I lost one of my heroes last week. Denise McCluggage died on May 6th. She was 88. Through Autoweek, I’ve gotten to know her as a writer and racer. But the more I learned about her, the more she became my inspiration for following one’s passion in life. She was “just doing it” long before sneaker companies made that their mantra. I don’t always follow her lesson, but the fault is strictly my own.
When I first started reading her articles on Autoweek, she would occasionally drop names like Phil Hill or Stirling Moss or Briggs Cunningham. What I didn’t realize back then was that these weren’t just her contemporaries—she raced against them, too.
One story I remember was that she had bought a Ferrari 250 GT SWB to race. It was the only thing of material value she had at the time. If I remember correctly, she would type her articles while sitting on boxes because she spent her money on the car and racing. She won her class in Sebring with the Ferrari.
I wish I could be a tenth as hard core as she was.
She reported on auto racing for different publications, such as the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Herald Tribune. She also helped start Competition Press, which later became Autoweek.
As I remember it, she would go to an event, take some pictures, race in it, and then type the report of the race. That was one way of getting around venues that wouldn’t let women reporters interview racers.
She was also an accomplished skier, but I shun anything related to snow.