Welcome to the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame
To nominate a person for the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, please send a biography of the person and “why you think they should be selected for the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame” to the selectors.
2017 Inductees to the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame
Bill Shrewsberry may be best remembered as “Wild Bill”, driver of the L.A. Dart wheel standing Dodge Dart, but before stepping into that seat, he drove a series of Funny Cars for Mickey Thompson, Jack Chrisman and other such distinguished owners. Bill started his racing career in 1960 at Dragway 42 located in West Salem, Ohio. Shortly after that he moved to California to drive cars for Mickey Thompson, the first being one of the six factory-built 421 Pontiac Tempest LeMans Coupes. His first major national win was in 1963, when he won the Winternationals at Pomona, CA while driving Thompson’s SUPER DUTY PONTIAC and was soon the dominating competitor in NHRA’s newly formed A/FX factory experimental class. In 1964 Bill won the Winternationals again but this time driving Jack Chrisman’s four speed A/FX Mercury Comet. And that same year he also won a National Speed Record at Inyokern Calif. with a 11:02 ET at 127 mph. in Thompson’s Super Duty Pontiac.
While he continued driving the factory ‘hot rods’, in 1965 Bill met George Hurst, (inventor of the HURST SHIFTER), and they quickly became good friends. Hurst had designed and had built what he designated to be an exhibition “rolling research laboratory” Plymouth Barracuda, he named THE “HURST HEMI UNDER GLASS”. The car was powered by an injected 426 Hemi coupled to a HURST 4-speed shifter with the engine resting over the rear end. George’s plan was to get the HURST name in front of the racing world with the Barracuda and with Bill as its driver. Bill accepted the driving assignment and the car was debuted for the very first time at the 1965 NHRA Springnationals in Bristol TN. While the plan was for ‘regular’ exhibition runs, only after replacing the original 8-inch tires with a new set of 10-inch tires, the car instantly became a “wheelstander”.
The car was not built as a wheel stander, but after a few runs Bill learned how easy it was to get it into a wheel stand and the decision was made to make it a real show stopper as such. With individual braking for each rear wheel, Bill was able to drive the car straight with the front end in the air for the length of the track. Also, the original version of the car was powered by an injected aluminum Keith Black hemi. Before long Keith convinced him to bolt a blower on top of the engine which added to its showmanship appeal and allowed the engine not have to work as hard.
After the HURST Hemi Under Glass, in 1966 Bill put together a program with the Los Angeles/Orange County, CA, Dodge Dealers Association. to build a Dodge Dart, which he debuted as the L.A. DART. The Dart also had a 426 Hemi and the body was painted with red and white stripes, also becoming an instant success. It was during that time Bill met car builder George Barris. Barris was the builder of the famed Batmobile, which he often displayed at various venues. George asked Bill to drive and exhibit the Batmobile at dragstrips and circle tracks all over the United States, an assignment Bill found to be both fun and rewarding when he saw how much the kids enjoyed it.
In 1970 Bill changed the L.A. DART to a rear engine blown Keith Black Aluminum Super Charged Hemi with a Lenco two-speed transmission, which added the distance and speed so the car could stay up on two wheels. This also added to its showmanship appeal. The L.A. DART was always a show stopper and tremendously popular. Over the years there were 4 different L.A. Darts, three were stock bodied and the fourth was a funny car body. Over the next 12 years, Bill ran these cars all over the world, from the United States to Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany and Monte Carlo.
Bill put together a program in 1980 with the KNOTTS BERRY FARM Theme Park in Buena Park, CA, as a sponsor. He built a blown 426 Keith Black Hemi powered 1929 Ford panel delivery wagon, which he exhibited throughout the Pacific Northwest, West Coast, New Zealand and Australia until his retirement in 1988 which insured his place in the history books forever.
