February '19

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24 THE SHOP FEBRUARY 2019 O ver the years, only a handful of women have reached championship heights in the world of drag racing. In the Big Show that includes Shirley Mul- downey (1982) and Brittany Force (2017). Inspired by those women and others, Mendy Fry was recently crowned Nostalgia Top Fuel Champion. It's been a long, tough journey though. 'MY FATHER'S ONLY BOY' Born in 1969, Mendy began her career while still in kindergarten, saying, "I was my father's only boy. He was an engine and chassis builder and wanted a son. Instead, he got me, so he cut his losses and took me racing. I started racing quarter-midgets before I was in kindergarten. My family didn't vacation, we raced." However, even at such an early age, Mendy realized that she preferred straight- line racing to roundy-round, so she retired from the oval trackā€”at age five. Mendy's father Ron operated Fry Racing at Sears Point, and when she wasn't at school Mendy answered the phone, paid bills, chased money and learned to build race car bodies. "I guess it was a different life than most girls had, but it was all I knew." Ron was one of those rare talents who could do it all, from designing the car to building the engine to coaching the driver, but he was an exacting taskmaster. In 1985, Judy and Tom Boswell landed at Fry Racing looking for a fast street rod to compete against guys like Steve Castelli, Cole Cutler, Fat Jack Robinson and Jerry Moreland, who were all trying to build The World's Fastest Street Rod. What Ron built for the Boswells was a bright red, full-fendered 1927 T roadster powered by an injected big-block Chevy. Mendy handled the initial test driving while Jeff Gillette was chosen to race the car. However, at age 16, Mendy was soon driving full-time while her dad ran the car. They won all but two of the races they entered. Amazingly, at the same time, they were also racing an NHRA Top Alcohol dragster and in 1988 at Fremont, California, Mendy became the world's quickest Top Alcohol driver with a 6.15 at 220 mph. She was all of 18. The following year was a memorable one. 24 THE SHOP FEBRUARY 2019 Mendy Fry captured the 2018 NHRA Nostalgia Top Fuel championship. Mark By Tony Thacker Making Her Mendy Fry started competing in quarter- midgets before she was in kindergarten. "My family didn't vacation, we raced."

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