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.
2018 Inductees to the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame
One might consider Gary Densham of Menifee, Calif. as the typical “grew up in Southern California” racer. Bellflower Boulevard was the place to go to show who had the fastest car. Lions, Irwindale and Orange County drag strips were close by. High school time was spent playing football on Friday night and racing at the track on Saturday.
Densham’s career has been defined as a competitive, low-budget Funny Car driver, but he had a five-year career in A/Gas Supercharged (A/GS) cars before beginning to race funny cars in 1971. Tight budgets forced him to wear many hats during the early part of his career – serving as crew chief, owner and driver. With the “little guy, low budget” profile, Gary exemplifies many of the fuel class racers of the time. He made the most of his resources, winning races in NHRA’s Pacific Division (Division 7) and winning the 1982 Division 7 Funny Car Championship.
A high school auto technology teacher at Gahr High School (Cerritos, Calif.), his cars have always been called “Teacher’s Pet.” He has used his teaching expertise to mentor many students serving as crew members, a number of whom gone on to work for other teams.
One of Gary’s proudest achievements has been his career in Australia. His first trip in 1974 with John Force was spent helping to keep John’s car running, and teaching him some of the finer points of driving. Other tours “Down Under” in 1978, 1979, 1982, 1986, saw Densham undefeated against American and Australian racers. In 1995, he won the Australian National Championship.
His biggest successes came in 2001 to 2004, while driving for John Force’s team. Finally, Gary had the funding and data needed to win, and proved he could. He delivered eight wins, six number one qualifiers, set a national speed record (326.87); and capped by the U.S. Nationals and the “Skoal Showdown” double-up. Twice, he finished fourth in the final points standings. Also, Gary and crew chief Jimmy Prock won Car Craft Magazine’s “Person of the Year Award.”
Through his career, Densham had three IHRA wins, plus was the AHRA Funny Car National Champion in 1989, 1990, 1996, 1997, and 1998. As an independent racer, Gary was the 13th member of the Castrol 4-Second Club in 1998. He had two low qualifier positions, and finished in the Top Ten of NHRA points on four occasions – 1995, 1996, 1997 and 2008.
As a crew chief, he tuned his son, Steven, a former winning Jr. Dragster driver, to the NHRA Heritage Series Championship in funny car in 2015.
As for the future, Gary plans to keep racing as many races a year as funding allows, and keep tuning Steven’s nostalgia funny car.
If you see him at a race, know he probably drove the rig there. He set up the pit area. He will consult on the tuning decisions, work on the car, drive – and will have the most fun doing it. The man just loves drag racing!
Greg Sharp’s love affair with hot rodding and drag racing began as a highly curious, “car crazy” 12-year-old who devoured the enthusiast magazines of the 1950s. Absorbing their contents like a sponge, he later became an expert on the history of hot rodding, and virtually all forms of motorsports. His first drag race was at age 13 at Lions Drag Strip, and he still remembers that Jack Chrisman in the “Sidewinder” was Top Eliminator with a “stunning” ET of 9.05 seconds.
He has been described by several magazines as the “go to guy for data on the history of Hot Rodding and Drag Racing.” When it comes to knowing the history of our sport and having written documentation and photos to back up his knowledge, Greg is the man.
Sharp grew up in San Pedro, Calif., and where he went to school with such drag racing notables as Carl Olson and Mike Thermos. A neighbor worked for Frank (“Ike”) Iacono, and having Ike’s dragster pull up in front of his house on its trailer was an experience he would never forget. Years later, he drove the dragster at Orange County, and was thrilled with his 150 mph ride.
In 1967, Greg began his “day job” as a member of the Los Angeles Police Department, retiring in 1995. However, that did not keep him away from his love of hot rods and motorsports.
More than a historian, Greg Sharp is a participant. He joined the famed L.A. Roadsters club, with the ’29 roadster pickup he’s owned for over 30 years. Through the club, he got the opportunity to drive on Bonneville’s salt, and meeting, and becoming friends with, many of the legends of the land speed fraternity. He has served as an International Show Car Association (ISCA) Official and Judging Supervisor for over ten years, and has helped select the prestigious “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” at the Oakland Grand National Roadster Show. In 1989, Greg began acting as Master of Ceremonies and historian for the show.