Always the showman, Bill never turned down a decent appearance opportunity, nor the opportunity to sign autographs for the fans and remains still today as one of the legendary ambassadors of the sport doing keynote speaking at car club meets, and maintaining an advisor relationship with the NHRA
Dean Moon was bitten by the ‘car bug’ at a very early age and began planning his future while still in high school, but unlike a lot of the young enthusiasts of the era, Dean didn’t just want to go quick and fast, he wanted to design, make and sell specialty performance parts. Growing up in the Southern California community of Whittier during the 1940’s, put Dean in the very heart of the booming hot rod movement. Dean’s first race car was a 32 Ford Sedan which he soon began modifying for both improved performance and looks. That was followed by a 27 “T” Roadster powered by a modified Flathead V8 engine and as the saying goes, the rest is part of history.
Dean’s first introduction into the performance market as a manufacturer was a multiple outlet fuel block that made installing multiple carburetors much simpler and was followed shortly by the introduction of the famous MOON Foot Pedal gas pedal. After that he seemed to be designing and producing one new product after another on a very regular basis. Still today, one of his most well-known and popular products is the MOON Wheel Disc, designed to not only add a sleek look to any car, it also added an aerodynamic effect helping to reduce air drag and adding top end speed.
In 1963, what is now known as the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) was formed and was originally called the Speed Equipment Manufacturing Association. Dean was one of the original founders of SEMA and had a display of his products at the very first SEMA show in Dodger Stadium that same year. Dean continued to help lead the Association for many years but also never stopped developing and producing new products to help the performance minded hot-rodders go quicker, faster and safer. In addition to all of these activities, Dean was also a very accomplished photographer, lending his talent for this to various publications and associations over the years.
Another of Deans icons are the world recognized “Moon Eyes”, first introduced to the world in the mid 1950’s, but the lasting image was refined by artist working at the Disney Studios in 1957 and is what is seen today.
While building the world famous MOON Equipment Company occupied much of his time, Dean never left the racing side of the sport. In 1961 he commissioned Dragmaster to build a Top Gas Dragster chassis that he installed a Chevy V8 engine in for power, named it Moon Eyes and proceeded to win the Indianapolis A/FD Top Fuel Championship that year. Dean was very instrumental in putting together the first United States Drag Team that toured England, parts of Europe and even landed in Australia in 1963. His Devin bodied Moonbeam was a class record setter at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1964 recording a speed of 206 MPH. To name a few of the cars included in the “MOON Collection” was a record setting ‘mini streamliner’ powered by a 90 CI Harley Davidson motorcycle engine, an outstanding 32 Ford coupe and a ultra-sleek sports car.
Jeep and Ronnie Hampshire
Jeep and Ronnie Hampshire, brothers separated by only eleven months in age (born in 1938), grew up sharing a love for cars and racing. Having been reared in Southern California in the ‘40s and ‘50s, the pair was exposed to the “hot rod” culture at an early age and it became an integral part of their daily lives. Jeep bought his first car, a 1935 Ford, early into his high school years, but finances being what they were, it remained stock for as long as he owned it. Ronnie, as he recalls, drove the hand-me-downs. After their graduation from high school in 1946, the brothers went from being spectators to participants with Ronnie supplying a 1934 Ford sedan and Jeep providing a highly modified flathead V8 for power. At this same time, they joined one of the premier car clubs of the area, the Throttle Merchants Car Club, of which they are still members some sixty plus years later. In 1957, with the help of Frank Huszar and Arnie Roberts, Jeep started building his first ‘real’ race car while the pair continued to race the ’34 sedan. The brothers continued to share their common love of racing and exchanged a lot of information. but as time went on they gradually moved apart to compete on separate teams.
In 1957, Jeep started building his first dedicated race car–a rear engine, fully streamlined body, modified roadster with an injected Chrysler on gasoline. It was dubbed the “Platypus” due to its unusual body shape. It took him almost two years to complete this car, but the first time it hit the race track it posted an incredible, (for that time and class), speed of 135 mph. After its initial appearance, Jeep teamed with Roy Steen and swapped out the unblown gas engine for a blown fuel-burning Chrysler and headed for Bakersfield, CA to run it. Unfortunately, on the way there a drunk driver crashed into them destroying the race car.
