Denise McCluggage: The First Lady Of Racing

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Jean Jennings (left) and Denise McCluggage during their recent visit. (Paul Russell/Courtesy Photo)
Jean Jennings (left) and Denise McCluggage during their recent visit. (Paul Russell/Courtesy Photo)

Denise McCluggage died last week at the age of 88. She was an accomplished skier, but she found even more speed behind the wheel of a race car. She was also a journalist and photographer. When she was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, she told the crowd that her life hadn't gone exactly as planned. "So, there I was playing with cars and putting my life on hold. And I thought, I missed out [on] what I was supposed to do," McCluggage joked.

Those who knew McCluggage would say that she missed out on very little. At the age of 86, she was still giving driving lessons at the track for $1,000 a day. She enjoyed friendships with legendary Formula One driver Phil Hill and jazz icon Miles Davis. In 1959, she appeared on the television show, "To Tell the Truth."

Longtime friend and fellow automotive journalist Jean Jennings visited McCluggage days before she died. "If I really try to talk about the loss, I don't think I can talk for long," Jennings told Only A Game.

McCluggage was a pioneer. She fought for the right of women to be on the track and in the press box. "And she did it all with joy," Jennings said. "She didn't wear her femaleness like a sword and shield. Feminist? I don't even think of it that way. I think of her as, you know, sort of rising up above everybody."

Hear more about McCluggage's life and her last visit with Jennings by listening to the audio at the top of this page.

This segment aired on May 16, 2015.


Karen Given Executive Producer/Interim Host, Only A Game
Karen is the executive producer for WBUR's Only A Game.



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