Women play an important role in drag racing… and their roles are expanding

It has been a couple months since my last column.  I appreciate Jeff’s patience as other things have been going on in my life. However, this has not kept me from thinking about many different subjects when it comes to the sport of nostalgia drag racing.

One of those subjects is the fact that in motorsports, unlike many other sports, diversity of competitors is encouraged. Diversity in motorsports is not limited just to drivers, but also in the ranks of crewmembers. 

Unlike NASCAR, there have been many women in drag racing who drive cars in all classes of the sport, and more importantly, many of these ladies win.  In nostalgia racing that list is headed up by the “Nitro Kitty” Mendy Fry.

Now we are starting to see more women working on the cars in the big show, sportsman racing and in nostalgia drag racing. I think it is fantastic.

That is what makes drag racing so cool -- the car doesn’t know or care who is driving it or working on it.

Etta Glidden was one of the groundbreakers when she was crew chief for her husband Bob when he was kicking everybody’s butt in Pro Stock.  As was Kim Richards, who started her journey working on Top Fuel cars with her dad, Dick LaHaie, then went on to team up with Tim Richards to become a very successful husband and wife co-crew chief combination for the likes of Kenny Bernstein.

Marla O’Guin is the clutch specialist on Jack Beckman’s DSR Valvoline Funny Car. She previously spent two years with Kalitta Motorsports doing cylinder heads for Alexis DeJoria’s Patron Funny Car.

Additionally, Ashley Fry is the crew chief for her boyfriend Scott Palmer’s Top Fuel dragster, which runs a limited schedule on the NHRA tour.

This trend has moved to the nostalgia nitro ranks as well. Tony Scholz and Veronica Pontani Roepke are crewmembers for the Dan Horan’s AA/FC team with crew chief Ron Swearingen.

Michelle Read (Left) is the clutch specialist with Don Nelson’s “California Hustler” AA Funny Car team.  Michelle has been working in the bell housing of fuel cars for many years.  She was the first student to go through Bob Gilbertson’s Nitro Intern program in 2004.