In the early ‘70s, Greg began to use his storehouse of knowledge to write hundreds of magazine articles ranging from the history of “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” to pieces on historic Indy cars, plus personality profiles from A.J. Foyt to George Barris. He has an extensive collection of historic hot rod and custom car photography, which has been invaluable to the restoration of numerous historical hot rods and race cars.
Following retirement, he was named director of the newly developed NHRA Historical Services, where he had a key role in the formation of the Wally Parks/NHRA Motorsports Museum. He has served as curator since its opening in 1998. Working closely with several Drag Racing Hall of Fame members, he’s helped to locate vehicles and produce the wealth of information that makes visiting the Museum educational and enjoyable. Many of his personal photos and artifacts are on display, including rare race programs dating before the 1920s.
He served as event director of the California Hot Rod Reunion for several years and is credited with coining the term “Cacklefest” after Steve Gibbs created the concept that has become such a major part of historic drag racing activity.
Greg is a member of the Oakland Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame (1993) and the Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame and Historian of the Year (2006). He received the Dean Batchelor Award from the Motor Press Guild for the “Best Article of 2012” for his story in “The Rodder’s Journal” on the history of the famed So-Cal streamliner, ironically a car driven by Batchelor.
When Jeb Allen won the 1972 NHRA Summernationals at Englishtown, N.J., he became the sport’s youngest professional-class winner at the age of 18. Unlike many of the sport’s top competitors, Jeb didn’t have to fight Mom and Dad to become involved. In the early 1960s, the family fielded a series of injected fuel dragsters. It was his mother, Betty Allen, who dragged him to his first race at eight years old, and it was love at first race.
In 1971, at 16, Jeb went on tour with Steve Carbone, and was totally hooked. While he wasn’t really excited at the thought of driving a front engine fuel dragster; he liked the look of the newly-introduced rear engine configuration, and parted company with Carbone. He flew home and got licensed for Top Fuel in his dad’s front engined dragster. At that point, at 17 years old, Jeb was the youngest licensed Top Fuel driver in NHRA history. Thanks to a promise by his parents, as soon as Jeb received his license, a new rear-engine car was built. In an auspicious debut, he went to the semifinals of the 1971 Supernationals at the Ontario Motor Speedway.
After that, the Allens hit the road in 1972. All the while, Jeb remained a student at Bellflower High School, with the school assisting him to complete his schooling, and yet be able to race. The Summernationals win placed Jeb squarely into the spotlight, and with a runner-up finish in Montreal, Que., the teenage phenomenon quickly attracted sponsors like Revel and English Leather. The infusion of sponsor dollars allowed Allen to get new and better equipment.
Another interesting moment of his career came when he scored a memorable runner-up finish to Carl Olson at 1972’s “Last Drag Race at Lions.” Despite never winning a round, he was reinserted multiple times under the old “break rule,” and his second-place finish meant that he was the last driver to ever cross the finish line at Lions.
Things going great for the team, but suddenly, the luck turned bad. At the AHRA Nationals in Tulsa, Okla., in 1973, Jeb was paired with his good friend John Wiebe in the first round. John’s car went into severe tire shake, and veered into Jeb’s car – destroying both and causing third degree burns on both of Jeb’s hands. After that loss, it took the Allen family three years to return to their winning ways.
In 1976, Jeb won the NHRA Northwest Nationals and was runner-up the Summernationals. In 1977, he again posted a runner-up finish at Englishtown, and at the end of the year, had won the AHRA World Championship. He followed up in 1978 and 1979 by winning the Summernationals back-to- back.
Jeb posted a win at the Gatornationals in 1980, and won the IHRA World Championship title. The 1981 season saw Jeb grab the NHRA Top Fuel class by the throat. He captured the NHRA World Championship title, winning the NHRA Winternationals, Cajun Nationals, Mile-High Nationals, plus the inaugural Golden Gate Nationals in Fremont, Calif. He became NHRA’s youngest Top Fuel world champion at 27 years, 4 months, another record that still stands. He also set a new ET record at 5.52 seconds, and became the seventh member to join the 250 mph club with a speed of 250.69 mph.
At the end of the 1982 season, Jeb knew he needed a break from the hectic pace, and retired to build a new life for himself away from the track. Today, Jeb owns Palomar Builders, a very successful construction company in Redding, Calif. He and his wife Sue can boast of being the biggest home builder and largest residential land owners in the city.
