February '19

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26 THE SHOP FEBRUARY 2019 Later that year, Ron Big Yohns Johnson put her in his Junior Fuel Dragster that she raced for two years while lobbying hard for a Top Fuel ride. Finally, in 2004, Frank Rootbeer Hedge and Tom Shelar of (HSM) gave her a Top Fuel ride and she became the first female driver to run 5 seconds in an AA/Fuel Dragster with a 5.87 at 251 mph— earning her membership in the Nitronic Research 250 MPH Club. It wasn't all good, though, as Mendy remembers: "There was a flash of fire that singed my eyebrows and there was all of this hot, burning oil in my face, and I couldn't see snot. Imagine roller-skating down a hill in San Francisco and suddenly someone puts a paper bag over your head. The lights go out, and I am reaching for the brake and the parachute and just have to trust that the car is still going straight, that the end of the track isn't too close, that the other car didn't come into my lane. And then I had to unpucker my ass from the seat when I tried to get out of the car." Unrelated to the incident, the deal with HSM ended at the end of 2005 and over the next decade Mendy went on to drive four dif- ferent Top Fuel dragsters and three nostalgia Funny Cars, racking up more than a few wins. Impressed, HSM invited her back in 2016 and she proved her worth with major wins at the California Hot Rod Reunion, the March Meet, the Nightfire Nationals and the Nitro Nationals. Also, now divorced, she found time to marry drag racing jour- nalist Cole Coonce. Over the past decade-and-a-half, Mendy went on to drive four different Top Fuel dragsters and several nostalgia Funny Cars, racking up more than a few wins. Mark Making Her

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