Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Memorable Moments Moment No. 8: Bob Glideen dominates Indy CLERMONT, Ind. -- As drag racing's most prolific driver until Funny Car star John Force eclipsed his career total of 85 wins in 2000, it shouldn't...
Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Memorable Moments
Moment No. 8: Bob Glideen dominates Indy
CLERMONT, Ind. -- As drag racing's most prolific driver until Funny Car star John Force eclipsed his career total of 85 wins in 2000, it shouldn't be surprising that Bob Glidden also is the most successful racer to have competed at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, earning nine Pro Stock titles at the Big Go during his driving career.
In fact, Indianapolis was the site of Glidden's first NHRA national event triumph, in 1973, proving that his runner-up finish to Bill Jenkins in his first Pro Stock race, the 1972 Supernationals, was no fluke. Glidden scored U.S. Nationals wins in 1974, 1978, and 1979 and really hit his stride in the 1980s, when, during his prime, he won in 1983 before reeling off four consecutive triumphs at the prestigious event from 1985 to 1988. Beginning in 1977, Glidden made it to an impressive 13 straight Indy finals. He fell in the 1989 Pro Stock final to Larry Morgan, ending his consecutive-wins streak.
His impressive victory in 1988 over Warren Johnson was the defining moment of his Pro Stock reign, and his last victory at the U.S. Nationals. It was a pivotal win for Glidden that season that helped him claim his ninth NHRA world championship.
Drag racing fans voted the moment No. 8 in the top 20 Memorable Moments of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. The final seven moments will be announced in the weeks leading up to the 50th anniversary of the world's most prestigious drag race, Sept. 1-6, at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The top five moments will be revealed on Monday, Sept. 6, during pre-race ceremonies prior to final eliminations.
In his career, Glidden won more events at NHRA's season-closer in Pomona, 11, and had duplicated his Indy total of nine at NHRA's event in Columbus, but the lifetime resident of Whiteland, Ind., is best known for his U.S. Nationals triumphs.
When asked why he enjoyed so much success at the prestigious event, Glidden struck a very modest position. "It was the track that was closest to home, so we did a lot of testing there," he said. "But other than that, I really can't think of any other reason why we were so lucky.
"And we were lucky at that race," Glidden continued. "I made a lot of mistakes while competing there. But we were on a roll during those years, and when that happens, it sometimes forces the other teams to make errors. It's a lot like what's going on with Greg Anderson now. There have been some races this year where he could have been beaten, but no one has taken advantage of it. When you're on top of your game, you create your own good luck."
Some have speculated that Glidden's success is due partly to the location of his shop. "Someone pointed out recently that the fact that we did all of our dyno testing in the local weather conditions may have given us an edge. I had never really thought about that before, but that could have something to do with it. I guess you could say that it was our advantage to have our shop in Indiana than in [a high-altitude location such as] Denver, for instance."
Glidden declined to say that he tried harder at the U.S. Nationals than at other events despite the obvious factor of hometown incentive. He said, "I can't say that would be right because every race for us was like the U.S. Nationals."
A thoroughly focused racer during his driving days, Glidden never let emotions interfere with his race mode; consequently, he doesn't have a favorite among his nine triumphs. "I really can't think of any that were better than the others. My first win at the U.S. Nationals was big at the time because it was my first national event victory. But then every win after that was the best one. The win I would think of in that way now would be my last career win, in Denver (1995)."
Of his streak being broken by Morgan in the 1989 U.S. Nationals final, Glidden said, "I don't remember much about the particular circumstances of that race, but was it a race that I felt I should have won? Hell yes. At that point in my career, things were going so good for us that we were in the position to win every race we competed in."
MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS MEMORABLE MOMENTS:
The following lists results (Memorable Moments 20-10) to date of an online vote at nhra.com where NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series fans determined the order of the top 20 Memorable Moments from the last 49 years of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the most prestigious drag racing event in the world. Positions nine through six will be revealed during the next several weeks leading up to the historic race. The top five moments will be announced during pre-race ceremonies on Monday, Sept. 6 at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
No. 20 -- 1958: Ted Cyr drives outdated 'Old Blue' to winner's circle
Ted Cyr and partner Bill Hopper brought two entries to Oklahoma City, a new lightweight supercharged entry, painted orange, and their old reliable unblown dragster, painted blue with shoe-polished "For Sale" lettered on the nose and driver cowling. The orange car carried the team's primary hopes of winning the "Big Go," while the blue entry was considered spare parts. Cyr piloted both, hopping back and forth between the entries, but it was "old Blue" that carried him to the national championship.
No. 19 -- 1969: Santucci chokes on gum, doesn't choke in final
The late Domenic "D.A." Santucci, a respected Top Gas racer from Pittsburgh who had yet to win a national event, choked on his gum when the chute hit on a qualifying run, and it became lodged in his throat. After surviving that funny but potentially dangerous episode, the future fuel Funny Car independent plowed through a huge field Monday and won the final on former Indy Top Fuel winner Phil Hobbs' foul start.
No. 18 -- 1961: Sneaky Pete's Big Idea
While the majority of his competitors were using horsepower produced from Chrysler engines, "Sneaky" Pete Robinson chose the road less traveled and raced to victory in a lightweight Chevy dragster with a single engine.
No. 17 -- 1974: Marvin Graham stuns TF field
Marvin Graham, an Oklahoma City television repairman unknown to all but the most hardcore drag racing fans, came from nowhere to win the premier category in drag racing's premiere race. He ran a series of competitive 6-teens and 6.0s to win the rain-delayed race on a Tuesday morning and went on to a distinguished career that included three more wins before his retirement in 1982.
No. 16 -- 1966: Snively mirrors the Snake
In the mid-1960s, Indy may have meant more than it does now simply because there were only four nationals per year. Don Prudhomme, driving Roland Leong's Hawaiian dragster, had swept the two biggest races of the season, the Winternationals and Indy, in 1965, then left to form his own Torkmaster team. In 1966, while Prudhomme initially struggled on his own, his replacement in the Hawaiian, the late Mike Snively, defied the odds and duplicated Prudhomme's feat, sweeping both Pomona and Indy in 1966.
No. 15 -- 1955: Calvin Rice wins the first U.S. Nationals
The one that started it all: NHRA's first National Champion was crowned in a race that began on the 8,000-foot runway at the Great Bend Municipal Airport in Kansas and finished two months later in Arizona, where 25-year-old Calvin Rice of Santa Ana, Calif., defeated Fred Voight.
No. 14 -- 1991: The Impossible Double
Dominating Top Alcohol Funny Car racer Pat Austin nearly pulled off an amazing double category win when he entered the U.S. Nationals in both Top Alcohol Funny Car and Top Fuel. After winning the AFC title moments earlier, Austin's dragster, which he purchased from the estate of the late Gary Ormsby, broke at the start of the burnout in the Top Fuel final. An emotional Austin climbed from his car and watched helplessly from the guardwall as Kenny Bernstein rolled on for the unopposed victory.
No. 13 -- 1967: First Funny Car eliminator
Doug Thorley dominates a talented Funny Car field in a true Chevy-powered entry. NHRA used the U.S. Nationals as the backdrop for the first Funny Car eliminator.
No. 12 -- 1963: Introducing the Christmas Tree
Teenager Bobby Vodnik, acting on a tip that revealed the Christmas Tree would be used in place of flag starters for the first time at the '63 U.S. Nationals, was the surprise winner after the 19-year-old driver put months of pre-race practice into perfecting his reaction time to the new device. Ironically, Vodnik's final round opponent, Don Garlits suffered a red-light start in the final.
No. 11 -- 1972: The Rookie
Top Fuel rookie Gary Beck surprised everyone with an upset over Jerry Ruth in the final round. Holding his NHRA competition license for only two weeks, Beck promptly entered the biggest drag race of them all and earned his first victory in his pro debut.