An early car enthusiast, at 16, Jim Oddy joined the Torrid Torkers, a Buffalo, NY car club in 1957, and entered his inline six cylinder ’36 Chevy coupe into competition, and on his first time out, he won his class. He was hooked – leading to his life-long career.
He became a fabricator and an engine builder, and learned many of his skills from his father, Don Oddy, a ship yard welder and fabricator. These were lessons well learned, for Jim was able to incorporate them into building his own cars over the years, and the western New York native became a feared competitor, and a highly respected builder.
Jim and his father built his first race car in 1960, a C/Gas ’36 Chevy Coupe powered by a 302-inch Chevy. The car was an immediate success, setting the new AHRA C/Gas class records at 12.20 seconds, 118 mph. Jim attended the 1964 NHRA U. S. Nationals as a spectator, which inspired him to build a B/Gas Anglia coupe, powered by a 302 Chevy. He returned to Indy the following year with the Anglia, and won the class, cementing Oddy’s reputation.
What followed from 1969 to 1974, were succession of winning cars – a blown Chrysler-powered 1948 BB/GS Austin sedan, an Opel GT-bodied BB/GS coupe, and a BB/A Fiat blown altered. These cars carried Oddy to another U. S. Nationals win, plus two Division 1 titles.
Jim’s on-track successes with his creations led him to open the doors to Oddy’s Automotive in Elma, N.Y. in 1975, specializing in supercharged engines of all makes, and for a wide variety of applications. The demands of building quality engines caused Jim to scale back his racing.
In 1987, Jim again got the competition itch – this time for the new IHRA Top Sportsman class, with a highly potent blown Chrysler powered Chevy Beretta coupe, with the talented Fred Hahn at the wheel and Jim tuning the car. It was followed by the iconic flat-black blown Corvette which set the Top Sportsman class on its ear with a stunning 6.69 second pass at the IHRA race in Darlington, S.C. The car moved to the Pro Modified class in 1990, and won six consecutive Super Chevy events in 1996 and ten more in 1997, plus the Pro Modified World Championships both years. The Hahn & Oddy magic continued, winning the 2000 IHRA Pro Modified World Championship and the 2003 NHRA-AMS Pro Modified World Championship.
As time went on, the pressure of the business and race travel started to take their toll on Jim. He retired to Mooresville, N.C.; but his love for building engines and race cars never diminished. Jim’s love for the Gassers caused him to build a 1934 Willys AA/G” 2-door sedan – the “Junkyard Dog” – to race at nostalgia Gasser meets, with “Junior” Ward at the wheel. Currently, Jim is building a 1948 Austin sedan, reminiscent to the car he ran in the late 1960’s.
Throughout the years, Jim had a winning career, and is considered one of the founding fathers of the Pro Modified class. His body of work has gained him many honors – induction into the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame (2004) and the inaugural class of the Wall of Fame (2015) at his hometown track, Lancaster International Speedway (Lancaster, N.Y.), plus the NHRA Lifetime Achievement Award.
Kelly Brown was born in Hollywood, Calif., and while he grew up in the San Fernando Valley, he retained his Hollywood roots by making his living in the movie and TV world as a producer, stunt driver and technical advisor.
However, before he entered into the stunt driving world, Kelly had already notched a very impressive record as a top race car shoe. Growing up, one of Kelly’s best friends was Don “Snake” Prudhomme’s brother, Manette Prudhomme, so he was exposed to drag racing and some of the early top competitors during his teens. One of his first efforts at drag racing was assisting Manette and Don run “The Snake’s” Buick-powered dragster at “The Pond” (San Fernando) one Sunday. From that day forward, he was hooked.
In 1964, Brown had his first ride in the seat of Mel Cohen’s “L&M Special” injected Chevy Junior Fuel dragster; and not long after that, another injected Chevy-powered Jr. Fueler owned by Vaughn Raviart. Kelly eventually moved into the driver’s seat of Art LeColst and Sonny Diaz’s blown Chrysler-powered AA/Gas Dragster.
Kelly secured his first Top Fuel win in 1966, in Vaughn Raviart and Art Tapper’s blown Chrysler AA/Fuel Dragster at the legendary Lions Drag Strip. After his first trip to victory circle, Kelly soon became a frequent visitor at Lions, driving for some of the sport’s legends including Jim Brisette, Lou Baney, Leland Kolb, Barry Setzer and Don Racheman.
