Perhaps this story can be told to impressionable youngsters at the library next time: Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney: The First Lady of Drag Racing.
She won the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 1977, 1980, and 1982, becoming the first person to win two and three Top Fuel titles. She won a total of 18 NHRA national events.
She did this while remaining comfortable in her skin – her female skin.
‘73 Plymouth Satellite Funny Car: “This is a Steve Reyes photo. The shoot was out in Long Beach, California, and the car was brand-new. I borrowed the hot pants and the red boots from Steve’s girlfriend. They said, `Here, try these on.’ Again, I was very eager to satisfy, so why not? I’ve always enjoyed being a woman. I like makeup, I like clothes, I like jewelry. I always tried to look good and always enjoyed playing the part. I never saw any contradiction between being a competitive racer and being a woman.”
Hot pants and red boots. On a woman who identifies as a woman while racing as a woman.
Shirley Muldowney was not the first, second, or even third woman to “beat the boys at their own game” by winning a major NHRA drag racing event, but she clearly was the most successful and, more important, did it at the highest levels of the sport, in drag racing’s fastest Professional category, Top Fuel.
Women have been competing in professional sporting events for decades; from Babe Didrikson Zaharias to Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Billie Jean King to Venus Williams, they have excelled against one another, but none have experienced the level of success against men that Muldowney has in her career.
Muldowney not only has raced equally against the men for more than 40 years, but, as one Top 50 panelist succinctly noted, often “kicked their collective asses all over the track.”
This isn’t a game for men dressed as women, or women dressed as men, or humans dressed as freaks.
From Chris Martin:
“Possibly the last century’s most significant female sports figure. Name the player — Babe Zaharias, Cheryl Miller, Wilma Rudolph, Martina Navritolova, Nancy Lopez, you name ’em — none competed against men, and none competed against them in a macho competition like drag racing. But more important, no female athlete ever dominated the male species in the last 100 years like Shirley. She is the sport’s most important contribution to the world picture.”
No Title IX benefits; no subsidies to compete; no begging for equal pay; no need for a separate league. Recognizing she was a woman competing in a man’s game, she just “kicked their collective asses all over the track.”
Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.