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PASSINGS / Donna Mae Mims

Champion race car driver

October 14, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Donna Mae Mims, 82, the first woman to win a Sports Car Club of America national championship and a participant in the original "Cannonball Run" that became the subject of a 1981 movie starring Burt Reynolds, died Oct. 6 from complications after a stroke, said officials at a funeral home in McMurray, Pa. Mims was known as "the Pink Lady" for driving mostly in pink cars and often wearing pink.

Mims said in a 1964 Times article that she started racing after working on a friend's pit crew in Pittsburgh and asking to take a practice lap. "That did it, I was hooked," she said. She won the Sports Car Club of America national championship in 1963.

In the 1972 cross-country Cannonball Run, her 1968 Cadillac limousine was wrecked with a teammate behind the wheel.

"I psych myself. I remove all my makeup. I think stern. I bristle. I don't talk to anybody. You cannot think nice," she told The Times' Jack Smith in 1969. "Chivalry is dead on the racetrack. You're out there only for one thing. To win. Nobody remembers second place."

Following her wishes, her body was seated behind the steering wheel of a 1979 pink Corvette for visitation hours at the McMurray funeral home.

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