Forrest and Charlotte Lucas to keep Garlits' dream alive

INDIANAPOLIS (March 20) -- Forrest and Charlotte Lucas and the company they founded, Lucas Oil Products, will help legend "Big Daddy" Don Garlits honor the pioneers of the sport by becoming the title sponsor of Garlits' International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.

Celebrating its 20th year in 2009, Lucas Oil Products already supports so many current drag racing programs and drivers, the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, and national events in Phoenix, Brainerd, Minn., and Indianapolis. So when Chrysler was forced to scrub its 19-year association with the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, the company was quick to jump and help keep Garlits' dream alive.

"First of all I want to give a lot of credit to Chrysler for building this thing up for 19 years," Forrest Lucas said. "If they ever want to take it back over we'll gladly let them do it because they put in the work.

"It's an honor for Lucas Oil to be the caretakers in the meantime. I want to make sure we keep it going no matter what."

Located in Ocala, Fla., alongside Garlits' Drag Racing Museum, the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame inducts a new class each year prior to the NHRA Gatornationals in nearby Gainesville. This year's class honored Steve Carbone, Ed Garlits, Marvin Grahm, Hayden Profitt, Fritz Voigt, and Sid Waterman.

"We just want to recognize the pioneers that brought this sport to where it is today," Garlits said. "It wasn't always this big. There was a foundation built for this and the International Hall of Fame lets these people know we appreciate them.

"I feel it's very important to keep this thing going, especially when you see these guys up there (at the induction ceremony) getting tears in their eyes because they put so much into their racing careers. These guys all had regular jobs and raced for the love of the sport. The people in the Hall didn't have $300,000 a year crew chiefs and pension plans and insurance. They did it for nothing."

A true drag racing enthusiast, Forrest Lucas always enjoys his trips to Garlits' museum.

"What Don has done means so much to all of us that are fans of the sport," Lucas said. "There were some real innovators back in the beginning and that's something that's been lost along the way, which is a shame. It's a great thing Don is doing because, for a guy like me, I was driving a truck back when all these pioneers were running so I missed all of that. Now I can go to his place and see how it all came together.

"It was an easy decision for Lucas Oil Products to support the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame and what Don is doing to honor the heroes from the past for the last 20 years. You know, Lucas Oil is celebrating 20 years this season also and I feel like we've done our part for the sport as well, sponsoring a bunch of racers and races and helping tremendously with the sportsman series. This is a natural extension of that."

Garlits says that without the support of Lucas Oil Products, the Hall might fade away.

"It's no secret the U.S. auto industry is in financial straights and this was one of the programs Chrysler had to axe," Garlits said. "We just held our 19th induction and I can tell you if we don't have sponsorship we probably can't do it because there's quite a bit of expense involved.

"The Hall is there to let the present generation know what it took to get there. We have a beautiful, 26,000-pound granite monument at my museum and we literally put all the Hall of Fame member's names in stone for all eternity. You could have the most massive tornado ever and that stone would still be there. They deserve this kind of recognition and I'm glad we can keep this thing going with the help of Lucas Oil Products. Forrest and Charlotte are great people. The sport is lucky to have them."

-credit: lop