Martin’s U.S. 131 Motorsports Park has always been a special place for drag racing legend Shirley Muldowney.

Muldowney won three world championships and 18 national events, smashed gender barriers, defeated discrimination and has been inducted into motorsports hall of fames throughout the nation. They made a movie and written books about her, too.

But she said she hasn’t forgotten those summer days in the 1970s and 1980s when she would make the trip to Martin for the annual Popular Hot Rodding Nationals, either.

“It is one of my favorite race tracks,” said Muldowney, who resides outside of Charlotte, N.C. “I won that Pop Hot Rod race twice. You tend to remember tracks that serve you well. It was one of the top tracks then, and with all of the improvements, it’s like a new place now.

“Other than the fact that the track was always good to me, we had a good time. The family that owned the track at the time did all they could to make sure it was an enjoyable weekend for the racers even away from the competition. We always looked forward to the race. We got to go on the lake, and they took us for boat rides, and once we got to the track, it was always business.”

Martin is celebrating its 60th anniversary this season, and track officials have invited Muldowney back for one of its marquee events. Muldowney will be returning to Martin for its annual Northern Nationals Aug. 5-6. She will be signing autographs and meeting with fans both days.

Muldowney said she attends about seven to eight NHRA events a year along with special appearances. While Muldowney enjoys her visits and meeting the public, she added that she does missing driving. Muldowney won NHRA Top Fuel titles in 1977, 1980 and 1982. She also captured the AHRA title in 1981.

“The fans are what keeps me going,” she said. “I miss driving the car, of course. That’s what I did and did fairly well. I miss it every day of my life. The cost of it is what ran me to the curb. For a lot of competitors, it’s now a rich man’s sport.

“I was in it for a long time. I watched the sport grow and excel and become more expensive. But it is the most exciting form of motorsports there is. Our sport attracts all ages and there are a number of ways you can get into the sport. Not always driving, but that’s the most fun. That’s where I would want to be if I was starting out.”

Next month’s Northern Nationals will include four Top Fuel Dragsters, including Del Worsham, Krista Baldwin, Spencer Massey and Dom and Bobby Lagana’s Nitro Ninja. There will be an eight-car qualified field of Nostalgia Front Engine Top Fuel Dragsters and Outlaw Nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars. The event also will feature Mike Kuntz and his Wheel Standing PT Cruiser, the Larsen Motorsports Jet Dragsters and Jerry McCart’s “Home Wrecker” Jet Truck.

The Lane Automotive Bracket Series (No Street) will also be featured with two separate races over the weekend, one on Saturday and the other scheduled for Sunday.

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