'She didn't open the door; she kicked it in' - 7/30/06
Heart Like a Wheel - The Movie
Related Issue: Women Racers Directory, Women in Racing, Women Racers, More Women in Racing, Race Schedules, Notable Women

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Drag racing superstar Shirley Muldowney, who in 1965 became the first woman licensed by the National Hot Rod Association, officially retired in 2003, but she still attends some NHRA racing events, serving as a sponsor rep for one of the cars on the Kalitta Motorsports team. "I spend a lot of time with the fans at the track," says Muldowney, 65, who was portrayed by actress Bonnie Bedelia in the 1983 movie Heart Like a Wheel from a book teens and adults may enjoy reading. She's also there to support her husband, Rahn Tobler, a racing crew chief. "I miss driving, but I don't miss the travel. I have pets that I'm very close with, and I'm always in a hurry to get back to my babies." Muldowney, who resides near Ann Arbor, Michigan, paved the way for all women racers and says she is very proud of winning four world championships, but most proud of winning the U.S. Nationals in 1982. "I won Indy, and if a racer doesn't have Indy as one of their credits, they still haven't done it." In her last year, she ran a 4.579 ET (327 mph) at Chicago's fall event.

Shirley's Web Site -
Biography -
Awards -
Photo Gallery starting in 1960.-

Source: American Profile, 12/25/05

Heart Like a Wheel - The Movie

Feminism, burning rubber and (many said) the sleeper of its year (1983). It's out on DVD.

Though Bonnie Bedelia has only occasionally gotten roles worthy of her, she earned wide acclaim and a Gold Globe nomination playing the National Hot Rod Association's "first lady of drag racing" Shirley Muldowney (for a while nicknamed "Cha Cha"). This is a memorable movie about crashing through male-imposed roadblocks and its heroine's volatile personal relationship with racer Connie Kalitta (Beau Bridges) is a bonus. Fans of country-flavored biopics will likely enjoy this - though, in truth, Muldowney is from Schenectady, NY. Extras include an interview with Muldowney including discussion of her 1984 track accident, a wonderful bull session where she joins Kalitta and racer Don "Big Daddy" Garlits, and much more. Also starring Ellen Geer as her sister.

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