After the “Platypus”, Jeep and Roy, (who was still in high school), but already an experienced welder, built and drag raced a more conventional front-motored, blown and injected AA/FD. The Hampshire-Steen top fuel dragster experienced moderate success winning top eliminators at San Fernando and Fontana. In 1962, Chet Herbert had plans to build a top fuel dragster that would feature two injected F-85 Olds engines in-line for power. Chet offered Jeep and Roy the opportunity to build and run the car with Chet picking up the tab for the project. In late 1962, they were able to successfully debut the car, but the Hampshire-Herbert-Steen team disbanded at the end of the year over disagreements on how to run the dragster.
Not content to just sit around and spectate, in 1960 Ronnie bought the original rear engine sidewinder dragster that had been built for Chuck Jones. He teamed up with George Bolthoff who was a well-known engine builder. The pair installed a blown 340 cid gas-burning Chevrolet engine for power, and while the car looked great, it was a real handful to drive. After managing to squeeze out a speed of 162 mph and a 9.30 ET, yet not able to correct its evil handling, the pair retired the sidewinder and teamed up with Jack Bynum to race a front engine B/Gas dragster. The next year, Ronnie and George moved the blown Chevrolet into a chassis owned by Accessories Ltd. and notched a few local wins with it. In 1962, the pair ordered a new Kent Fuller car. But before the new car arrived, Ronnie was dealt a big lifestyle change when he was drafted into the Army. Nonetheless, he was lucky enough to be stationed at Ft. Ord in Monterey, CA and that allowed him to go home on weekends. Ronnie and George would divide up the driving chores; George on Saturday nights and Ronnie on Sunday. The Army moved Ronnie to Ft Lewis near Tacoma, WA in 1963, where he soon made friends with several of the local enthusiasts and managed to drive for several of them. By the time he was discharged in 1964, he and George were running a blown Chrysler in their dragster and doing so with some serious success, including a stint touring around the country with it. It was at that time Ronnie got his first taste of driving an AA/Fuel dragster, when he took a turn in the Ansen-Pink blown Chrysler powered nitro burner and was instantly hooked.
In 1963, Jeep briefly drove Bill Martin’s 400 Jr before securing a ride in the Stellings-Graffio-Schiefer blown KB hemi-powered AA/FD. Bad news came when Jeep crashed this car at Fresno when the throttle stuck wide open and the chute failed to deploy. But the good news was Stellings would have Kent Fuller build them a new car which they debuted at Lions two months later. The Stellings-Hampshire Red Stamp Spl. went out and promptly set both ends of the class record with a 7.97 ET and a speed of 191.08 mph. Shortly thereafter, Jeep set a new ET record of 7.81 at the 1964 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, CA, and a Standard 1320 speed record later at Fremont with a run of 204.54 mph.
At the end of the 1964 season, the Ansen-Pink car was retired, but Ronnie was able to move on to drive for Sid Waterman (a relationship that exists still today) and Bill Bradley with their unique, blown Chrysler powered AA/Fuel Dragster, a stint that would last through 1967. This car was very unique in that the driver’s legs went under the rear end instead of over it. On January 24, 1965, the team set a new Standard 1320 world record of 7.51 ET at Fontana backing that up a week later with a 7.57 ET at Lions. In 1968, the team replaced the durable RCS car with a car of Ronnie’s own design. It featured a longer wheel base with a shorter front end and with ‘legs over’ the rear end foot controls. While building the new car, Ronnie climbed into Randy Scoville’s top fuel dragster at Irwindale, where he experienced the worst crash of his career when the steering wheel came off its shaft and he wound up bouncing off several large boulders at the top end. Ronnie was able to complete the new car and debut it in January of 1968. Because of problems that arose with Sid building engines for their competitors, and those customers not happy about him competing against them, the car was sold in early 1969. While he did find a couple of part-time rides after that, including a short stint with Ted Gotelli, his last quality ride was the Caspary-Hampshire-Robinson top fuel dragster which was successfully campaigned from September 1969 until the end of the 1970 season when the car was sold.
