September '19

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6 THE SHOP SEPTEMBER 2019 t isn't every day you meet a pio- neer. The thing to remember about pioneers is that they became the first person to do something because it was something they passionately wanted to do. And sometimes it just happens to be something that no one has done before— no matter if it's breaking the speed of sound, traveling across an unknown land, or driving a dragster. They just happened to be the person who had enough passion and drive to venture into the unknown, push hard and make it happen. Shirley Muldowney is one of those people. In the 1960s and '70s, I was a girl who loved cars. And the only woman I saw in the pages of car magazines who wasn't simply posing next to the car, but actually doing something with it, was Shirley Muldowney. She was my main inspiration for a life in the automotive industry. I followed her career closely, like the time she won her first NHRA Top Fuel Championship in 1977 and then became the first man or woman to win a second NHRA Top Fuel Championship in 1980, followed by a third in '82. She did those things not because she wanted to be the first woman to do them, but because she lived and breathed drag racing. It was just who she was. "When I started out in the '60s, there was a fair amount of 'you can't do this' or 'you shouldn't do that,'" she explains. "I didn't have much help from sponsor dollars. It just wasn't there because I was a female." She was 18 in 1958 when she ran her first official race, driving a 1958 Chevy. By '63 she was racing a split-window Corvette. Words of On racing, competing with men & the importance of perseverance. Shirley Muldney FROM Wisdom By JoAnn Bortles Drag racing pioneer Shirley Muldowney kept a laser-focus on competing and winning despite any obstacles throughout her illustrious career. Muldowney's been retired for 15 years. But she still travels to races and events to talk about racing and visit with her fans, both old and new.

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