Paula Murphy ‘The Fastest Woman on Wheels’ Dies at 95

Jackson Wheeler
3 Min Read

The “Fastest Woman on Wheels” has died.

Paula Murphy, who set a land-speed record in 1963 at the Bonneville Salt Flats, who tested with the backing of Andy Granatelli at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and who in 1971 set a closed-course record at Talladega in the NASCAR Cup car of future Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen and later in a Richard Petty machine, died Thursday at the age of 95, according to the NHRA.

In 1966, Murphy became the first woman to earn an license to drive in the NHRA nitro classes and she raced in Funny Car with backing from STP and even earned the moniker “Miss STP.”

Murphy, who even drove an Avenger jet car to 243.33 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1965, suffered a broken neck in a crash during an NHRA event at what is now Sonoma Raceway in 1973. Three years later, she jumped into Petty’s No. 43 Dodge stock car and set a women’s closed course speed record of 172.336 mph at Talladega.

Earlier this year, a documentary—Paula Murphy: Undaunted‚ celebrating her career her career was released.

“I got really, really lucky,” Murphy said is a story published by the NHRA. “I don’t think many people have gotten the opportunity to do some of the things that I did. I don’t look at myself as anything special; it was just the time for a woman to try to drive a Funny Car, and I felt rather proud that I was the one.”

paula murphy drag racing's miss stp

Paula Murphy became the first woman to earn an NHRA Funny Car license in 1966.

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Headshot of Mike Pryson

Mike Pryson covered auto racing for the Jackson (Mich.) Citizen Patriot and MLive Media Group from 1991 until joining Autoweek in 2011. He won several Michigan Associated Press and national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for auto racing coverage and was named the 2000 Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club’s Michigan Motorsports Writer of the Year. A Michigan native, Mike spent three years after college working in southwest Florida before realizing that the land of Disney and endless summer was no match for the challenge of freezing rain, potholes and long, cold winters in the Motor City.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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