Nitro Nellie Goins
On April 11, 1971, at Great Lakes Dragway in Union Grove, Wisconsin, Nitro Nellie Goins made history by becoming the first African-American woman to drive a Nitro Funny Car. Her career spanned from 1969 to thru the early 70’s.
Ironically, it was never her intention or passion to get into racing. Her husband Otis was extremely passionate about racing. In the late 60’s they saved their money purchased a 1968 Barracuda Otis called “The Conqueror.” Due to health reasons, Otis couldn’t fulfill his passion and drive the car, so Nellie offered to drive it. “Drag racing was not my first passion, but I did it for my husband and my family,” she admits. ….. “This was the family dream.”
Nellie would compete in various race events at the famed U.S. 30 Drag Strip near Gary, Indiana, sharpening her skills with each race. Eventually, the 68′ Barracuda was traded in for a 1970 Challenger. Unfortunately, during an event at Bristol Dragway in the early 70’s, the new car was totaled on one of its first runs. However, they didn’t let that stop their dreams. The goal was the AA/FC ranks of supercharged nitro, so in early 1970, they commissioned chassis builder Lee Austin to build them a new car, which had a Fiberglass Ltd. ’71 Mach 1 Mustang body. The car debuted Aug. 29, 1971, at U.S. 30 in injected nitro trim and later was converted to a full-blown nitro burner. The car could run in the low sevens at speeds approaching 215 mph.
The dream ride came to an end one weekend a few years later at Bristol Dragway. The right front tire got off the track, damaging both the chassis and the body. Although Otis ordered a new Monza shell for the car, his health had begun to decline as a result of his diabetes. The team could no longer afford to race, so the car was parked and sat in their garage for almost three decades.