In the 1971 season, Kelly briefly drove Barry Setzer’s blown Chrysler-powered Vega AA/Funny Car and notched a runner-up spot at the NHRA Springnationals. In 1973, he accepted the driving chores for Don Rackman’s Wonder Bread Vega wagon, but in a non-competitive car, it was a less than a fun season.
Making a living drag racing at that time was very difficult, and while known as an outstanding driver, Kelly was also involved in the film industry working in its production arena. Brown decided to spread out his career and joined the screen Actors Guild. Almost immediately, he was working as a full-time stunt driver in movies, television, and advertising commercials, and took a five year “vacation” from racing.
In 1978, with his stunt driving career doing very well, he returned to drag racing at the wheel of Jim Brisette and Mike Drake’s blown Chrysler AA/Fuel Dragster. The team started the ’78 season with an off-the-trailer qualifying run of 5.87 seconds at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., and went on to win the event. Building on the outstanding debut, the team went on to runner-up at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., and winning the Cajun Nationals in Baton Rouge, La., the Springnationals in Columbus, Oh. and the Molson Grandnationals in Sanair, Que., Canada, capped by Kelly’s first NHRA Winston World Championship title. He was named “Driver of the Year” and “Person of the Year” by Car Craft magazine, on its popular Car Craft Magazine All-Star Drag Racing Team.
The following year, Kelly moved to the driver’s seat of Bill Shultz’s “Over The Hill Gang” AA/Fuel Dragster winning the Gatornationals, the Cajun Nationals, the Mile High Nationals in Denver, Colo. and the US Nationals in Indianapolis, Ind.; and claimed the number two spot in the NHRA World Championship title.
After driving Raymond Beadle’s Blue Max AA/Fuel Dragster for part of the 1980 season, Kelly made the difficult decision to permanently retire from racing to concentrate on his film career. Kelly built a similar reputation in the film industry as a stunt driver, producer and technical adviser for various films, including his involvement in the Shirley Muldowney movie, “Heart Like a Wheel,” where Kelly provided a lot of the equipment, technical advice and driving time for making the movie.
Today Kelly enjoys complete retirement at his ranch in Northern California where he spends his time caring for his horses.
Unlike most of the honorees of the sport, Ollie Riley didn’t grow up around high performance cars, but his interests in mechanics and electricity were similar to those who wished to go quick and fast.
Born and raised on a farm in Stafford, Kan.; when Ollie was old enough to start using tools, his curiosity of things electrical guided him to make his own toys, which foretold his future. Long before transistors were created, Ollie created his own radios, powered by batteries connected in series. In high school and college, Ollie repaired radios for extra spending money. His devotion to the emerging science of electronics earned him a Bachelor and a Master of Science degrees in electrical engineering at Kansas State University, graduating with honors. He worked as an instructor at KSU after graduation.
During World War II, he worked at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Radiation Lab on a top secret, state-of-the-art radar bombsight; testing it in Florida onboard a B-24. After the war, he worked for a short time at General Electric, but moved to La Vern, Calif. where he joined General Dynamics’ Convair Division, designing guided missile systems.
In 1954, while attending a Dale Carnegie class, he met Bud Coons, who was a Pomona, Calif. Police officer and the Field Director of the fledgling NHRA Safety Safari. Coons learned of Ollie’s electronics background, and felt the Riley might be able to help develop an accurate timing system.
Ollie’s ingenuity and drive for perfection made him the ultimate problem solver; an attribute that was stimulated by Coons’ inquiry about developing an accurate timing system. Ollie built the first timing set on his kitchen table, which was accurate to within 0.001 second. It had the advantage of also being modular, which allowed for the easy replacement of a defective component. Soon, Ollie was mastering the challenge for other precision drag racing timing equipment that brought the sport to a new level.
After transforming drag racing’s timing systems, Ollie left the aerospace industry to open the doors of a new, family owned and operated electronics business – Chrondek Electronics. It was a specialty electronics manufacturer that was dedicated to producing timing equipment for all types of sports.
During the late 1950s, Ollie observed several starters were making moves that allowed a driver to predict when he would raise the flag to start the race. To correct this, Ollie worked to develop the first step-light starting system which debuted at the 1963 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Ind. In addition to providing a starting system, the device also had a built-in “foul light” that turned red if the driver left early. A year later, pre-stage bulbs were added to assist the driver in staging correctly. Because of its overall appearance, the new starting system was soon dubbed the “Christmas Tree”.
