FORMER NHRA DIVISION 3 DIRECTOR, ORP MANAGER DANIELS DIES GLENDORA, Calif. -- Bob Daniels, one of the original seven NHRA division directors chosen to organize national operations on a regional basis in November 1959 and a former general...
FORMER NHRA DIVISION 3 DIRECTOR, ORP MANAGER DANIELS DIES
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Bob Daniels, one of the original seven NHRA division directors chosen to organize national operations on a regional basis in November 1959 and a former general manager at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, died June 30.
Daniels served as Division 3 director for 20 years, then spent 12 years as general manager at the venerable Indianapolis facility, the home of the U.S. Nationals since 1961 and then known as Indianapolis Raceway Park. Daniels' many contributions to the sport include the establishment of prominent dragstrips in the North Central United States and significant advancements and renovations at ORP.
Like most of the early NHRA officials, Daniels' interest in hot rodding began with street racing, but after several encounters with local law enforcement, he saw the long-term advantages of organized drag racing on off-road sites and concentrated all of his energies and resources in promoting the growth of NHRA. He built his first serious race car, a '32 Ford with a setback engine, center-point steering, a chopped top, and a '55 Chevy 265-cid engine that was bored out to 292 cubic inches, in the winter of 1956-57. He competed with that car, in C/Altered, at the '57 Nationals in Oklahoma and was so impressed that he made a trip to California to see what hot rodding was all about out west.
Daniels first met NHRA President Wally Parks at Stout Field in Ohio, a track operated by the Cluster Busters car club. Parks, who still was working for Hot Rod Magazine at the time, shot some photos of the club for the magazine. That meeting led to regular communication between Daniels and Parks.
In December 1959, Parks formed the first group of division directors, and Daniels accepted Parks' request to operate Division 3, encompassing the Great Lakes states and surrounding areas. The other original division directors were Ed Eaton, Northwest; Ernie Schorb, Southeast; Dale Ham, South Central; Jack Merrill, Northwest; and Ed Davis, headquarters/Southwest.
The Danielses produced one of the pioneer NHRA divisional races, at Stout Field in Indianapolis and worked with Eaton in the preparation for the construction of Indianapolis Raceway Park, a place they later would call home for many years. Constructed with assistance from the NHRA, the dragstrip was the first of the facility's three courses to be completed, and the facility's first event was held on the strip in the fall of 1960. With Clark Rader, Sr., Daniels also explored and helped plan the site for National Trail Raceway on Rader's 150-acre farm near Columbus, Ohio.
Daniels was also instrumental in establishing tracks in Muncie, Ind.; Saginaw, Mich.; Bowling Green, Ky.; Evansville, Ind.; and St. Thomas, Ont. During Daniels' tenure as Division 3 director, his region hosted such events as the U.S. Nationals, Springnationals, and Bowling Green's Sportsnationals.
"Bob Daniels was a motivated division director who devoted much time with car clubs and toured his territory's meetings and dragstrips in his own private airplane," said Parks. "Bob and Eileen were among NHRA's most dedicated and active representatives, in their home North Central Division 3 and with countless national events. There aren't enough words to properly recognize the contributions Bob and Eileen have made over the years to build and support NHRA's success."
In 1979, NHRA purchased IRP and Parks asked Daniels to take over the reins as general manager. Daniels worked in that capacity until he retired on Jan. 1, 1992, but left behind a legacy of improvements to the dragstrip, the road course, and the 5/8th oval, which brought NASCAR racing to IRP in the early 1980s. Other projects included the design and construction of Parks Tower, the Top Eliminator Club, and the permanent portion of the main grandstands.
Daniels and Eileen retired to Leesburg in central Florida, where there is an abundance of hills and lakes, where Daniels loved to fish.
Though technically retired, Daniels worked with Parks, NHRA Vice President Steve Gibbs, and Museum Curator Greg Sharp on the construction and detailing of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona and was a major contributor to the success of NHRA's Hot Rod Reunions and of nostalgia displays at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.
"Few would argue the lifelong commitment made by Bob Daniels to the sport of drag racing and NHRA," said Tom Compton, president, NHRA. "From the early days as one of the original divisional directors, to his leadership role at O'Reilly Raceway Park turning that facility into one of the premier multi-purpose motorsports venues, up to his active role today with the NHRA Hot Rod Reunions, Bob, with his wife Eileen, at his side, helped grow NHRA to the prominence it currently enjoys.
"Bob always told me his home was at a drag strip, and his loyalty, commitment and unwavering love for NHRA and the sport of drag racing will be sorely missed."