On Sept. 6, 1982 at Indianapolis, Shirley Muldowney captured the greatest victory of her outstanding Top Fuel career.
Already a two-time Top Fuel world champion and winner of 15 national events, Muldowney’s history-making victory at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in 1982 against her former companion and crew chief Connie Kalitta was by far the most satisfying win of her career.
It was the first win for a female at Indy, and it would be Muldowney’s only victory at the world’s most prestigious drag race. The win propelled her on to a third world championship title by season’s end.
At the time, Muldowney called the win, “the race of my life.”
During the weeks leading up to the running of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, NHRA is unveiling six of the most iconic moments in the history of the event that will remember the very heroes who made them. NHRA will conduct official presentations to honor each of the moments – including Muldowney’s – in the Hot Rod Junction on Friday-Sunday of the Indy race weekend.
This is the fourth iconic moment that NHRA has announced it will celebrate during the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Earlier NHRA announced that on Sunday of race weekend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits will reenact his famous beard shaving scene that followed his triumphant 1967 victory; on Saturday Kenny Bernstein will be honored for becoming the first double-up winner at Indy; and on Friday the harrowing 1970 Top Fuel final between Jim Nicoll and Don Prudhomme will be remembered.
The Muldowney presentation will also take place on Saturday of race weekend.
In the memorable 1982 Top Fuel final round, Muldowney was first off the line and held off Kalitta at the finish line. Muldowney posted a 5.57-second run in her Pioneer Electronics dragster to outrun Kalitta’s hard-charging Bounty Hunter dragster, which finished in 5.66 seconds.
Drag racing historians consistently rank the 1982 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals as one of the single greatest drag races in NHRA history. The drama-packed Top Fuel final and Muldowney’s gender-barrier breaking victory against her fiercest rival at the tradition-rich event certainly adds to the race’s enduring legacy.
“The fact that it was Indy and the final pair was the quickest and fastest side-by-side run ever at the time helped make it so special,” Muldowney has said.
Muldowney finished her distinguished career with three world championship titles and 18 career victories.
However, like so many other NHRA drivers, the one she cherishes most took place on the hallowed dragstrip that sits in the heart of Indiana, at venerable Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
“There is a lot of prestige along with winning Indy because people remember winning Indy more than winning other races,” Muldowney has said. “It’s the biggest race. I think the history behind it makes it so important. This is the race that is the most sought after. Not every racer can say they have won it. I can say I have won it.”
The most historic and tradition-rich event in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals has been contested annually since 1955.
The milestone 60th installment of the Labor Day weekend drag racing spectacular will feature more than 1,000 competitors in 12 categories during the event. The 18th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is also the final event in the regular season. Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); Mike Edwards (Pro Stock); and John Hall (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the race that will once again be televised by ESPN2 in more than 10 hours of coverage.
On the racetrack, the 60th anniversary Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will feature intense side-by-side racing at more than 320 mph, as drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle compete for their share of the $2 million purse and battle for important world championship points. The race is the final regular season stop for the circuit and will establish the top 10 fields for the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Perhaps more importantly, drivers will compete to earn a permanent spot in NHRA history, as a Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner.
The race will also showcase the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, where the top drivers in Top Fuel and Funny Car will race for $100,000 bonuses, as well as the annual Mopar HEMI Challenge for Super Stock cars and thrilling competition in both the Lucas Oil Series and Pro Mod Series.
In addition, the event will feature fan-favorite Cacklefests, vintage racecars on display in the Hot Rod Junction, autograph sessions with many of the legends of the sport, a Monday edition of the SealMaster NHRA Track Walk, fireworks displays, and much more.
To purchase tickets for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, fans can contact NHRA’s Ticket Sales Center at 800-884-NHRA (6472), or get their tickets online at www.NHRATIX.com.
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