The “Tree” was not initially accepted by the racers because they had become accustomed to reading the flagmen’s body language, and were able to jump them. Although it took some time to become accustomed to the new procedure, racers soon recognized the advantage of consistent and fair starts the tree offered, which led to its use at drag strips everywhere. Ollie spent nearly two decades perfecting his Chrondek timing systems and in 1972, he sold the business to Aero-Marine Electronics.
Ollie’s contributions and groundbreaking inventions have helped make drag racing what it is today. While Ollie passed away in 1992; his family proudly carries on his life story as a family man and inventor who changed the sport dramatically. Today, Ollie’s inventions can be seen at the NHRA Museum in Pomona, Calif.
Roy’s love for hot rodding began in his early teen years, and has only grown with the passage of time.
In 1951, he entered his first drag race, driving a 1950 Chevrolet, at Santa Ana Drag Strip; with his first trophy the following year. Roy was a member of the Burbank, Calif.-based “Road Kings Car Club,” whose member roster included a “Who’s Who” of drag racing stars such as Tommy Ivo, Don Prudhomme and Bob Muravez. For a young man, the car club was great place for learning new equipment, plus exchanging ideas and gossip among the members.
Roy built his first dragster in his home garage in 1955, which incorporated new ideas and construction, using a Chrysler engine for power and nitromethane for fuel. This established Roy on his fabrication career path, for which he became well-known.
Four years later, in 1959, Roy went to work for Scotty Fenn at his Chassis Research shop, where he was able to learn even more about building safe, competitive cars from one of the leading builders of the time.
By 1965, Roy had set out on his own, opening his own chassis shop, Fjastad’s Speed Products Engineering. The name was later shortened to Speed Products Engineering, and more commonly known as SPE. Roy’s talents and passions didn’t just lie in building chassis. He also produced his own hydro-formed safety bell housings, 2-piece couplers, disc brakes, front wheels, steering boxes and torsion-bar assemblies, plus mass producing the many little tabs for mounting various pieces of equipment.
It didn’t take long for competing chassis builders to realize they could save a great deal of time and money by purchasing the very uniform SPE parts. Soon, these pieces began to be a staple in the chassis building market, and helped cement the SPE brand.
As a competitor, Roy began competing at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the early-1950s with a car based around a war surplus aircraft belly fuel tank. He raced the belly tank car in the A/GRMR class at Bonneville every year until 2012.
In 1974, Roy sold SPE. Two years later, he opened the doors of the Deuce Factory, and went from building race cars to building street rods. After he started building street rods, Roy noticed there was a demand in the market for 1932 Ford frame rails, and as with the SPE days, began building and marketing his own, improved version of the Ford-style rails. In Roy’s typical approach to a project, not only did he begin to produce frame rails, but did extensive research in the market’s needs. Soon, the Deuce Factory launched a complete line of street rod suspensions and other sought-after parts and pieces.
With retirement on the horizon, Roy sold the Deuce Factory in 1992, but immediately discovered that this wasn’t his cup of tea. Roy soon established another company, Full Bore Race Products, and began manufacturing a line of specialty tools and fasteners. Roy ran the company until he was 80 years old.
Roy has been recognized as one of the leading chassis builders by his peers and the drag racing community. One of Roy’s most rewarding accomplishments is becoming a lifetime member and serving for six years as the President of the elite Bonneville 200 MPH Club; taking pride in contributing to and supporting the club’s day-to-day affairs and endeavors.
The 2017 Founder’s Award:
Growing up in Winston-Salem N.C., Herb Fishel watched short track racing at Bowman Gray Stadium, read about Zora Arkus-Duntov in Hot Rod magazine and worked on cars with his Uncle William. He consumed every scrap of information he could find in the local paper about the Indy 500, Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Mille Miglia.
He came up with an idea: Racing could be, and should be, an accelerated test laboratory for an automotive manufacturer. However, to do it, he had to be the first in his family to get a college education. Technically and scientifically, he was initially ill-prepared to face the engineering challenges he encountered upon enrolling at North Carolina State. But he was determined to go racing, and that grit propelled him to earn a degree in Mechanical Engineering from NC State in 1963.
His first airplane trip was to Detroit to interview with General Motors. After the interview was done, he was asked if there was anything else he would like to do while in Detroit. He didn’t hesitate – “I want to meet Zora Duntov,” he said. Before the day was over, Fishel met his boyhood idol, and agreed to begin working as an engine draftsman.
