She was the first woman to receive a license from the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) to drive a Top Fueldragster. She won the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 1977, 1980, and 1982, becoming the first person to win two and three Top Fuel titles.She won a total of 18 NHRA national events.
Born Shirley Ann Roque in Burlington, Vermont, on June 19, 1940, Muldowney began street racing in the 1950s in Schenectady, New York. "School had no appeal to me. All I wanted was to race up and down the streets in a hot rod," declared Muldowney. When she was 16, she married 19-year-old Jack Muldowney, who built her first dragster.
In 1958, Muldowney made her debut on the dragstrip of the Fonda Speedway. She obtained her NHRA pro license in 1965. She competed in the 1969 and 1970 U.S. Nationals in a twin-engined dragster in Top Gas. With Top Gas losing popularity, Muldowney switched to Funny Car, buying her first car from Connie Kalitta.
Muldowney won her first major event, the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) Southern Nationals, in 1971.
She stepped up to Top Fuel, getting her license in 1973 (making her the first woman to do it), behind the wheel of Poncho Rendon's digger; Don Garlits signed her application, one of three signatures she needed to make it official; the other two were Tommy Ivo and Connie Kalitta.) From 1973 to 1977, she teamed up with Kalitta as the Bounty Hunter and Bounty Huntress in match races, in a pair of Ford Mustangs, hers a Buttera chassis, and his a Logghe. The Bounty Huntress Mustang caught fire at Dragway 42 in Ohio in 1973.
At Columbus, Ohio, in 1976, Muldowney dominated Top Fuel, qualifying number-one by 0.05 second, setting low elapsed time (ET) and top speed of the meet, having the low ET in every round, breaking her own top speed record in the final, and winning the class. An unprecedented three NHRA Top Fuel Dragster world championships followed, in 1977, 1980, and 1982.Balancing responsibilities between these two incredible companies is the adventure of a lifetime.