Tonya Harding was the first American woman to nail the triple axel in a figure skating competition, but did you know she's also the first person to establish a land speed record in the Vintage Gas Coup Class? You know Tonya Harding the figure skater-turned-women's boxer. Now meet Tonya Harding the successful vintage race driver.
Harding's been a frequent competitor on the salt-flat speed circuit since 2008, when she drove a mostly stock 1931 Model A Ford Coup to a record 81.37 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats "Speed Week." It doesn't sound like much, but it's a high number for a gently modified car from that era powered by a little flat-head four-cylinder engine. She was the first person to enter a car in the category, but it's impressive nevertheless.
And this wasn't just a one-off publicity stunt. Harding's got what those familiar with this kind of racing called "salt fever." She's apparently been back to race the car — Licket-Split — which belongs to some guy named Pete Richardson from Yacolt, Washington.
Here's a report from the guys who run Crasstalk who are at this year's Speed Week.
So on Wednesday, after a few days of racing out on the salt, my brother (commenter Trash_Melon) pointed over to a blond woman who was walking around in a fire suit (which are worn by the car drivers) and smoking a cigarette in 95 degree desert heat.
He told me he thought it was Tonya Harding. I told him to fuck off. He swore it was. He was right.
She was very friendly, seemed happy to pose for a photo and didn't once try to have us beaten about the kneecaps with a lead pipe. So there you go, Tonya and I share a hobby in common and now I'm a genuine fan. Would that prissy little whiner Nancy Kerrigan ever show up to race cars in the Utah desert? Hell no!
Car culture is a far stranger place than we'd ever imagined.