He held on to his childhood belief that racing was essential to an auto maker, especially the major events: the Rolex 24, the Daytona 500, the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Driven by the strong work ethic he learned from his father, Fishel made his dream a reality. In 2001, General Motors won the Rolex 24, the Daytona 500, the Indy 500, and a class win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Fishel guided GM to many driver and manufacturers titles in NASCAR, Indy Car, Drag, Sports Car and Off-Road racing.
He retired as the Executive Director of General Motors Racing in 2003. Afterwards, he completed the Mille Miglia route through the Italy, driving a 1953 Ferrari 250 MM co-piloted by his wife Sandy.
Fishel feels his greatest achievement to be one that carries no trophy or award. In the early 1990s, he pioneered the Motorsports Safety Initiative for General Motors. He assembled a research and development team that led to innovations that saved thousands of lives. His team studied accidents on the race track with test dummies, pioneered black box recorders in Indy Cars, roof flaps and restraints in NASCAR, and structural and impact absorption improvements used in almost every form of racing.
During the energy crisis in 2006, he foresaw the future of motorsports as being defined by global concerns for energy supplies and climate change. His vision that the Great Race of the 21st Century would be for economic, socially responsible and sustainable transportation is now a reality.
Fishel has received many awards for his contributions to motorsports. He was named by Hot Rod magazine as one of the “100 Most Important People In The First 50 years of Hot Rod (1997),” and RACER magazine as one of the “Most Influential People In Racing From 1996-1999.” He was presented with the “Spirit of LeMans” award by the race organizers (2003), and drove the pace car at the 2003 Indy 500. In 2005, Herb received the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award from NCSU, plus was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame. In 2015, he was inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame.
Automotive News magazine honored the 100 Years of Chevrolet in 2011, naming Fishel as one of the “100 Most Influential People” stating: “Fishel put Chevrolet in the winner’s circle.”
Other Founder’s Award Winners:
Wally & Barbara Parks
Rob’t C. Post
The Patricia Garlits Memorial Award presented by Mopar and Don Garlits:
Terry Chandler grew up in an oil field family in southeastern New Mexico, since her late father, John R. Gray owned Marbob Energy. As a young adult, her one of her interests included watching her younger brother, Johnny Gray race cars. As she grew older, Terry developed a special interest for children in need, and for our military veterans. Fortunately, Terry found a way to combine her love of racing and helping people, while having a lot of fun doing it.
Terry’s interest in drag racing started early as a result of her younger brother, Johnny, being involved with racing. Johnny was involved in many forms of racing, including NHRA Pro Stock, and eventually Funny Car racing. In their early years, Terry would go along with Johnny, and you could find her selling t-shirts at the local track and helping prepare Johnny’s car for a run. These were the days of budget racing.
As Johnny moved up in the Pro Funny Car rank standings, Terry continued to be her brother’s biggest fan, attending most of his races. As they grew older and their financial status changed from the early days of racing on a budget, and Terry and Johnny decided to honor their late father by co-sponsoring the Pitch Energy Funny Car, driven by Johnny with the image of their father on the car for Johnny’s last year of racing. With his retirement looming, and recognizing his sister’s love of NHRA racing, Johnny suggested she consider sponsoring a Funny Car team herself.
While Terry could have chosen to do many different things with her resources, Terry accepted her brother’s suggestion. She decided that if she were to sponsor a car, it would be, as she called it, a “Giving Car.” Teaming with Don Schumacher Racing, Terry began by backing the Make-A-Wish Funny Car driven by Tommy Johnson, Jr., who assumed Johnny’s seat. A year later, the opportunity arose to sponsor a second car driven by World Champion Jack Beckman – the Infinite Hero Funny Car. Both organizations are non-profits, and rely upon contributions for support. Terry provided both of these charities with a tremendous amount of exposure from the 330 mph billboards. With Tommy Johnson in the driver’s seat, the Make-A-Wish car has notched 8 wins and Jack Beckman’s Infinite Hero Foundation team has appeared in the Winner’s Circle 11 times.
Perhaps Terry’s greatest joy was standing at the starting line cheering “her teams” (including the Pro Stock cars of nephew, Shane Gray, and his son, Tanner). Her passing in 2017 has left a very large vacancy at the starting line; and emptiness in the hearts of both racers and spectators.
Other Patricia Garlits Memorial Award
Selectors of the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame
Retired VP, NHRA
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