When Carol Cox Dominated the NHRA
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.