Motorsports Hall Of Fame Of America Inducts Denise McCluggage

Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (MSHFA) is starting Women’s History Month with a bang as they prepare to induct Denise McCluggage into the MSHFA next week. As part of the celebration, the classic Jaguar sports car she drove the first time she raced will also be part of the celebration.

Just last week, the 1956 Jaguar XK140 that was credited to have inspired McCluggage’s racing career arrived in Daytona Beach. During the two days of the induction, and during the whole Women’s History Month this March, it will be on display at the MSHFA, inside the grounds of Daytona International Speedway.

Tickets for the 34th Induction Gala Presented by Toyota Racing at Shores Resort and Spa have already sold out. The March 8 event will see McCluggage added as the Class of 2022 At Large inductee.

As for the XK140, once believed to have been lost, the Jaguar will now have a special role in honoring a truly extraordinary woman. She broke gender barriers with her grit and legendary charm. Motorsports friends and dear rivals have affectionately called McCluggage “Lady Leadfoot”.

She lived in a time when it wasn’t often that women are even allowed into the racing pits or even to get close to any of the action in the sports that were then dominated by men. McCluggage broke gender barriers by being part of the sports that she covered. She was an innovative, award-winning journalist who became known for her unwavering tenacity and grit, fearless ambition, and natural athletic ability. McCluggage passed away in 2015.

She was the cofounder of Autoweek and the first journalist to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. She will also be the first woman to be awarded the Ken W. Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism.

President of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America George Levy stated, “Denise’s role in publishing and sustaining Autoweek, nee Competition Press, during its infancy not only kept the publication going, but played a vital role in the growth of sports car racing in America.”

As for the Jaguar, Levy shared, “This is the car that inspired all of that for Denise. This is the car that made her want to race, and we couldn’t think of a better or more appropriate piece of motorsports history to have on display at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America for Women’s History Month and beyond.”

Racing enthusiasts and automotive historians believed that the 1956 Jaguar XK140 was permanently lost, until it was miraculously discovered after almost thirty years – sitting unaltered in a garage. President and Founder of the Motorcar Society Barnaby Brokaw considers the Jaguar as one of the most significant barn finds of the decade.

Brokaw shared, “This is the car that American sportsman Briggs Cunningham (MSHFA Class of 1997) gave to Denise because he saw something special in her. She was fiercely competitive and highly respected by her peers on and off the racetrack Denise truly deserves the honor of being recognized by the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, and it’s a special opportunity to bring her first race car here.”

In August of 1956, at 29 years old, McCluggage made her racing debut driving the Jaguar at an SCCA regional in Montgomery, New York. She was victorious in the Ladies Race and was able to place well against more experienced drivers. Driving the Porsche RS in 1959, she also made history at the feature sports car event at Thompson Raceway in Connecticut as the first woman to win the event. In 1961, she claimed victory at the GT class at Sebring in Florida behind the wheel of a .

She was also the first female driver to be given the honor of being in the Sebring International Raceway Hall of Fame.

1992 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year and renowned sports car driver Lyn St. James will be presenting McCluggage for induction. St. James said, “Denise was a pioneer and legend for her many talents – behind the wheel of a race car, brilliant writing and photography, and storytelling. To be able to see this fabulous Jaguar that was one of her first racing cars come back to life is wonderful. Denise was someone who never let a challenge go unmet. Guts and brilliance were her mantra. It is a great honor for me to be able to help induct Denise McCluggage into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.”

Joining McCluggage in the MSHFA Class of 2022 are Peter Brock (Sports Cars) designer of the 1965 World Champion Cobra Daytona Coupes; Helio Castroneves (Open Wheel) a record-equaling four-time Indianapolis 500 winner; Dick LaHaie (Drag Racing) the only person to win NHRA Top Fuel championships both as a driver and crew chief. Also included are Davidson & Harley (Historic) as the founders of Harley-Davidson; Banjo Matthews (Business) NASCAR builder and “The Henry Ford of race cars”; Raymond Parks (Historic) championship-winning team owner and NASCAR cofounder; Jack Roush (Stock Cars) “The Car in the Hat” who is the force behind more than 300 NASCAR victories; Terry Vance and Byron Hines (Motorcycles) motorcycle racing innovators, NHRA drag racing title holders, AMA Supersport and Superbike title holders, two Daytona 200s, and more.

To know more about MSHFA, please visit their website.

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