"Big Daddy" Don Garlits To Compete At 47th Annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals CLERMONT, Ind. -- One of the greatest drivers in National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) history, "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, officially announced he will participate in the...
"Big Daddy" Don Garlits To Compete At 47th Annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
CLERMONT, Ind. -- One of the greatest drivers in National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) history, "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, officially announced he will participate in the 47th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, at Indianapolis Raceway Park, the most prestigious drag racing event in the world.
At the controls of Gary Clapshaw's "The Spirit of Las Vegas" Top Fuel Dragster, Garlits hopes to attain his goal of clocking a 300-mph speed, as NHRA celebrates its 50th anniversary.
"That's a no-brainer ... as long as I stay on it, " said Garlits, an eight-time winner of the $2.6 million race, the 18th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. "We'll find out if I have any guts left. The good part is it'll be over quicker."
Clapshaw, who was set to drive at Indy next week, decided there was nothing bigger than giving Garlits a chance to attain this long-time goal. "It's not an easy thing to give up the seat at Indy, but when you look at the big picture, I think it's a pretty nice thing for the fans, the association, and the racers," said Clapshaw, who posted his best U.S. Nationals finish last season, a runner-up effort to Tony Schumacher.
Garlits, who originally planned to bring out one of his famous "Swamp Rat" machines to reach the plateau, realized that he was best served taking the ride.
"I am happy we had (another) plan available to us because we've been working hard," Garlits said. "Everyone's been thrashing around the clock and we realized it just couldn't be done."
When Clapshaw became aware of Garlits trouble, he called the three-time NHRA Winston champion and offered his entire operation. "It takes a lot of depth to run these cars," said Garlits, a 35-time NHRA Top Fuel winner, who last made a comeback at the 1984 U.S. Nationals. "This isn't 1984, I know that. This is a very, very dangerous toy, and I don't want to do anything real fast or slipshod on it. I wanted to fix it and make it right, so I pulled the plug (on returning with the Swamp Rat vehicle)."
Garlits will make his first qualifying attempt on Saturday of qualifying, deciding against running during the first qualifying session on Friday night.
"I could win with this car," said Garlits, whose last U.S. Nationals victory came in 1986, when he defeated Darrell Gwynn. "I'm not sure I could have done that on my own, not because the car isn't good, but because we didn't have the back-up parts or the proper crew."
Garlits, 69, last raced in NHRA Top Fuel competition in 1992 at Atlanta where he failed to qualify.
"I think people will be happy to see Don back and for him to get to the fours at 300-mph," said Clapshaw. "If it goes from A-to-B, he's going to get a pretty respectable time. We're not just going there to do that, though. We are going to qualify and go some rounds."