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Denise McCluggage:
First Woman Honored by the Automotive Hall of Fame!

(1927 - 2015)

Denise McCluggage receives the Automotive Hall of Fame Induction award from Hall of Fame Chairman Jim Olson.

When journalist Denise McCluggage learned she was to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, her immediate reaction was "Why me?"

"I was delighted and impressed, but to be the first journalist inducted, it was mostly overwhelming," McCluggage said.

It's yet another impressive first for McCluggage, a respected and humble pioneer in the world of automotive and sports journalism. Don't forget to add author, race car driver and photographer to that list. As one of the first female sportswriters in the 1950s, McCluggage covered primarily motor racing and skiing for the New York Herald Tribune before becoming a member of numerous racing and rallying teams across the nation and abroad.

She was included in the conception of Competition Press, now AutoWeek, for which she is a columnist and senior-contributing editor. And at the age when most people are well into retirement, McCluggage is still plugging away, writing a syndicated newspaper column called Drive, She Said and reviewing European cars (and also providing priceless travel advice) for us at ROAD & TRAVEL Magazine.

In her 70-odd years, McCluggage has seen a world of change in how women are viewed (and treated) in society.

"I wasn't allowed in the garage, pit area or press box at Indy," she remembers of her time spent covering motor racing for the Herald Tribune in the late 1950s. "I had to interview drivers through a chain link fence. Women just weren't permitted in. I was told people wouldn't accept news from a woman."

Despite the obstacles, McCluggage persevered and found other ways to get the story. "I would interview people in different places than the other reporters, so my stories weren't the same as theirs," she said. "I would pull aside a driver in a hotel lobby and ask my questions there."

Eventually McCluggage was allowed to join other journalists in the press box and a change in attitude toward women slowly evolved over the next few decades.

And as for the handsome crystal trophy she received from the Automotive Hall of Fame, it got to spend some quality time with the security staff at the Detroit airport ("they must've thought it looked like a lethal weapon") before taking the trip with McCluggage back to her home base of Santa Fe.

Denise was honored in 2004 with Road & Travel Magazine's first Lifetime Legend Award. Click on this link to see her YouTube montage along with Legends honored in subsequent years.

Also click here to read Matt Stone's article about Denise.