Don Garlits will be winging his way to England in mid-November to be honored by the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame as a member of the 2014 class of inductees. Don will be joined by his daughters Donna and GayLyn, and the grandchildren (Sarah, Rodney, and Anna) at the Gala Awards Dinner at the famed Savill Court Hotel at Windsor Great Park, near Windsor, Surrey, and west of London on November 22. Also a part of the group will be Lisa Crigar, the Museum’s photographer and FACEBOOK content manager.
The occasion marks the 50th Anniversary of the first “British International Drag Racing Festival,” (often referred to as the “DragFests”) organized by the late Sydney Allard, the British industrialist/automaker who built the first dragster in Britain. Don and the “Swamp Rat 6B” participated in that first series of races held at several Royal Air Force airfields across Britain in September and October, 1964. He raced his friend and rival Tommy (“TV Tommy”) Ivo in the series of match races and won the “People’s Challenge Trophy” for the best aggregate performance – with a string of low eight second passes at 190+ mph.
Don’s participation in that first series of events encouraged other established U.S. drag racers to follow behind him, and helped launch the sport in Great Britain, as well as the European continent. He returned to Britain to race in 1976 and 1977, driving the “Swamp Rat 21” at the now famed Santa Pod Raceway, Britain’s first, special built drag strip. He set the British track record at 232+ mph in 1977.
In addition to Don’s contributions to the growth of drag racing in Great Britain, he is also being honored for his overall performance record, and his significant contributions to the sport’s technological and safety advances.
In introducing Garlits in the Class of 2014, the Hall of Fame said, “By most measures, Don ‘Big Daddy’ Garlits is the greatest and most successful drag racer ever. But as well as being the result of his worldwide leading role as the sport’s most innovative drag racing technician, his influence on British drag racing has been more specific – as part of the wildly successful American team to visit Britain for the 1964 DragFests and subsequently racing at Santa Pod in 1976 and 1977.”
The selection committee also noted Garlits’ passion for protecting the history of the sport through The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Fla., his own International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, and his continued passion for pushing on the performance envelope with the electric-powered Swamp Rat 37, which he is seeking to break the 200 mph barrier in 2014, the 50th anniversary of his record breaking 201 mph pass in August 1964 with Swamp Rat 6-B.