Gainesville: Shirley Muldowney ready for Gatornationals

Legendary Shirley Muldowney Ready For Gainesville GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Shirley Muldowney has not been in a Top Fuel car in the last couple of months and she won't get to test her dragster before her first event of the season, either. But don't...

Legendary Shirley Muldowney Ready For Gainesville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Shirley Muldowney has not been in a Top Fuel car in the last couple of months and she won't get to test her dragster before her first event of the season, either.

But don't discount the three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion. When Muldowney stages the car, she is a threat to win the race.

"We don't test, but we are as good as anyone out there," Muldowney said. "We are a very, very good out-of-the-trailer car. We always have been. That has a lot to do with all of the match races we do. We make a deal with the track operator to be on the starting line at a certain time. I will be there, on time, ready to race. It's up to me to put on a good show for the folks.

"We are ready to race competitively every time we go to the starting line."

Muldowney will be looking for her first NHRA national event victory since 1989 during the 33rd annual Mac Tools NHRA Gatornationals, March 14-17. Larry Dixon, John Force, Jeg Coughlin and Matt Hines are the defending winners in their respective professional categories for the $1.9 million race, the third of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Muldowney has competed in only eight NHRA national events in the past 11 years, but has remained competitive through various exhibition races each season. She also has plenty of experience to draw from. She was the first Top Fuel driver to earn more than one NHRA title and has collected 18 national event victories over the years.

"People are just amazed that I am still doing this at my age," the 61-year-old Muldowney said. "I am the only nitro racer that does not have a full-time sponsor and still makes a living at this. We do nothing else but run this car. This is how we make our living. I attribute that to history and the fan following that we have and the fact that I have been doing this for a long time. We give a lot of attention to the fans and that has paid off in the last 25 years.

"I don't get as many rides as I would like. I made only about 25 runs last year, but we try to make the best of every run. We always put our best foot forward and take advantage of every opportunity that we can."

It is likely that Muldowney will spend more time in the car this season. She has a deal that will put her in the lineup at a minimum of five NHRA events and she will continue to match race when time allows. Muldowney, a two-time winner at Gainesville, is looking forward to opening the season in Florida.

"We got some funding from Mac Tools and Action performance, so we get to run some national races this season," Muldowney said. "We actually have a pretty busy schedule this year, but we are putting a lot of effort and attention into the national events. We do that every time we race, but I am no stranger to Gainesville and I think that is going to be a very special event."

Like every champion, Muldowney will certainly be a target as other teams and drivers prepare to face off with a legend. Muldowney said she usually doesn't care who she is racing. But every once in a while...

"I like what I do. It's my living and I am very glad I get to do it competitively," she said. "I can do a very good job in the race car and other drivers know that. I get along with the majority of racers out there, but there are people out there who I would like to trailer. They know who they are."

While she has provided motivation for some drivers to bring their best run to the line, Muldowney has often been able to offer advice on running her drag racing program. Muldowney and husband, Rahn Tobler, go to great lengths to make sure the team is happy - and ready to race.

"I attribute any success that we have had to our preparation," Muldowney said. "Rahn and I get everything set up (at the track) and the rest of the group flies in for the race. They all have jobs during the week, but this is a way for them to stay involved with racing and smell a little nitro on the weekends. It is a wonderful group of people. We laugh until we cry.

"More teams should have as much fun as we do. Winning is everything. It is at the top of the list. We all work very hard to make sure that we go out there and are the quickest and fastest we can be. But we all must go out and enjoy ourselves in the process."

With years of racing to her credit, Muldowney said she can't imagine doing anything else. She also can't imagine racing without a serious shot at winning.

"I still like the ride and I like the cars," Muldowney said. "Like any other nitro freak, I have never gotten it out of my system. I think the Top Fuel car is the most exciting race car there is. I don't have a lot of desire to watch the roundy-round cars. I respect those drivers, but if that were the most exciting thing to drive, then I would do that.

"We don't take the car out just to run it. But you can't run it without support. If you wanted to slobber up and down the track, that won't cost you a whole lot of money, but we have the best stuff and we try to stay up on everything."

-nhra-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , John Force