Denise McCluggage (born 1927) is an American auto racing driver, journalist, author and photographer. McCluggage was a pioneer of equality for women in the U.S., both in motorsports as well as in journalism.[1]

McCluggage spent her childhood in Kansas and then graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Mills College in the Oakland, California. She began her career as a journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle.[1]

Auto racingEdit

In early 1950s San Francisco, whilst covering a yacht race, she met Briggs Cunningham, the builder of the first American cars to race at Le Mans. She bought her first MG TC sports car, and began racing at small club events. In 1954 she moved to New York to work at the New York Herald Tribune as a sports journalist. The MG was replaced with a Jaguar XK140, and she began to race professionally. As she began to drive professionally in the mid-1950s she earned the respect of her male counterparts. Her trademark was a white helmet with black dots. Her racing achievements included winning the grand touring category at Sebring in a Ferrari 250 GT in 1961, and she scored a class win in the Monte Carlo Rally in a Ford Falcon in 1964. She also participated in the 1000-km race at the Nürburgring. She drove Porsches, Maseratis and other racing cars of many marques, often with her compatriot Pinkie Rollo. She ended her racing career in the late 1960s and eventually became founding editor of the U.S. automotive magazine AutoWeek.[1]


In the mid-1950s, after a failed lobbying attempt to get the State of New York to develop a new ski area on Hunter Mountain, the original investor group contacted McCluggage, then a sports reporter at the New York Herald Tribune. They told her they had a mountain to give away to any developer who would build a ski area called "Hunter Mountain". McCluggage wrote an article that attracted the interest of a group of Broadway show-business people.

In 1977 McCluggage authored the book The Centered Skier, published by Vermont Crossroads Press owned by Constance Cappel and R. A. Montgomery. It mixed elements of sports psychology and Zen Buddhism highlighted by calligraphy by Al Huang. It became the foundation of approaches taken by the likes of the Sugarbush Ski School. On the PSIA reading list, the book had a resurgence when parabolic shaped skis were invented in the mid-1990s, putting carved turns, rather than skidded turns, within reach for recreational skiers.


She holds both the Ken W. Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism[2] and the Dean Batchelor Lifetime Achievement Award.[3] She was presented a lifetime achievement award by the IAMA and is the only journalist to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. Her weekly syndicated column called "Drive, She Said" appears in some 90 newspapers across the U.S. and Canada. She is the author of a number of books including The Centered Skier and By Brooks Too Broad for Leaping (a collection of pieces from AutoWeek). She wrote the text to accompany Tom Burnside's photographs for American Racing: Road Racing in the 50s and 60s.[1]

She was married for one year to actor Michael Conrad, perhaps best known for his portrayal of veteran cop Phil Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues.

She resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Stone, Matt. "A Racer named Denise: The Fastest Woman on Four Wheels". Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  2. "KEN W. PURDY AWARD WINNERS". International Motor Press Association. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  3. "Dean Batchelor Award". Motor Press Guild. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 

External links Edit

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