Mopar Pat Garlits Memorial Award
Eileen Daniels a native of Marysville Ohio, 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 of 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 encompassed: Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Eastern Canada (Ontario, Québec, and Maritime Provinces). While Bob was the visible face of the NHRA to racers, track operators, and promoters in the division Eileen was the solid backup support. She handled much of the administrative and clerical duties.
Later when the NHRA purchased the Indianapolis Raceway Park facility in 1979 the Daniels team took over the operation of the facility. They expanded their horizons to include working with United States Auto Club with the weekly open wheels sprint car and midget racing at the 5/8-mile oval. Plus working with NASCAR’s Kroger 200 Bush Grand National race held before the Brickyard 400 at the Speedway. They also worked with the Sports Club Car of America for road racing events. 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 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” too many racers to participate in events across the country. Today she remains involved hosting the “Legends” tents at events; plus organizing historic drag car displays at the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, and the US Nationals in Indianapolis Raceway Park.
NHRA awarded Eileen a “Wally” trophy upon her retirement after 40 years in 1997. 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 in 2011, and has been inducted in several other Hall of Fames. 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. Eileen helped to promote the sport in North America plus Great Britain, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.