Shirley Muldowney never raised a trophy at historic Bristol Dragway, but don’t let that glaring stat distract from her over-arching victory she claimed through her tenacity as a pioneering trailblazer in motorsports. One so significant that women across the country continuously offer praise and thanks to her, because of her efforts they are now able to compete and win in professional and sportsman drag racing.

Muldowney, who thrilled fans at the controls of her famously pink dragsters throughout many competitive races at Bristol Dragway and signed every single autograph for her legion of fans who came out to cheer her on, will be inducted into the prestigious Legends of Thunder Valley, the iconic track’s official hall of fame, during the Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, June 7-9.

Muldowney, 83, is the 21st inductee in the Legends of Thunder Valley and becomes the first female racer to be enshrined in the exclusive club that also includes Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, NHRA founder Wally Parks, John Force, Don Schumacher and Scotty Cannon, to name a few. She will be presented with the customary Legends of Thunder Valley plaque by Bristol Motor Speedway president and general manager Jerry Caldwell during pre-race ceremonies, which begin at 11 a.m. The accompanying sign showcasing her name in brilliant red will be installed upon the grandstand suite fascia as part of the ceremony.

“Shirley Muldowney has meant so much to the sport of drag racing and her fire and will to compete carried her to a hall of fame career,” said Jerry Caldwell, president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway and Bristol Dragway. “She has competed many times at Bristol Dragway over the years and won over the fans from around our region. They truly love her and cheered her on every chance they got. Her world record speed of 302 miles per hour set here in 1997 stands out as one of her best performance accomplishments at Thunder Valley. We are so excited to induct Shirley into the Legends of Thunder Valley, for all that she has meant to the sport of drag racing and Bristol Dragway.”

Officially at Bristol Dragway, Muldowney was one of only a few drivers to compete at the scenic dragstrip in all three major sanctions, National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) and American Hot Rod Association (AHRA) and she claimed two IHRA runner-up finishes and set one IHRA national speed record at 302.08 mph in June 1997.

When Muldowney set out to become a drag racer at Fonda Speedway as an 18-year-old hot rod enthusiast from Schenectady, New York in the late 1950s, she had no way of knowing, at the time, what an impact she would ultimately have on professional drag racing at the highest levels.

She broke the gender barrier, overcame hostility and discrimination to break through and have one of the most successful careers in National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) history. In 2001, during NHRA’s celebration of its 50th Anniversary, Muldowney was named the No. 5 drag racer in its list of Top 50 drivers.

Because of Shirley Muldowney, Melanie Troxel, Alexis DeJoria, Erica Enders and Angelle Sampey were all able to celebrate NHRA national event victories in Bristol Dragway’s Victory Lane. Even more female racers have been able to earn multiple victories and series championship titles since Muldowney forged a trail of success in the 1970s and 1980s, including three NHRA Top Fuel world championship titles, 18 career NHRA national event victories, one AHRA Top Fuel world championship crown and tons of match race victories from coast to coast.

In all, more than 60 women have raced in the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series and even more have raced in NHRA Sportsman classes. Enders has won the most Wally trophies among women, 47, and is followed closely by Sampey, a 46-time winner in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Muldowney still holds the record for victories among women in Top Fuel at 18, two ahead of two-time series champ Brittany Force’s 16.

In the Top Fuel category, Muldowney certainly blazed the trail. She was the first woman to get a Top Fuel license (1973); the first woman to advance to a Top Fuel final round (1975); the first woman to win a Top Fuel race (1976) and the first to qualify No. 1 in Top Fuel (1976).

If you want to learn more about “The First Lady of Drag Racing” but missed her impactful Hollywood movie in the 1980s, Heart Like a Wheel, you can now catch her official documentary called Shirley, which made its debut on FS1 on March 20. The documentary, produced by FOX’s Pam Miller, covers her life from her start, through her teaming with Connie Kalitta, her near-career-ending crash in 1984 in Montreal, Canada and her return to the track for more victories and her emotional final season in 2003 called “The Last Pass.”

Guests are invited to come out and celebrate with Muldowney June 7-9 at Thunder Valley. She will be featured in several autograph sessions, including Saturday night’s popular Fan Fest in the Pits.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they're granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans will get to see plenty of NHRA stars during the weekend, like back-to-back Bristol Top Fuel winner Justin Ashley, Top Fuel defending series champ Doug Kalitta, a three-time Bristol winner, Top Fuel rookie Tony Stewart, who is making his first Bristol Dragway start, four-time Top Fuel champ Steve Torrence, three-time champ Antron Brown,  Virginia cattle rancher Matt Hagan, seven-time and defending Bristol winner and defending Funny Car champ Ron Capps, and four-time Top Fuel champ Steve Torrence.

