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Shirley Muldowney is recognized as one of the top professional car racers in the world, having earned the moniker "First Lady of Drag Racing."
Shirley Muldowney - Respect (2:09)
Shirley suffered an accident that threatened to end her career.
Even early on, Shirley Muldowney didn't play by the rules.
The National Hot Rod Association tried to prevent Shirley Muldowney from competing because she's a woman.
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In 1984, Muldowney experienced a near-fatal crash in Montreal when her vehicle spun out of control for 600 feet due to a wheel malfunction. Her legs were shattered; her hands, pelvis and several fingers were broken. Dirt and debris had to be removed from her body for hours before doctors could operate, and then she had a long, terribly painful rehabilitation process at her home in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. Thousands of fan letters poured in,
and she resolved to return to racing. She made her comeback in 1986, winning another NHRA Nationals title in 1989. The accident also spurred the design of safer vehicles with reconfigured wheels.
Muldowney decided to retire in 2003, partly to alleviate the workload of her husband and crew chief, Rahn Tobler, whom she married in 1988. (The two split in 2006.)
Muldowney's career was the subject of the 1983 film Heart Like a Wheel, starring Bonnie Bedelia as Muldowney and Beau Bridges as Kalitta. Bedelia received an Oscar nomination for her work in the film.
Muldowney later wrote the memoir, Shirley Muldowney’s Tales From the Track, release in 2005. She has earned a slew of awards and accolades as well, including being inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame and receiving an "Outstanding Achievement Award" from the U.S. House of Representatives.
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