Friday, February 8, 2008

there is no room in racing for bimboism

This is Shirley.
For more than 30 years, she has been an icon in the field of motor sports.

Born in 1940 in New York, Shirley found out early she had a love for speed. She was actually a notorious street racer in her early days.
She'd dropped out of highschool at the age of 17, and married Jack Muldowney. Needing grocery money, she began street drag racing in a 1940 Ford Coupe, that had a Cadillac Engine. In 1964, she began to race competitively. She soon gained herself a reputation as someone who would not back down in this "men's game".
In 1965 she changed the sport forever, and got successfully licensed to compete in the supercharged gasoline dragster catagory. No other woman had ever been permitted this qualification. For the next four years, she competed, and won, many races, and made appearances on both the NHRA and AHRA.
In 1971, her catagory was eliminated, because new divisions were coming along. So, Shirley began to compete in the "funny car" division. Despite the name, there is really nothing funny about these cars. They run on nitro methane fuel, and can be very temperamental to drive. Fire is a constant worry with these kind of cars, and they are often referred to as "fiberglass inferno's". To make matters more complicated, the driver is positioned in a straddle position over the motor, with the seat only 3 feet from the rear of the engine. Not worried, Shirley got into her first race, in New York, and won. She raced funny cars for a few years, but, in 1973 the worst happened, her car caught on fire, and she was burned. That was the end of funny cars for Shirley Muldowney. Her marriage also ended in 1973.
Since she wasn't going to be racing funny anymore, the one catagory left to her was to race Top Fuel. The job of a top fuel car is to get from point a to point be in the quickest amount of time possible. No woman had driven top fuel, yet. She had the required qualifications, and three male drivers to "approve her ability" in writing. (One of the men was her boyfriend, "Connie" Kalitta). She raced top fuel with great success, and in 1975 became the first woman to break the 5 second barrier. In 1977, she was the first woman to win the Winston World Championship. However, many people claimed she won it related to the fact that Connie Kalitta was her crew chief. Their relationship hit the skids, and she went off on her own, with her son now in her pit crew. She won again in 1980.
She continued to race, and win, until 1984, when an accident nearly claimed her life. After 18 months of rehabilitation, and learning to walk again, she returned to racing in '86. She continued to race until 2003, driving in both match races, and open competitions. She set many records at many tracks, and in 1996, she came in second in the International Hot Rods Association Top Fuel Catagory.
Early in her career, the nick name "Cha-Cha" was foisted upon her. She never liked it, hence one of her most well known quotes "there is no room in racing for bimboism".
So, Shirley Muldowney, and her need for speed. There you have it, my contribution for this Friday.


holly said...

you know i was thinking last night "oh yay! mie is going to post another cool chick vignette tomorrow."

cool - a woman racer. she's about my mom's age. my mom, a huge sports (any sport) fan probably knew of her. i'll ask.

you know that phrase works backwards, too. there is no room in bimboism for racing....hmm? maybe not.

Anonymous said...

You should write obituaries. Like in Serendipity. I bet you would be good.


CamiKaos said...

for once I came over here not looking for your histories. I am looking, instead, for info about your laptop.


mielikki said...

Geez. I just caught that. Holly you are too smart. I'm going to leave it that way now because I think it's funny. Oh well. I knew I wasn't quite right today...

sybil law said...

There was a movie about this lady made, but I forget the name of it. I have seen it, though.
Good stuff.

mielikki said...

Heart Like a Wheel was the name of the movie...