First Lady Of Racing Denise Mcluggage Passes On


The racing community and larger automotive community was sad to hear that the “First Lady of Racing” Denise McCluggae passed away earlier yesterday (May 7, 2015) at the age of 88. First race car driver then journalist, Denise McCluggage’s love for cars not only earned her a spot as a serious auto journalist, but earned the respect of many of her male counterparts whom she raced against.

A true renaissance woman in every sense of the word Denise McCluggage defied what a proper woman should be and blazed a path in the racing world where there was none. Her efforts in advocating racing continued well beyond her racing days as she made her name as a professional auto journalist (starting with AutoWeek during it’s early days.)

Born in Kansas where Denise spent much of her childhood, she moved to Oakland to attend Mills College. From there she got her first job as a writer for the SF Chronicle.

Shortly after starting her job at the Chronicle, McCluggae purchased an MG-TC midget which she campaigned and successfully competed with in small club events.

After moving to New York with a new job as a sports journalist, McCluggage stepped up to the big leagues and traded in her MG for a Jaguar XK140 which she seriously started to compete in. From there, the rest is history as McCluggage continued to rack up race trophies.

Most famously, McCluggage placed fifth at Wakinks Glen (1960) in which she was the only female. In 1964, piloting a Ford Falcon, she placed first in the Monte Carlo Rally. During her time as racecar driver, McCluggage raced with many of the greats including Phil Hill, Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio.

Beyond racing, McCluggage was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame as well as the Sports Car Club of America Hall of Fame. Up until her passing, McCluggage was an honorary judge with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and remained a contributing author to Auto Week.

Here’s McCluggage on the Game show, “To Tell The Truth in 1959.” According to the video’s description, “This episode was made just prior to her second running of the 12 Hours of Sebring.”

McCluggage’s life is an inspiration to anyone really. Even when there is no precedent, there is always a way to blaze your own trail. Oftentimes, she was famously quoted to have said, “Change is the only constant. Hanging on is the only sin.”