In 1965, Jeep took over the driving duties of the now famous “Magic Car” of Kent Fuller, Ronnie Winkle, and Kaye Trapp. Jeep was soon posting near record times and winning several top eliminators at local tracks, but he could not come out on top at any of the big prestigious meets. In late 1965 he left the “Magic Car” to drive Glen Stokey and Dee Caspary’s fuel dragster. But, Caspary was drafted into the Army in early 1966 and the car put in moth balls. Subsequently, he moved into the driver’s seat of the “Rainbow’s End” AA/FD owned by Don Kunda and Romaine Dauphine. This was a top dollar car with a Fuller chassis, Zueschel engine, and Tom Hanna body. Unfortunately, the owners soon ran out of money to continue racing, and Jeep returned to driving for Stokey and Caspary. Dee Caspary had a new Fuller car built in 1967 and they ran it very successfully until April of 1969. It was at a meet at OCIR that Jeep, on a strong pass, had a steering failure that put him into the guard rail, pretty much destroying the car and leaving Jeep with severe, life- threatening injuries that ultimately forced him to retire from driving.
While the brothers are retired as drivers, they both still attend many of the California Hot Rod Reunions and similar events, and Jeep can usually be found cackling the “Magic Car” or other cackle cars, and Ronnie behind the wheel of the original Waterman-Hampshire top fuel dragster.
Jeff Byrd was regarded by both his peers and the general racing enthusiast as one of the most influential track operators and promoters in all of motorsports. Growing up in Winston-Salem, NC, Jeff was like most of his fellow teen agers in his interest of “really neat, fast cars but he was more interested in the world of marketing and promotion of products including these high performance machines. After graduating from Wake Forrest University, Jeff went to work at as a sports writer at the Winston-Salem Journal, covering the local sports world. Before long however, he became involved in developing and implementing a multitude of sports that included the world of automobile racing.
In 1973 Jeff left the newspaper and went to work at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. as one of its marketing experts and where he was soon made its vice president of business development. His knowledge of racing both drag racing and NASCAR, enabled Jeff to propose and secure for Reynolds one of the most visible sponsorship titles ever as the nation’s leading NHRA, IHRA and NASCAR race tracks. The Sports Marketing group at R.J Reynolds was the gold standard of sponsorship activation in professional sports.
As much as he enjoyed his tenure at R.J. Reynolds, in 1996 Jeff was hired by Speedway Motors chairman, Bruton Smith to oversee Smith’s interests at Bristol Motor Speedway and Bristol Drag way. In this position Jeff was able to guide the facility through a total rebuild of the drag strip and a major facelift of the oval track that still to this day holds the record for consecutive sellouts of one of the largest venues in motorsports. Prior to this time, the drag strip had operated for some time under the wing of IHRA but as the track was being rejuvenated, Jeff also returned the track to NHRA sanction.
With Jeff at the helm, the drag strip hosted two successful all-star events before joining the NHRA touring circuit as host of a National Event, soon dubbed The Thunder Valley Nationals. In addition to this event Jeff established and promoted several other very successful special events throughout the year at the drag strip including car shows, concerts, etc. On the oval track side, Jeff didn’t limit the use of the big stadium to just racing but made it into one that also hosts football games, concerts and many other captivating events.
One of Jeff’s most endearing traits was his passion and friendship to the entire hot rodding/racing community. He was always available with a bit of sage advice weather it was for a racer seeking sponsorship or to help one of the sponsors get more bang for its buck he made a lasting impact with literally every person he encountered. A major part of his success was his ability to build meaningful relationships with all of the drivers, team owners, crew members, sanctioning body officials and fans within the entire racing arena. He led, and lived by the mantra of “Exceed Expectations” which he carried through everything he did at the track and in the communities he resided in.
