Shirley Muldowney

Auto Racer

Born: June 1940
Birthplace: Schenectady, New York
Best known as: The professional drag racer once known as "Cha-Cha"

Name at birth: Shirley Roque

In 1965, Shirley Muldowney became the first woman to race dragsters with the National Hot Rod Association. She was known on the race circuit as Shirley "Cha-Cha" Muldowney, and after racing funny cars in the early 1970s, she turned to racing Top Fuel dragsters. She was the first woman to win a Top Fuel title and the first driver of either sex to win three world titles (1977, 1980 and 1982). After a bad crash in 1984, Muldowney was out of racing for almost two years, but returned to win races, and in 1998 she set a speed record for the International Hot Rod Association. She retired at age 63 after a final racing campaign in 2003. Her life was depicted in the 1983 movie Heart Like a Wheel, with Muldowney played by actress Bonnie Bedelia. She published the memoir Shirley Muldowney's Tales From the Track in 2005.

Extra credit: Muldowney dropped the use of the nickname "Cha-Cha," after 1973. She once said, "There is no room for bimboism in drag racing"... Muldowney took her name from her first husband, Jack Muldowney. She married her crew chief, Rahn Tobler, in 1988.

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