Garlits Tops Shirley on Her E-Town "Last Pass"
By Billy Anderson
Shirley backs up in preparation for her last run against Don Garlits at Englishtown.
Photo by Billy Anderson
Shirley Muldowney's "Last Pass" Farewell Tour made a stop at the legendary Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ on July 9th, part of the P.C. Richard & Son Summer Motorsports Spectacular. Muldowney was featured in a match race with her long-time rival, NHRA's Number One driver "Big Daddy" Don Garlits. The event also featured Top Alcohol Funny Cars, Pro Mods, Jets, Wheelstanders, Monster Trucks and Robosaurus. Despite an overcast evening, rain did not interrupt racing at all, and the event went off without a hitch. An enormous crowd stuffed into Raceway Park for an evening of exciting entertainment.
Garlits enlisted the help of cagey veteran tuner Paul Smith, as he prepared to battle Muldowney in hot, humid weather at one of her favorite tracks. Round one occurred just after 8pm, and after side-by-side burnouts, Garlits
out reacted Muldowney in his Summit entry, only to watch his lead fade when once again Swamp Rat 34 ejected a blower belt just before half-track. Muldowney's Mac Tools T3 entry pedaled once at the 200-foot mark, then marched to a 5.15, 288.95, as Garlits coasted to a 7.67, 104.79.
For their final match ever at Englishtown, Garlits took his first victory over Muldowney in more than 15 years. Garlits
out reacted Muldowney by .07 seconds, after which Muldowney pedaled several times before giving up the run. Garlits streaked to a 1000-foot shut-off 5.036, 284.56 for Low E.T. and event win of the night. Muldowney's last pass at Raceway Park was a coasting 7.76, 95.27 mph.
Top Alcohol Funny Car was also a battle of the sexes, as eight-time World Champion Frank Manzo matched up against one-time World Champion Bunny Burkett. In conditions over 2000-feet above sea level, Manzo laid down an incredible 5.608, 261.17 to win round one. Burkett was very respectable with a 6.012, 238.22 from her Bunny & the Boys Avenger. In round two, Burkett fouled away a 6.24, 212.19, while Manzo had to pedal his Kendall Firebird to a 6.72, 186.33.
Pat Musi took his Pro Street car to a win over arch rival Vinny Budano's nitrous Pro Modified. Musi's '69 Camaro blasted to a 6.469, 215.00 to Budano's 6.524, 217.25 in his '63 Corvette.
Jessie Harris took the Queen of Diamonds Jet Dragster to a 300-mph blast, as Dennis Roslansky's Crossfire, K.C. Jones' Cannonball Express, and Bob Beaulieu in Al Hanna's Top Secret Eastern Raider Jet Funny Car rounded out action. Wheelstander action featured Jon Oswell's Fire Engine and Ken Nelson's Cool Bus.
In between rounds, entertainment was provided by four Monster Trucks, including Bigfoot, along with Robosaurus.
It's a shame that Muldowney's last pass in New Jersey had to be a coasting one. She will be hoping that doesn't happen on November 9th, like it did to fellow icons Don Prudhomme, Joe Amato and Kenny Bernstein, on their final passes in Pomona at the NHRA Finals. Her next appearance will be at Cordova Park in August, where she will again get to match against Garlits, possibly for the last time ever.