Known to the racing public and the motor sports' punditry alternately as "Miss STP" or the "Flying Housewife," this October Paula Murphy added "Grand Marshal of the California Hot Rod Reunion" to her laundry list of accomplishments, monikers and accolades.
Reunion co-host and NHRA museum curator Greg
Sharp explained why Ms. Murphy deserved the
honor thusly: "We felt that as a pioneer in
the sport -- she was the first woman licensed
a fuel Funny Car driver and she's driven almost
every type of racing vehicle there is -- she
led the way for people like (3 -Time NHRA Top
Fuel champion) Shirley Muldowney and other women
that followed her."
Sharp also lauded Paula's versatility as a driver, including her endeavors at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Bonneville, and in rocket cars -- all firsts for distaff speed demons.
Hot Rod Reunion co-host and former NHRA Tech Director Steve Gibbs echoed Sharp's points and added: "(Paula) inspired a lot of women to give this a shot. She has been the incentive for them to say, 'I can do this.'"
Prior to the 13th California Hot Rod Reunion, DRO held forth with the Flying Housewife at a Denny's in Sylmar. The following is Part 1 of a serial interview with the woman whose career arguably opened the door for every one from Shirley to Melanie Troxel to Ashley Force, albeit with a scope and breadth greater than a writer can shoehorn into one article…
So you're the first woman to go 200 miles an hour anywhere and the first woman to go 200 miles an hour on a quarter mile. And that was where?
MURPHY: At Tulsa, at an NHRA meet in 1968.
Wow, a Funny Car 200 miles an hour in '68...
Funny Cars, I mean they were rather a bad idea
back in those days. When the body came down
was it creepy or weird? Or you know, some people
likened it to a coffin.
is kind of like that -- except you got windows
I have crawled out of. I had a transmission
let go on me and then I had a slight fire. I
set off the bottles ... nothing. That's when
I crawled out the window and pulled a muscle
in my leg.
So how do you and Shirley (Muldowney) get along? Or do you get along?
Well, I'm a - when I first got my license and
had it pulled we were back around the Schenectady
(N.Y.) area, where she was living she had invited
us to go over -- and this was when I had Jack
Byron with me, my mechanic -- and she insisted
we stay at her house. (I said) "Well, Shirley
you gotta' get a Funny Car so I have somebody
to match with; that would be cool." So later
on she bought Connie Kalitta's car and then
all of a sudden she turned into a completely