The high-revving Pro Stock category returns to action at Bristol with some new faces leading the way including Dallas Glenn, Aaron Stanfield, Christian Cuadra and Troy Coughlin Jr. Meanwhile, series veterans and multi-time champs Greg Anderson, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Erica Enders are ready to return to their winning ways. Enders is a three-time and defending Pro Stock winner at Bristol.

The 200-mph Pro Stock Motorcycle class also returns this season and a new rider, defending winner Steve Johnson will try to hold off the record-setting Gaige Herrera, who is off to a fast start on his two-wheel machine and currently leads the series points standings. He is being chased by veteran riders LE Tonglet, Matt Smith, Angie Smith, John Hall and Hector Arana Jr.

The Congruity Pro Mod Drag Racing Series also will return to Bristol Dragway and series leader Mike Castellana will be among the pre-race favorites. Others to watch in the wild and unpredictable category include Justin Bond, Kristopher Thorne, Jason Lee, Khalid Al Balooshi, Sidnei Frigo, JR Gray Jr. and Stan Shelton.

The race also will feature action in the Legends Nitro Funny Car class, NHRA Lucas Oil Series and Mountain Motor Pro Stocks.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA's popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

There are three major events that fans definitely won’t want to miss, including Friday’s Nitro at Night qualifying session where the Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars “light their candles” and power down the drag strip at more than 330-mph as flames erupt out of their header pipes. That session is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. A brilliant fireworks show will complete the racing on Friday.

On Saturday, race officials will host the popular Fan Fest in the Pits, where many of the top drivers are available to meet with fans and sign autographs. This event begins 30 minutes after the final pro qualifying session and is held in the large Guest Welcome Center tent in the pro pit area.

The other is the Sealmaster TrackWalk on Sunday morning prior to pre-race ceremonies. Join NHRA drivers and NHRA officials as they walk up and down the famed Bristol Dragway quarter-mile strip before racing begins.

Qualifying for the Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begins Friday, June 7 with a pair of pro sessions, the first at 4 p.m. and the second under the lights at 7 p.m. The final two rounds of qualifying are set for Saturday, June 8, at 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. and will include the new bonus program Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, June 9.

Friday’s 90-minute qualifying show will air on FS1 at 7 p.m. (ET), and be followed by another 90-minute qualifying show on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. (ET), also on FS1. Sunday’s three-hour final eliminations show will air at 7 p.m. (ET) on FS1.

Weekend packages begin at just $99 (kids weekend $15) while single-day Friday tickets start as low as $35 for adults. Saturday adult tickets start at $52 and Sunday’s tickets start at $42. All grandstand tickets for kids 12 and under are free on Friday and $10 each day on the weekend with a paid adult. Limited premium seating is still available.

To purchase your reserved seats, call Bristol Dragway at (866) 415-4158. Tickets also are available online by visiting the BMS website.


2024 – Shirley Muldowney, Top Fuel

2023 – Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel

2022 – Don Prudhomme, Funny Car/Top Fuel

2021 – Scotty Cannon, Pro Mod / Funny Car

2019 – Ted Jones, promoter / drag racing visionary

2018 – Mark Oswald, Funny Car / Top Fuel

2017 – Doug Herbert, Top Fuel

2016 – John Force, Funny Car

2015 – Carl Moore, Bristol Dragway founder and Connie Kalitta, NHRA pioneer

2014 – Don Schumacher, NHRA team owner / Funny Car pioneer

2013 – Warren Johnson, Pro Stock

2012 – Gene Fulton, Engine Builder

2011 – Jeff Byrd, Bristol President and GM / RJ Reynolds marketing

2010 – Shirl Greer, Funny Car

2009 – Dale Pulde, Funny Car

2008 – Ronnie Sox & Buddy Martin, Pro Stock

2007 – Bruton Smith, Speedway Motorsports / Bristol Dragway owner

            Wally Parks, NHRA founder

            Don Garlits, Top Fuel

            Larry Carrier, Bristol Dragway founder

            Rickie Smith, Pro Stock / Pro Mod