Long before she was a three-time Top Fuel world champion or even a nitro competitor, it was clear that the sport would have to reckon with Shirley Muldowney in the future. Shirley Roque grew up tough, street racing in her hometown of Schenectady, N.Y., where she met Jack Muldowney, who not only enabled but also encouraged her need for speed. She progressed through faster street cars and then into dragsters and Funny Cars. Here's a look at a selection of the nitro cars she drove over the years.

They say it's good to be the king, and that certainly was true throughout the career of one of drag racing's more colorful and successful characters, Northwest nitro legend Jerry "the King" Ruth, who not only competed in both Top Fuel and Funny Car simultaneously but also successfully.

The release this summer of the film Snake & Mongoose focused new attention on the tremendous careers of Don "the Snake" Prudhomme and Tom "the Mongoose" McEwen but could only begin to scratch the surface of their time in the sport. Although Prudhomme is the clear leader in the on-track career accomplishments category, McEwen without question has a more colorful and intriguing series of rides under his control, so I thought today we'd take a quick look at some of them.

The drag racing world lost Gordie Bonin, Friday, Nov. 29, too soon even at the age of 65. The popular Funny Car driver, known to his legion of fans as “240 Gordie” for his numerous excursions into the 240-mph zone in the 1970s, left behind a legacy of great performances and a truly remarkable personality that endeared him to everyone he met.

It could easily be said that all Funny Car drivers are tough — it takes a certain amount of moxie and derring-do to drive a short-wheelbased, high-horsepower car at more than 300 mph — but when I think of tough Funny Car drivers, the list kind of begins and ends with Ed McCulloch. Tough with his fists when need be and tougher still behind the wheel, he amassed a Hall of Fame career, both in the cockpit and in the crew chief’s chair that won’t soon be forgotten.

Although the creation of the first stadium-style dragstrips, Texas Motorplex, with its wraparound, suite-filled tower and grandstands and all-concrete quarter-mile may have (ahem) cemented his place in drag racing history, Billy Meyer has been making history on the track for more than 40 years.

Anyone who knows anything about drag racing today knows the name Don Schumacher as the owner of the biggest Professional racing team in the sport, with three top-quality Top Fuelers and four championship-caliber Funny Cars, and they may have heard a bit on how “the Shoe” himself used to burn a little nitro from behind the wheel, too, but I’ve never seen any kind of detailed pictorial representation of what was, in reality, a pretty short yet hugely successful career behind the wheel, but that’s why you have me each week, right? Right.

This week, I focus on another SoCal hero who has poured his life — and his nitro — into drag racing decade after decade and yet remains active on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour. I’m talking about everyone’s favorite former fireman, Jim Dunn.

As the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to California for its exciting conclusion at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, I’m going to focus this column on one of the most prolific and long-running car owners to call the state home, a guy who for decades fielded one of the best cars in Top Fuel or Funny Car. Although he based his racing business out of the Golden State, he wasn’t originally from California, and the name on the side of his car proudly proclaimed his heritage. I’m talking, of course, about “the Hawaiian,” Roland Leong.

As the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series heads to the penultimate race of the 2013 season at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it’s time to take a look at some of Nevada’s nitro heroes, current and past.

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