Racing to the Bookstore: Linda Vaughn — The First Lady of Motorsports

We call them “pit-tootsies.” Those ornamental girls that are the literal whipped cream on the apple pie of the speed, thunder and technology at the races. Where there are awesome cars, you will generally find beautiful women. But for every pit-tootsie that ever donned a form-fitting spandex outfit, there is only one that transcends them all: Linda Vaughn.

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The book, Linda Vaughn: The First Lady of Motorsports, is a wonderful walk through motor racing history with a woman — yes! A woman! — who saw it all, knew all the key players and has been welcomed with open arms everywhere she goes. Her modest beginnings to a star-studded lifestyle, from beauty queen to spokesperson to household name, is an amazing story. Through it all, despite the adoration she has had, from literal kings of the sport, she remains a humble and gentle character — and that might just be the most attractive trait of the silky-tongued Southern belle: she’s REAL!

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An ornament to every backdrop: with Mario Andretti

Linda Vaughn grew up in a working-class family in a working-class town of Dalton, Georgia. She shows no hard feelings to her dad, who ultimately left the family when Linda was in Grade School, “Being the good-looking, hard living rascal that he was, daddy hopped around a lot, if you know what I mean.” By the time she turned 18, she had won everything from the “Miss Poultry”, to “Miss Dairy Queen” — then the big break — “Miss Atlanta Raceway.” Most who know the fable that is Linda Vaughn, knows from there she became “Miss Hurst Shifter.” Little did anyone know then, this would literally open the doors of an almost six-decade-long career — of just being Linda!

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At Indy with David Letterman and Bobby Rahal

The book flows much like most retrospective career books. Sidebars throughout the book including Linda’s memories of certain personalities — and personalities’ thoughts on her. It’s definitely a “love fest” of sorts, but the love is genuine, legit … She tells great stories, and to have this book is to get all the great stories of several eras all wrapped up together. Certainly a unique career like Linda’s is truly a throwback to an age where “sex was safe and racing was dangerous.”

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Indianapolis 1979

There certainly are many out there that would snap up a “tell-all” of her love life — and Linda definitely had one — but as she says in the book “I don’t kiss and tell.” Consider that some of her more steady boyfriends over the years included F1 World Champion Jimmy Clark, IndyCar and Sports Car star Danny Ongias, and IndyCar and NASCAR star Tim Richmond, certainly there are many more stories that she keeps in her heart. Consider Linda was a high profile beauty queen in a completely testosterone-fueled sport full of egos, well, do you have to venture a guess?

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A moment with the Intimidator.

The illustrations are worth the price of admission. The people she calls friends and keeps on speed dial are in a completely different world from you and me. We might happen upon them at race tracks, get an autograph, but her genuine personality and grace have made here a list of friends that would make any A-lister jealous. I have had the pleasure of knowing Linda for a few years, and thoroughly enjoyed flipping through the pages and reliving hers — and some of my own — memories of the greatest eras in racing.

About the author

Tom Stahler

At eight months of age, Tom Stahler sat in a baby stroller in Thunder Valley and watched Chuck Parsons and Skip Scott win the 1968 Road America 500. He has had the car bug ever since. He has won several awards, including the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor Award and the International Motor Press Association's Gold Medal for his writing and photography. When not chasing the next story, Tom drives in vintage road racing events.
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