Nitro Time Machine: Richard Tharp and Shirley Muldowney Take Their Top Fuel Blood Feud To The 1983 Columbus Final


Nitro Time Machine: Richard Tharp and Shirley Muldowney Take Their Top Fuel Blood Feud To The 1983 Columbus Final

In drag racing, as in life, we all have people that we just don’t like. Sometimes that dislike simmers below the surface but lots of times it doesn’t. There wasn’t a drag racing fan in America who lacked awareness of the strong dislike between Richard Tharp and Shirley Muldowney over the years. The two champions, the two killer drivers, the two intense competitors just flat out hated each other and the best part is that they were not afraid to let the world know that. It’s one thing to see some barbs in print but it is wholly another to see them on camera when the combatants are getting ready to run head to head.

This brings us to the video below. Columbus, Ohio 1983. Shirley and Tharp are on a collision course toward each other in the top fuel category of this national event and boy oh boy to the sparks fly in separate fashion when Steve Evans starts wheeling and dealing the questions at the top end of the track.

“This is a little more of a war than a car race,” he says to Tharp. In return, Tharp says, “Yeah but she made it that way…”.

As you will see and hear, Tharp had been killing parts that day. Muldowney had been in better shape with increasing performances through eliminations. The end result is a dazzling and entertaining top fuel final.

Rivalries are the best thing about drag racing…or where. Where are they now?

Press play below to see this top fuel blood feud play out –


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2 thoughts on “Nitro Time Machine: Richard Tharp and Shirley Muldowney Take Their Top Fuel Blood Feud To The 1983 Columbus Final

  1. Piston Pete

    I miss going to the Springnationals at NTR. Too bad Mike Dunn and a few others had to cross the road before NHRA realized that one of their most popular tracks had become too short for 1/4 mile nitro drag racing.
    I first went in 1973, 3 days after graduating USAF tech school, with my 19 year old wife whom I’d seen 3 times since I left for basic training at Lackland AFB, TX. back in January.
    48 hours of great racing on the track, crazy partying in the campground, and plenty of ‘oh baby, baby, baby!’ in the back of our van, then we drove off to Kincheloe AFB MI., where I learned to launch B-52s and stay warm against long odds.
    Paul Blevins’ Vega backing out of his ‘USA Do Not Detain’ box truck, Grumpy’s Toy, Shirley packing her chute, the Blue Max doing a wheelie and flipping the body off when it come back down. I have no idea who won (I saw it, I just don’t remember), but it was one of the best weekends of my life.
    I went two more times, in 79-80, and all I really remember was breaking a clutch cable on my Sportster and the ensuing roadside party that broke out as folks stopped to help, including the guy who rode into Newark to get me a cable and wouldn’t take any money upfront. Good times.
    One of those years a member of Ohio’ Finest tried really hard to pull me off my bike cause I wanted to turn right outta the track after the race and he wanted me to go left. I went left but I stayed up, too.
    Anyways, thinking of National Trail and the Springnationals reminds me that my expectations hadn’t changed a lot from those wild days nearly fifty years ago up until March 2020 when they called off the Gatornationals the day before I was gonna leave for Gainesville. I’ve stayed home, but I still just wanna roll up miles of concrete and asphalt, get a little burnt rubber in my beard and some nitro blasting my sinuses (my hearing’s shot, so I just leave out my hearing aids and listen to the track announcer with my mp3 FM and earbuds), all while doing the boogie-woogie.
    The spirit’s still willing but now the body needs to rest a minute between the boogie and the woogie.
    Here’s to Spring 2021, I hope to see y’all out there.

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