When Carol Cox Dom­i­nated the NHRA

Hot Rod - - Contents - hDave Wal­lace

Two of the most sig­nif­i­cant streaks in mo­tor­sports his­tory are also among the most over­looked when­ever pi­o­neer­ing women are dis­cussed. In the five months fol­low­ing NHRA’s re­fusal of her en­try into In­di­anapo­lis’s first Na­tion­als, vet­eran SoCal driver Carol Cox’s let­ter­writ­ing and phone-call­ing cam­paign raised such a ruckus with politi­cians, spon­sors, and lo­cal com­peti­tors that Wally Parks re­luc­tantly re­lented, al­low­ing fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Fe­bru­ary 1962 Win­ter­na­tion­als. That event’s first and only fe­male driver made the most of the break­through by win­ning S/Stock Au­to­matic with a street-driven 1961 Pon­tiac Catalina in 13.06 sec­onds at 107.65 mph. Af­ter­ward, she strug­gled to hoist a Win­ter­na­tion­als tro­phy for HRM’s Tex Smith and a nearly all-male au­di­ence who had loudly cheered the lo­cal lady through elim­i­na­tions.

In Septem­ber, Cox avenged 1961’s Indy indig­nity by hum­bling two dozen manly men at the Na­tion­als, NHRA’s only other ma­jor meet. Her heav­ily fa­vored vic­tims in­cluded run­ner-up Ray Chris­tian’s 1960 Ply­mouth ( pic­tured) and the HOT ROD Mag­a­zine Spe­cial, a new Chrysler 300.

Mean­while, as if one per­fect sea­son wasn’t enough for one fam­ily, Carol’s hubby was si­mul­ta­ne­ously win­ning with Pon­ti­acs en­tered into the 1962 Win­ter­na­tion­als (SS/SA) and Na­tion­als (A/Fac­tory Ex­per­i­men­tal) by Mickey Thomp­son, who em­ployed Lloyd Cox as an en­gi­neer and slush­box spe­cial­ist. In 56 NHRA sea­sons since, no other driver nor hus­band-wife combo has tro­phied at ev­ery na­tional event. Nev­er­the­less, the cou­ple’s ac­com­plish­ments went rel­a­tively un­rec­og­nized un­til re­cently—too late for both Pon­cho-pow­ered pioneers: Carol sur­vives at 90, but suf­fers from ad­vanced de­men­tia; Lloyd died at 47 in a freak mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent, struck by a train dur­ing a 1972 off-road race.

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