NEW YORK — Paula Murphy, a Hall of Fame racer and the first woman licensed to drive a Funny Car, died Thursday. She was 95.
The National Hot Rod Association announced Murphy’s death on Friday. It did not provide any details.
Murphy was a pioneer for women in racing. She had set a women’s land-speed record of 161 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats for Andy Granatelli in 1963. It was Granatelli who sponsored a new Funny Car drag racing entry for Murphy, who became known as “Miss STP.”
“I was a real oddity, and I think a lot of strip operators thought it was pretty good to sell tickets,” Murphy said, according to the NHRA website.
“I didn’t have problems getting booking dates. I was very well accepted not only by the tracks but by my fellow racers. Back then, there was a lot of camaraderie between the teams helping one another out. We were a big family.”
Murphy drove at Talladega Superspeedway in 1971 in the STP Dodge of Freddie Lorenzen, going 171.499 mph.
She powered a dragster to a 258-mph run at the Winternationals in 1973. She suffered a broken neck in a crash in early 1974 at Sears Point Raceway when her car wouldn’t shut down and flipped over and over after landing.
She returned to drag racing in 1976 and toured the country before retiring.
Murphy was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2017.
“I got really, really lucky,” she said, according to the NHRA. “I don’t think many people have gotten the opportunity to do some of the things that I did.”
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