First Female Fuel Driver in 32 Years to Visit Spokane This Week - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

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First Female Fuel Driver in 32 Years to Visit Spokane This Week

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Mendy Fry sheds the CPA title and drives dragsters on the weekends (Photos: via Spokane County Raceway) Mendy Fry sheds the CPA title and drives dragsters on the weekends (Photos: via Spokane County Raceway)
AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. -


by Spokane County Raceway

Mendy Fry is good with numbers and has been so for years.

During the week she works crunching some big numbers as a CPA. But on many weekends she always plays trying to discover much smaller numbers behind the wheel of Mike Fuller's Forever Young nostalgia top fuel dragster.

"Yeah, a nitro-burning CPA," the 43-year-old Fry said with a laugh as she described herself. Fry, an Orange County, Calif. resident is a fulltime corporate controller for a healthcare company Monday through Friday and a passionate weekend warrior drag racer with an impressive resume.

Fry and a big handful of others will be at Spokane county Raceway starting Thursday for the Northwest Thunderfest featuring "throwback" front-motored top-fuel dragsters from the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series. Thursday is a test and tune session.

The racing weekend is part of the third stop of the 2012 NHRA Division 6 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the return of fuel dragsters to Spokane for the first time in a half-dozen years.

Nostalgia Fuel competition will mix itself into a full weekend of racing at SCR which begins with qualifying Friday, June 22 at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Eliminations begin Saturday, June 23 at 4 p.m. Final round eliminations in all classes starts at 9 a.m., Sunday, June 24.

An estimated 250 race teams from across the west are expected to compete in some dozen different race classes.

Fry is the only female drag racer to record a 5-second quarter-mile elapsed time in a front-engine Top Fuel dragster as well as the only member of the exclusive "Nostalgia Top Fuel 250 mph Club."

Fry will the first woman top fuel driver to compete in Spokane since Shirley Muldowney in 1981. "Cha Cha," as Muldowney was known, was a three-time NHRA world champion and made it to the final round of the then American Hot Rod Association World Finals, losing to Jerry Ruth in 1980.

"That was pretty fun to read," Fry said when she heard the Muldowney tie-in.

But Fry has her own impressive credentials on the racetrack.

She began driving quarter-midget sprint cars at age 4. As a teenager, she campaigned in the NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster class and astonished the drag racing world immediately.

In 1988 in Fremont, California, at age 18 became the world's quickest drag racing driver in the Top Alcohol Dragster class. Driving a dragster she built with her father, Ron. Fry recorded an unprecedented 6.15 second elapsed time, backed up with a top speed of 220 mph. The motorsports press labeled the run "unbelievable."

Fry honed her drag racing skills driving a 454 cubic-inch big block Chevy powered bright red '27 Ford roadster which was hand-built by her father. "We were undefeated in the three seasons (‘89-'91) I drove that car," she said. "It was the world fastest and quickest street-legal hot rod at the time which was pretty cool," she said of the car that ran consistent 8-second quarter-miles.

Fry was introduced to drag racing working in her dad's racecar fabrication shop in Santa Rosa, Calif. doing the jobs usually only men do. "My dad was a chassis builder and I grew up working in his shop."

Fry went on to work as a sheet metal fabricator in 1989. "One day I said I don't want to work in a racecar shop my whole life," Fry said. She went college at San Diego State, got a degree in accounting and began career in accounting. "So I kind of took a little wayward path."

She took time away from racing when her father passed away in 1995 but got reconnected when the Good Guys hot rod group asked her to be a grand marshal at an event at Sears Point, Fry's home track, in 2000.

"Sure, that would be great, I hadn't been at a drag race in like five years," Fry said. "When I quit nostalgia racing was starting to take off," Fry said.

Looking to return to high-end competitive drag racing Fry contacted a number of teams hoping to connect for a ride. "I really started watching the top fuel teams and (I asked) give me a shot," she said. "And a lot of them did."

She laid down the first 5-second quarter-mile run for one team and was the seventh person to earn entry in the "250 Club," for cars that reach 250 miles-per-hour.

Fry ran top fuel for six seasons, then switched to nostalgia funny cars. "Now I'm back in top fuel," she said.

And it's these front-motored beasts that Fry loves to drive.

"Those cars are pretty nuts," Fry said. "They're hard to drive – well they're challenging – and they're so violent."

Funny cars are a challenge but a different challenge, she said. "I like them both for that reason."

Funny cars can start out squirrelly but once they get to half track, "They're stuck a little better; they have wider tires, more down-force," Fry explained. On the contrary, the top fuel dragster, by contrast, moves around a lot on the top end because of the 12-inch tires.

This will be Fry's first time in Spokane and she's looking forward to the trip.

"I'm excited to go, I like new places, new facilities," Fry said. "All of those (tracks) are different. I'm really excited this race got added to the (Heritage) series."

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