No. 10 -- 1976: Burgin ends Snake's streak
Gary Burgin, a Southern California veteran who always ran hard but never won any national events or appeared in any final rounds, stunned Don Prudhomme in the Funny Car finale, handing "the Snake" his only loss in what still stands as the greatest season in the sport's history, regardless of category. Prudhomme hazed the tires and suffered what would be his only loss from September 1975 to March 1977.
No. 9 -- 2001: Big Daddy Returns, Part II
At age 69, Big Daddy Don Garlits returned to competition at the U.S. Nationals during the NHRA's celebration of its 50th Anniversary. He accomplished his mission in clocking a performance quicker than five seconds and faster than 300 mph. Paired for the qualifying round alongside another ageless veteran, 71-year-old Chris Karamesines, Garlits steered Gary Clapshaw's dragster to a time of 4.720 seconds at 303.37 mph. Earlier in the weekend, Garlits squared off in another memorable qualifying round with Shirley Muldowney, as the pair were given the green light by original NHRA Safety Safari member and longtime NHRA Chief Starter Buster Couch.
No. 8 -- 1988: Bob Glidden dominates Indy
Bob Glidden earned his fourth consecutive U.S. Nationals victory, and his ninth overall at the prestigious event. The win was Glidden's 12th consecutive final round appearance at the U.S. Nationals, one of the most remarkable final round runs in NHRA history.
TOP SEVEN FINALISTS, IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER:
1967: Big Daddy Loses His Beard
After failing to qualify at the Springnationals earlier in the season, Don Garlits vowed not to shave his beard until he ran his first six-second run. Garlits used some Indy magic to record his first six-second run (6.77 seconds) when he needed it the most, in a final round win over rival James Warren, who clocked a 6.95. Ironically, it was Warren who gave Garlits a fresh set of tires for eliminations. Before the memorable final, Garlits offered to return the tires, but the confident Warren declined. Following the round, 20,000 fans cheered as Garlits' beard was shaved off in a dramatic winner's circle celebration.
1970: The Crash
After Don Prudhomme wins a close final round encounter over Jim Nicoll, 6.45 to 6.48, a clutch explosion on Nicoll's car sends debris in all directions as his car was speeding along at more than 225 mph. What was left of his slingshot dragster slid hundreds of feet to a stop. Nicoll emerged from the wreckage with only bumps and bruises.
1971: The Burndown
Steve Carbone and Don Garlits pull to the starting line for the Top Fuel final and one of the most intense staging duels begins. Prior to the final round, Carbone insisted that he would not stage first in response to a Garlits-psyche job that he felt cost him the 1968 Top Fuel final. Carbone out-waited Garlits in one of the most dramatic burndowns in NHRA history. When the race finally started, Carbone's strategy paid off as he rumbled to the victory over the heavily-favored Big Daddy.
1978: Mongoose bites Snake
Still shaken by the death of his son Jamie to leukemia weeks earlier, Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen earned the biggest victory of his career, defeating storied Hot Wheels rival Don "The Snake" Prudhomme. Ironically, it was Prudhomme that offered support for the still-grieving McEwen and encouraged him to enter the event as a form of therapy. For McEwen, who clocked a career-best run of 6.05 seconds during the final round meeting, the victory avenged a lifetime of being outperformed by Prudhomme.
1982: Shirley's Victory
Shirley Muldowney defeated former companion and crew chief Connie Kalitta in this legendary grudge match. At the time, an emotional Muldowney called the victory "the race of her life."
1982: Snake Clocks the Run of All Time
With engine oil trailing in his wake, Don Prudhomme made what most fans still consider the run of all time, regardless of category. He clocked a 5.63-second effort, nearly two-tenths of-a-second better than any Funny Car had run prior.
1984: Big Daddy Returns, Part I
After a lull in his drag racing career which had him contemplating retirement, Big Daddy Don Garlits, 52, returned to form with a final round victory over Connie Kalitta. The win sparked Garlits to earn U.S. Nationals titles the next two seasons and back-to-back NHRA championships in 1985-'86. Garlits won the U.S. Nationals eight times during his storied Top Fuel career.