Shirley “Cha-Cha” Muldowney – June, 1976
Image by Mike Schaffner
Long before Danica Patrick became famous (or was even born for that matter) there were a number of women pioneers in motor sports. Drag racer Shirley Muldowney is especially notable as she actually won a lot of her races. She won her first national event at the 1976 NHRA Springnationals at National Trails Raceway near Columbus, Ohio (where I took this picture). She beat out 15 other competitors to take top honors in the Top Fuel category. She had the lowest elapsed time of the race (5.96 seconds) and ran the top speed 243.90 mph and became the first woman to win an NHRA Professional event on June 13, 1976. Shirley went on to win an number of other titles.
Legendary racer Don Garlits has said about her: "Now, if you ask who do I have the most respect for, I’d say Shirley Muldowney. She went against all odds. They didn’t want her to race Top Fuel, the association, the racers, nobody…Just Shirley."
As to her nick name "Cha-Cha" she’s said: "I don’t love it, but I never said I hated it. That was [television commentator] Steve Evans’ creation: ‘Shirley ‘Don’t Call me Cha Cha’ Muldowney.’ To be honest, the name has really served me well because it’s easy to remember."
Taken June, 1976 on Kodak slide film. Scanned December, 2013 direct from the slide using Plustek OpticFilm 7600i scanner. I do not recall the camera or settings used.
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