GLENDORA, Calif. (Aug. 22, 2001) -- 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...
GLENDORA, Calif. (Aug. 22, 2001) -- 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."
"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."
* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 47th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Call NHRA at (800) 884-6472, or Ticketmaster for ticket information. Tickets also are available at nhra.com. * SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 31 and will continue at 12:45 and 4:35 p.m. on Sept. 1 and at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 2. Final professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 3. Eliminations for the Holley Pro Stock Motorcycle Dominator Duel will be held at 12:30, 2:20 and 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 1. The elimination rounds for the Budweiser Shootout will be held at 12:30, 2:20 and 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 2. * TELEVISION: ESPN will televise three hours of eliminations at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 3. ESPN2 will televise three hours of early round coverage at 8:30 a.m. (ET) on Sept. 2. ESPN2 also will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at noon (ET) on Sept. 1. ESPN2 will televise 90 minutes of coverage of the special Budweiser Shootout for Funny Cars at 1 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 2.