DI.com Blog: The Better Half of Drag Racing
By Wyatt Haldin
From the very beginning of the automotive age, fast cars and females have gone together like hot dogs, baseball and apple pie, and as you can see, this month DRAG ILLUSTRATED is highlighting the accomplishments of women in the sport of drag racing. We’re not falling prey to the politically correct crap that trumpets “diversity” at all costs; it’s just that there are some amazing women who happen to be damn good race car drivers and crew members.
Some estrogen mixed into this testosterone-driven sport livens up the drama that naturally surrounds these over-the-top, fixed-distance acceleration contests. For anyone who thinks a woman getting a driving or wrenching role in drag racing is the extension of some kind of affirmative action program, forget it.
Women have had to overcome many obstacles that men never dreamed of encountering. I recall a memorable scene from the great motion picture, “Heart Like A Wheel,” in which a young Shirley Muldowney has to find three fellow racers to sign off on her competition license application. After hearing “no” for what seemed like a hundred times, she finally gets “Big Daddy” Don Garlits to be the first to give her his signature. With a little coaxing from Garlits, other signers are found and the rest is history.
A few years ago I had the honor and pleasure of having supper with Ron Leek and Don Garlits at a restaurant in Rockford, Illinois, and wanted to ask Garlits about that incident, but with all the tales being told I wasn’t able to steer the conversation in that direction. Regardless, history shows that Shirley went on to enjoy a stellar career in Top Fuel and Funny Car racing, crowned by a then-unprecedented three NHRA and one AHRA world championships. Not too shabby for a lady that almost couldn’t get a competition license because she was a “girl.”
Or consider Alexis DeJoria, who is gracing our cover this month, as a prime example of the class act the women of drag racing are currently putting forward. Shirley Muldowney paved the way for a woman like Alexis to do things right from the get go. Being financially capable of starting at the top of the mountain does not mean it’s always a smart thing to do and Alexis, the heiress to the Paul Mitchell Salons and Tequila Patron fortunes and currently driving the Tequila Patron Funny Car, started her drag racing career at the wheel of a Super Comp dragster and advanced up through the Alcohol Funny Car ranks before landing in the driver’s seat of a nitro-burning flopper. I’ve never driven a fuel Funny Car, of course, but I imagine it’s not the type of vehicle you want to cut your racing teeth in and I applaud Alexis for demonstrating wisdom and patience in her approach.
When we were planning the women in racing theme for this issue, the idea was unanimously supported by everyone and anyone who was asked and ultimately is slated to become an annual installment of DRAG ILLUSTRATED. Unfortunately, no matter the topic, in this business for every up side there are usually an equal number of pitfalls to avoid. Number one on this list is not an easy fix; no matter how exhaustive the list of stories, some people are going to be left out and there are going to be some hurt feelings. We’ve agonized over this in the past and have come to the conclusion that we simply can’t please everyone every time.
We do our best to let the merits of each person’s accomplishments be the deciding factor on whether a story sees the light of day, or not. It would be very easy to let petty differences, perceived offenses and advertising influences dictate who goes into an issue and who stays out, but that would also be a very poor way to serve our reading audience. The fact remains, there is a finite number of pages and an almost infinite number of options, and I think our editor, Wes Buck, and his capable editorial staff does a remarkable job in making some tough choices for each and every issue of this publication.
In the long run, what DRAG ILLUSTRATED does is make racers feel good about what they do; feel good about putting a deposit down on that new car; feel good about ordering that new motor; feel good about picking up that new enclosed trailer. All racers, male and female, love to see themselves and their cars on the pages of a magazine and deserve every drop of ink they get. A lot of sacrifices are made to go fast and drag racing has been described by many as an incurable disease. Once a person gets a taste of going fast, quickly, it’s awfully hard not to want to do it again and again.
So, we hope you enjoy this issue and the enclosed articles on some of the fastest women on the planet. From the fuel-burning Funny Car of Alexis DeJoria to the thundering jet dragster of Jill “Queen Of Diamonds” Canuso to Jackie Alley and her Super Stock Camaro and everything in between, we’ve done our best to bring you a wide cross-section of the women of drag racing in 2013. We say it a lot around here, but this job truly is a labor of love.