October 17th, 1999-----Ed O'Reilly, whose boundless knowledge and infectious enthusiasm for IHRA competition over the public address system became a hallmark of IHRA drag racing, stunned the attendees of the IHRA MoPar Parts World Finals by ...
October 17th, 1999-----Ed O'Reilly, whose boundless knowledge and infectious enthusiasm for IHRA competition over the public address system became a hallmark of IHRA drag racing, stunned the attendees of the IHRA MoPar Parts World Finals by announcing his retirement during an emotional statement just moments before the playing of the National Anthem signaled the start of eliminations.
In a career, which spanned three decades with the International Hot Rod Association, O'Reilly eventually became one of the most prolific and respected observers of the drag racing sport. His career behind the racetrack microphone began at Milan (MI) Dragway, where he provided color for fifteen consecutive seasons beginning in 1975. He was first noticed by then-IHRA Vice President Ted Jones in 1976 and, after calling the action at an IHRA World Championship Series event, was added to the National Event Announcing Team for the IHRA Northern Nationals at Milan the following season. In 1978, O'Reilly helped direct the first IHRA Bracket World Finals at the now-defunct Lakeland International Raceway near Memphis, TN. While freelancing at regional events throughout Michigan and Ohio, Jones finally enlisted the Buckeye native as a member of the full-time National Event Announcing Staff on which he remained an anchor through over one hundred National Events from 1990 through 1999. As the Staff leader on raceday, O'Reilly's voice became an integral part of IHRA tradition to race fans across the nation.
O'Reilly's seemingly limitless knowledge of the sport led to his certification as an IHRA Regional Technical Director, a position in which his expertise became legendary. His ability to recount various engine, transmission, and vehicle production statistics eventually helped formulate several rules revisions which are still in effect nearly a decade later. In addition, his talents for race direction were so impressive that Jones moved O'Reilly into the position of both Regional and National Event Race Director for dozens of races. O'Reilly eventually went on to an eight-year tenure directing the largest drag race in the world, the 1500-vehicle Summit Racing Equipment Halloween Classic at Norwalk, OH.
Incredibly, O'Reilly was also a successful competitor in IHRA drag racing competition. Driving a wide variety of machinery, his greatest victory came at the 1979 IHRA Winternationals at which he won the Pure Stock Eliminator title and began a season during which he would finish tenth in the IHRA/Winston World Championship Standings. To many aficionados, O'Reilly abilities behind the wheel, a rulebook, and a microphone made him the most comprehensively qualified individual to ever announce a major drag racing event.
Despite the disbelief shared by competitors, coworkers, and industry officials, O'Reilly made clear that he would not return to IHRA events after the Shreveport, LA, World Finals. "I felt that after 25 seasons, it was a good time for a break", stated the forty five-year-old O'Reilly. "My wife and I have three great young children, and with my retirement I can spend more time with them. I will deeply miss all of the racers I have come to know over the years. The sport is very much like an extended family. I also have been proud to have worked with and learned much from such great announcers as Bret Kepner, Jon Lundberg, Ralph Hamilton, and Bob Frey."
O'Reilly will remain a resident of Maumee, OH, where he will continue his long time project of completing a comprehensive written history of International Hot Rod Association competition. He has been named Director of Historical Research of a Internet online drag racing magazine and will also serve as Historical Consultant for several drag racing television shows.