In addition to receiving the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame award, Jeff has also collected a number of other honors over the years including induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, and the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame. It should also be noted that in 2011, the sponsor of the major NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS), Food City, named the race in Jeff’s honor. Prior to his death, one of Jeff’s major goals was to open BMS to a major, non-automotive event, specifically the big football annual rivalry game between UT and VTech that would bring new customers to the venue. As testimony to his popularity with the BMS crew and local fans, that game was played there this past year with a record spectator attendance.
Joe and Del Reath
Joe Reath was born in Alabama, but grew up attending High School in San Pedro, CA where he concentrated on his studies and love of cars. Del was born in Oklahoma but finished her High School years in nearby Compton, CA. The two first met in 1956, were married in October, 1957 and opened their first speed shop in Long Beach, CA that same year.
After his discharge from the Army in 1945, Joe went to work for Earl Evans porting flathead engines and learning his way around operating various machines. In 1947 he changed jobs working at Douglas Aircraft in its punch press department during the day and building engines for friends at night. During this same time period, Joe was honing his racing skills at both the local drag races and the dry lakes. Like many earlier enthusiasts, Joe’s first car was a one that he drove on the street during the week and raced on weekends. In 1953 Joe teamed up with Harvey Haller to build a highly modified flathead V8 powered “belly tank” for competing at the dry lakes. Harvey was killed in a crash at the dry lakes that same year and Joe purchased all of his machinery from the estate and began making plans to open a speed shop.
In 1947 Joe joined the Road Runners Car Club where he rubbed elbows with fellow members that included Bob Petersen, (Hot Rod Magazine founder), Wally Parks, (NHRA founder), Vic Edelbrock Sr., Ray Brown and Ak Miller to name just a few. He was also a member of The Arabs of Long Beach and the Lancers Car Club from Long Beach. It was from these men that he learned a lot about building engines, producing speed equipment and parts and operating the speed shop.
While Joe was dating Del, he soon had her attending the local drag races with him and even got her to the dry lakes once to see what he did for fun. After Joe opened Reath Automotive in January of 1957 and he and Del were married in October of 1957, Joe retired from racing and concentrated on building a strong, reliable speed shop business. By 1965 they had outgrown the original shop and moved to a new location at 33rd and Cherry in Long Beach. This new location gave Joe and Del an opportunity to build what Joe deemed to be, the ultimate Speed Shop and this is where they conducted business until 1996 when they decided to downsize their operation. The move to downsize was driven by the changing times in the speed-performance world, speed shops becoming large automotive parts stores, everything becoming computerized and major corporations becoming involved.
Over the years, Reath Automotive employed some of the best racers, machinists and sales people in the industry including John Garrison, Gary Slusser, Henry Velasco, Neil Leffler and Jerry Ballard to name a few. Reath Automotive also supplied sponsorship for a large number of outstanding racers that included George Bolthoff, Ratican/Jackson & Stearns, Tom McEwen, Jim Dunn, Vance Hunt and Gordon Collett to pick a few. However, Reath didn’t turn away many of the upstarts that had big dreams, but little money and gave them a lot of deep discounts for both parts and services. Some of the results of the years of Joe and Del’s involvement and contribution to the sport and with its many personalities, was when Joe was recognized as an Honoree for the Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield, CA in 1995, an Honoree at the first Lions Drag Strip Reunion in 1996, and the Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame in 2015. Joe and Del’s contribution to the sport are second to none and will always be remembered by all involved.
“Gentleman Joe Schubeck” is one of the ultimate representatives of the sport. His first introduction to cars and the sport was through the pages of Hot Rod Magazine; reading articles by future NHRA founder Wally Parks and the rest of the staff. While still in High School, Joe met a fellow enthusiast, Jack Harris, who had started a dragster but in the meantime opened a speed shop and was too busy building a business to go racing. Harris passed the dragster along to Joe and just before his High School graduation he debuted the nitro-burning, flathead V8 powered dragster at the local racetrack. His very first competitive race paired him against the Arfons Brothers dragster and it was there and then he learned how much fun the sport was and also that he needed a bigger engine if he was going to be competitive.
