Shirley Muldowney is a retired drag racer and three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion.
She was born in Burlington, Vermont, on June 19, 1940, to a taxicab driver, Belgium Benedict and laundress, Mae Roque.
When she was just a kid, her family moved to Schenectady, New York, where Shirley dropped out of high school to begin drag racing.
As a girl racer in a male-dominated sport, she earned the nickname, First Lady of Drag Racing.
Having made her debut on the dragstrip in 1958, she obtained her NHRA pro license in 1965.
She went on to win NHRA Top Fuel championship on 3 separate circumstances in 1977, 1980, and 1982, becoming the first person to do so.
In 1984, Muldowney survived a fatal crash. After two years of rehabilitation, she made her comeback in 1988.
It was only after winning 18 NHRA titles, she would go on to retire in 2003.
Her real life experience was the subject of the 1983 film, Heart Like a Wheel, which starred Bonnie Bedelia.
In 2005, she published a book, Shirley Muldowney’s Tales From the Track.
In 2016, she was falsely diagnosed with cancer, which later turned out to be Histoplasmosis, a case of fungal infection.
When she was 16, she married a drag racer, Jack Muldowney. They had a son, John Muldowney, who died of blood clot in April 2017.
She and John separated in 1972. Muldowney was then married to Rahn Tobler from 1988 to 2006.
She was also in a relationship with a race-car builder, Connie Kalitta, in the 1970s.
Despite officially leaving the racing scene in 2003, she has lately been attending car auctions conducted by Mecum Auctions.