team for the second time.
3. In 1977, she won the NHRA Winston world points championship, becoming the first woman to claim drag racing’s most prestigious title. Recipient of “Outstanding Achievement Award” from the United States House of Representatives on October 14, 1977. Named Drag News Top Fuel Driver of the Year for the second straight season. Named Car Craft Magazine Person of the Year during the annual Car Craft Awards Banquet, Indianapolis, Indiana. First Top Fuel driver to win three NHRA national events back-to-back.
4. 1980 Won NHRA Winston world points championship for the second time!
5. 1981 Won AHRA world championship. Voted to Auto Racing All-American team for the fifth time. Voted Car Craft Magazine All-Star Team, Top Fuel Driver of the Year, for the second year in a row.
6. 1982 Won NHRA Winston points championship, becoming the first person to claim drag racing’s most prestigious title three times. Voted to Auto Racing All-American Team for the fifth time.
7. In 1990, she was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America!
8. In 2001, she was ranked number 5 on the National Hot Rod Association’s 50th Anniversary list of its Top 50 Drivers, 1951-2000!
9. In 2004, she was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame!
10. In 2005, she was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame!
11. In 2008, ESPN ranked her 21st on its list of the Top 25 Drivers of All Time, citing her record as the first woman to win a major racing championship!
Shirley Muldowney’s Montreal crash in 1984!