1957, Joe teamed up with a fellow racer, Joe Scarpelli, with a blown Hemi Chrysler powered AA/Gas dragster that hooked him even more. It was during his early dragster career that Ed Iskenderian bestowed the nickname Gentleman Joe on him, after which, Jim Diest made him a custom fit tuxedo driving suit. Even the bow tie was fire proof. In 1958, the two Joe’s, fielded a new car that Schubeck built himself and with enough success that he launched a new chassis building business that he named, Lakewood Chassis Company. Building the chassis itself wasn’t that much of a challenge, but building the aluminum bell housing for the cars was a real hassle. After doing some research on the bell housing, Joe learned of a local company that was Hydroforming various parts. He wound up designing and producing a steel unit that also worked as a safety shield to contain the flywheel and clutch in the event it exploded. Because of the sports acceptance of the Lakewood Hi Tech bell housing, Joe changed the name of the business to Lakewood Industries, that became so busy, he had to retire from actively racing.
While the business was going great, Joe really missed actively racing and when George Hearst told him about a new car he was having built. The car was an Oldsmobile 442 with two blown nitro-burning engines driving all four wheels and George asked Joe if he would be interested in driving it. It took a bit of arm-twisting, but Joe finally agreed to do so. The combination of the monster car, dubbed ‘The Hurst Hairy Oldsmobile’ and Joe’s showmanship, including his tux driving suit, made the venture an instant success.
Today Joe is semi-retired from the manufacturing side of the sport, producing a limited number of very specialty parts; he tours the various car shows and special events across the nation with his restored front motored AA/Fuel dragster and is a regular participant in the cackle fest events. Among Joe’s many accomplishments and honors, he was recently inducted into the prestigious SEMA Hall of Fame and remains a true ambassador of the sport.
Larry loved car and speed as long as he can remember. At age 13 Larry would ride his bike to Lions Drag Strip, where he handed out time slips and where at the age of 16, he took over the job of track starter. At this same age of 16, Larry also took his first ride at the wheel of a Blown Chrysler powered dragster. When it came time to close the gates to Lions forever, Larry was the starter that sent the last two cars ever down the track. However, no one was anxious to leave and since it was late and just about everyone had had a nip or two, when one of the locals tossed a rope around one of the outhouses and asked if anyone wanted a ride. Larry and his assistant, Bill Keys, actually became the last people to take a trip down the track.
Unlike most track officials who were either working or driving, Larry would often hand over his starting duties to his assistant and make a pass and return to his starting chores when the next pair of cars lined up. Over the years he competed in almost every really hot class, driving everything from an A/GS coupe to a blown-fuel Corvette and along the way, front-motor Jr. Fuel dragsters, an injected-nitro Funny Car, the Joint Venture dragster in both Comp and Pro Comp and AA/Alcohol and AA/Fuel Dragsters.
Larry’s greatest success as a driver came at the 1978 PDA meet at Orange County International Raceway, (OCIR), when he won one of the last 32 car Top Fuel events ever posting a speed of 239 MPH and an Elapsed Time of 5.93 seconds. He closed 1978 out with a win at the Nitro Championships held at OCIR in the same car this time with a speed of 236 MPH and a 5.98 elapsed time. He continued competing on a part time basis until 1990 when he posted wins at two Division 7 events in Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows blown Hemi Chrysler powered TA/Dragster.
Because of his love of the sport and experience on the starting line, after Lions closed down in 1972, Larry continued to work the starting line at various other tracks including Irwindale, OCIR, Seattle and Freemont.
Standing on the starting line wasn’t always easy and safe, as Larry can vouch for after being struck by parts from exploding engines, hit by push cars, and even having to dodge a race car on occasion. Today Larry is retired from the race track world and does some camping, fishing and traveling, but from time to time he will pop up at one of the Racer Reunions swapping stories with his fellow retired racers.
