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May 15, 2014 - 06:18 AM
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2014 NHRA:They Made History: Nhra’s 4-Wheel Winning Women And Their Goodyear Tires
Posted by: newsla on May 15, 2014 - 06:14 AM
2014 NHRA:They Made History: Nhra’s 4-Wheel Winning Women And Their Goodyear Tires

Drag racers talk about trying to ‘rotate the earth,’ when they feel the racing surface is good enough for an extra quick and fast run down the track. Through National Hot Rod Association history, the quickest and fastest runs have been made on Goodyear tires.


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The planet’s rotational habits were not altered on June 13, 1976, but the world changed anyway. That was the day Shirley Muldowney became the first woman to win a final round in a National Hot Rod Association points-paying event in a professional category, taking the trophy and glory in a race at Columbus, Ohio.

Since that time, women have won 99 times in the NHRA’s professional categories. In the four-wheeled categories, Muldowney and 10 other women have combined for 51 professional victories and every one of those 51 wins have come on Goodyear tires.

"All of us at Goodyear are proud to have played a role in the success of women racers in the NHRA," said Stu Grant, Goodyear’s general manager for global race tires. "We remember when Shirley won her first race. It was a big moment for drag racing. Today, it’s great to see women competing, and winning, in all classes of NHRA racing."

The NHRA’s Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals will be held this weekend at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga.

Muldowney’s career is legendary. She was a winner in both Top Fuel and in Funny Car and she had Goodyear tires on her cars every time down the strip.

"I’ve always been very close with (former Goodyear Racing director) Leo Mehl," Muldowney said. So close in fact that Muldowney was Mehl’s presenter when Mehl was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Michigan in 2007.

Muldowney is the winningest of the NHRA’s four wheeled women, taking 18 victories between the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories. Muldowney won three world championships as she blazed a trail for female athletes the world over.

Lucille Lee was the second woman to win in NHRA professional competition. She was followed by Lori Johns (4 wins in Top Fuel), Shelley Anderson (now Shelley Anderson Payne, also with four wins in Top Fuel) and Cristen Powell (one Top Fuel win). Melanie Troxel won in both Top Fuel and Funny Car (five total wins) and Hillary Will won once in Top Fuel.

Ashley Force Hood (4 wins) and her sister Courtney Force (three wins) have won in Funny Car, as has Alexis DeJoria (twice).

The winningest active female driver in an NHRA car category is Pro Stock’s Erica Enders-Stevens (eight wins). Enders-Stevens is still the only woman to win in Pro Stock. Like Muldowney, Enders-Stevens has had a movie made about her racing life.

"The men and women who manufacture our drag racing tires in the Goodyear Innovation Center here in Akron never know which driver will use a given tire," Grant said. "Even after they are mounted on the race car, our Goodyear Eagle Dragway Specials don’t know who the driver is going to be. We simply strive to provide all racers with the same industry-leading technology." Muldowney was severely injured in a 250 mph racing crash in Montreal in 1984, the result of a front tire failure by a non-Goodyear tire. Goodyear’s reaction, Muldowney said, made racing safer for everyone.

"Leo put Goodyear to work on a 320-plus (miles per hour) tested front tire," Muldowney recalled. "Goodyear didn’t have front tires in those days. The result is what they call the Shirley Tire, the model for the same front tire they have today."

Today, Goodyear provides the tires for all four positions for the Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock categories. In the early years of Goodyear’s involvement, tires were provided by multiple manufacturers. Goodyear is the exclusive tire provider for those categories now.

Payne won her first Top Fuel race at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa. She recalled working successfully with Goodyear’s now retired John Slikkerveer.

"He was a great, great guy to work with," Payne said. "Both him and Darryl Duncan (of Goodyear race tire supplier Carroll Shelby Enterprises). I worked with them, even going back to (Payne’s) alcohol dragster days."

Muldowney remains popular with racing fans and she tirelessly promotes the sport, sometimes with one or more of her cars on display.

"Needless to say, I make sure I keep Goodyear very prominent on the car," Muldowney said. "Goodyear is my favorite sponsor."

Payne is also still active in the sport, with her family team, and has seen the accomplishments of women accelerate. She said that even as she started racing and winning in Top Fuel cars, women were already accepted as drivers. Her first Top Fuel win came on Sept. 19, 1993 at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa.

"I always felt it was no big thing," said Payne. "We just put our helmets on and went to race." Race and win, that is.

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