Muldowney named to International Motorsports Hall of Fame Class Of 2004 GLENDORA, Calif. - Motorsports icon Shirley Muldowney, the first Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to win multiple championships, leads the list of inductees into the ...
Muldowney named to International Motorsports Hall of Fame Class Of 2004
GLENDORA, Calif. - Motorsports icon Shirley Muldowney, the first Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to win multiple championships, leads the list of inductees into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame's 2004 class. The 2004 International Motorsports Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on Thursday, April 22, 2004 in Talladega, Ala. Muldowney joins former CART champion Bobby Rahal, former NASCAR president Bill France Jr., Charles "Red" Farmer, who was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers, and former hydroplane racer Bill Muncey as part of the 2004 induction class. The five-member class brings the number of inductees into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame to 106 members.
"When I was 14 years-old in Schenectady, N.Y., I could have never imagined this growing into what it has," Muldowney said. "I look back at this and the past 40 years seems like a cakewalk. I've had such a wonderful time. The more time I look back on it, I realize what a wonderful life I've had. I hope the young racers of today get to experience what I have and know what 30 years of racing is like. This wins are great, but the people you meet, places you go and friends you make along the way are what makes this so special." Muldowney, who was named No. 5 on NHRA's 50 Greatest Drivers List in 2001, pioneered the way for females in the auto racing world.
The Burlington, Vt. native was the first female to obtain a Top Fuel license. In 1975, she became the first female to advance to a final round, scoring a runner-up finish at the Spring Nationals near Columbus, Ohio to Marvin Graham. A year later, Muldowney earned the first of her 18 career NHRA victories when she defeated Bob Edwards in the final round at the Columbus event. In 1977, Muldowney made motorsports history, becoming the first female driver to win a major motorsports championship, winning three races en route to the 1977 NHRA Top Fuel championship.
In 1980, the Michigan resident became the first Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to win multiple championships. In 1982, she advanced to seven of the 12 final rounds at NHRA national events, winning four races, including the prestigious U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, on the way to winning her final NHRA championship. Also in 1982, Muldowney and Top Fuel driver Lucille Lee met in the first all-female final round in NHRA history, with Muldowney taking the win, 5.711 seconds at 233.16 mph to Lee's 6.052 at 207.85. Muldowney went Hollywood in 1982 when her life story was chronicled in the film 'Heart Like A Wheel.' Actress Bonnie Bedelia portrayed Muldowney, while Beau Bridges played Muldowney's racing counterpart Connie Kalitta.
Muldowney suffered a near-fatal crash on June 29, 1984 during qualifying at Sanair Int'l Dragstrip in Canada, resulting in many surgical procedures to allow her to walk again. The rehabilitation process took 18 months before Muldowney returned to the drag strip in 1986. In 1989, Muldowney became the first female member of the exclusive Cragar Four-Second Club when she clocked a run of 4.974 at 284 on Sept. 15 at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa.
Later that year at Firebird Raceway near Phoenix, she earned her final NHRA victory when she used a starting-line reaction to defeat Darrell Gwynn. In January 2003, Muldowney announced that she would compete in six races during her 'Last Pass - 30 Years in Top Fuel - 1973-2003' tour. At Route 66 Raceway in September, Muldowney clocked a career-best performance when she blasted her signature pink dragster to a quarter-mile run of 4.579 at 327.66 during qualifying. Muldowney will make the final start of her storied career on Sunday, Nov. 9 during the 2003 NHRA season-finale at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway.
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., the NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. It presents 23 national events through its NHRA POWERADE Drag Racing Series. The NHRA has more than 80,000 members nationwide and 140 member tracks. The NHRA-sanctioned sportsman and bracket racing series' provide competition opportunities for drivers of all levels. The NHRA develops the stars of tomorrow by offering the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, NHRA Summit Racing Series, NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Street Legal Program. The NHRA also offers the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League for youths ages 8 to 17.