The 2016 Founder’s Award:
Robert J. “Bob” McClurg
Bob McClurg grew up in 1950’s Southern California and was a car nut long before he became an accomplished writer and photographer. As a youngster, McClurg lived around the corner from the late Jack Hart’s, (Hart would go on to become the first Competition Director for the newly formed National Hot Rod Association), Orange, California-based shop. Bob was working as a shoe shine boy at Town Barbershop, which was also located within walking distance from home and where he could find the latest Hot Rod Magazines. Hart would often stop and answer questions posed by Bob.
Bob’s trial by fire happened in the summer of 1963 when Bob’s boss, slot car track operator and hobby shop owner Roger Clausen, took him to Lions Associated Drag Strip one fine Saturday evening, where Bob’s life was changed forever! “Garlits was there match racing Kenny Safford, Don “Snake Prudhomme” and some other top fuel team. The sights, smell, and the incredible noise became music to his ears and he was hooked.
Bob’s very first car was a 1954 De Soto four-door sedan powered by a Fire Dome Hemi V8 engine which he and fellow members from the “Eliminators Car Club of Orange”, soon modified with multi-carburetors and a “hot cam” to make it perform better, but it would have been extremely kind to have called it an actual “race car!”
In 1961, a Corvair 300 coupe with a Bill Thomas-equipped flat six for power, replaced the De Soto and while it worked well as the SCCA Seat of the Pants, or “SOP” navigational champion for 1966 with Bob at the wheel, he wanted to become more involved in drag racing, but after realizing he was never going to become a professional drag racer, he decided to try his hand as a journalist.
At age ten, Bob submitted his first newspaper article to the ORANGE DAILY NEWS and followed up by taking on the job of Editor at the Junior High School newspaper, where he was enrolled. One night in 1964, he snuck the school camera out on the starting line at Lions and managed to fire off a roll of film before being escorted back to the bleachers by the strip photographer, “Digger Ralph” Guldahl. Guldahls only advice; “Kid, you get yourself a letter of assignment from a newspaper, and I’ll let you out here!” Not long after that, Bob caught up with the Sports Editor at the Orange Daily News and made a deal to supply the paper with regular Lions Drag Strip news and results.
While playing with cars was fun for Bob, he was soon drawn into the journalistic side of the performance world where he soon earned a reputation as a well-respected drag racing photographer and technical writer.
After fifty years of automotive, entertainment and industry related experience, in the magazine publishing business as an editor, technical and feature writer and photographer, Bob can also stake his claim as a book author with thirteen of them to his credit. In addition to his own journalistic work, he has also worked as a photojournalism instructor and public relations and advertising specialist.
Past accomplishments in the editorial realm include time spent working as a photographer and editor at Petersen Publishing on such titles as HOT ROD MAGAZINE, CUSTOM PAINT & BODYWORK, KIT CAR MAGAZINE, CHEVROLET CLASSICS, CUSTOMS, HOT ROD DRAG RACING and HOT ROD MUSTANG and CAMARO PERFORMERS to name a few. Bob also served in the same capacity at McMullen/Argus Publishing Company as Editor of both MUSTANG ILLUSTRATED and FORD HIGH PERFORMANCE magazines the latter if which he founded.
A few of Bob’s other magazine accomplishments are: West Coast Editor to CARS Magazine, Freelance contributor to POPULAR HOT RODDING, CAR CRAFT, SUPER CHEVY, SUPER CHEVY CAMARO, SCM CHEVELLE, SCM NOVA, SCM CHEVROLET CLASSICS, VANS & TRUCKS, STREET VANS, RODDER & SUPER STOCK, THE SHELBY TIMES, CARS ILLUSTRATED, SCIENCE & MECHANICS, ALL CHEVY, TRUCKIN, STREET RODDER, ROD & CUSTOM, MOPAR ENTHUSIAST, MUSCLE CAR REVUE, MUSCLE CAR POWER, STREET TRUCKS, CHEVY RUMBLE, FORD BUILDER, MUSCLE MUSTANGS & FAST FORDS, SUPER ROD, FORD ENTHUSIAST, MUSCLE CAR ENTHUSIAST, CHEVROLET ENTHUSIAST, DIESEL WORLD, DRAG RACER, STREET THUNDER. He has also extended his talents to Europe, contributing to (GB) MOTORING NEWS, CUSTOM CAR, GRAN PRIX, (IT.) VIRAGE (FR.) In Japan, DAYTONA Magazine.
As a PR Director, Bob has worked for such noted companies as Lubri-Lon, Inc. and the N.T. Yowell Pro Stock Racing Team to name a few. It should also be noted that his contributions extended beyond the automotive arena. One such project of note was a Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) fund raising drive held in conjunction with KENR AM country radio personality the late Hal McClain and another being the Co-founder of the Saleen Performance Parts/Leukemia Society of America “Cruising the Queen” Charity Car Show.
Still active today and living in Hilo, Hawaii, Bob is working on a couple of new books, contributing muscle car and drag racing nostalgia pieces to the magazine editorial world, writing collector car vehicle descriptions for MECUM AUCTIONS, and most recently hosting the racer’s press conference at the 2016 British Drag Racing Association Hall of Fame program.
Other Founder’s Award Winners:
Wally & Barbara Parks
Rob’t C. Post
The Patricia Garlits Memorial Award presented by Mopar and Don Garlits:
Eileen Daniels, is a native of Marysville, Ohio, and has been an active participant in the growth of drag racing since she married her late husband, Bob at the age of 18. She raced with Bob in a 1932 Ford and later a Fiat, and was a pioneer female racer. Wally Parks, the founder of the National Hot Rod Association liked what he saw in Bob, and hired him as one of the early employees of the NHRA, serving as the first director for the NHRA’s Division 3. Eileen and Bob worked as a team setting up race tracks and operating events across the Division 3 territory, which then encompassed Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin, plus Eastern Canada – Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces. While Bob was the visible face of the NHRA to the racers, track operators and promoters in the division, Eileen was the solid back up support – handling much of the administrative and clerical duties.
Later, when the NHRA purchased the Indianapolis Raceway Park facility (Claremont, Ind.) in 1979, the Daniels team took over the operations of the facility, and expanded their horizons to include working with the United States Auto Club (USAC) with the weekly open wheel (Sprint Cars, Midgets) racing at the 5/8-mile oval, plus NASCAR’s Kroger 200 Busch Grand National race held before the Brickyard 400 at the Speedway. They also worked with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) for road racing event. Again, Eileen’s office management skills made her husband’s job of overall facility management much more effective.
After retiring to Florida in 1997, the Daniels “team” was asked to help organize a premier event for the growing nostalgia drag racing market. Using the tools that had served them so well in the past, the pair worked with the NHRA and the Wally Parks/NHRA Motorsports Museum to create what is now known as the NHRA “Hot Rod Reunion” events. Eileen worked on the NASCAR race’s hospitality programs until the race moved to the Speedway.
After Bob’s passing in 2007, Eileen continued her role in the reunion events, and has become anointed with the unofficial title of “Den Mother” to the many racers who participate in the events across the country. Today, she remains involved, hosting the “Legends” tents at events, plus organizing the historic drag car displays at the NHRA Gatornationals (Gainesville, Fla.) and the US Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
The NHRA awarded Eileen a “Wally” trophy (the same which National event winners receive) upon her retirement after 40 years in 1997, and she shared several other awards with Bob from the NHRA in honor of their support and dedication. In 2001, she and Bob were inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. The Indianapolis Raceway Park named the hospitality center as the “Daniels Hospitality Center.” She was named a Kentucky Colonel (the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s highest honor) in 2011, and has been inducted into several other Halls of Fame. In November 2016, Eileen was honored by the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame with the title of “International Ambassador” in honor of her long career on behalf of the sport – helping to propagate it in North America, plus Great Britain, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Selectors of the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame
Retired VP, NHRA
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