smalldrobanner.gif (3353 bytes)
click here


photo by Ron Lewis

In a drama-filled nighttime qualifying session, NHRA legends Shirley Muldowney and Don Garlits were paired as retired chief starter Buster Couch signaled the green light. Muldowney moved to 11th in the 16-car field by covering the distance in 4.647 seconds with a career-best speed of 320.20. Garlits, in his bid to run over 300 mph, lost traction immediately at the start.

On Sunday, Garlits covered the Indianapolis Raceway Park quarter-mile track in 4.720 seconds at 303.37 mph in the Gary Clapshaw-owned Matco Tools dragster. The run moved Garlits into the 15th position for the 16-car starting lineup. Garlits, whose previous career-best performance numbers were 5.072 seconds at 287.71 mph, entered the 47th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals during NHRA's 50th Anniversary season with hopes of clocking his first run under five seconds at more than 300 mph. Garlits is a three-time NHRA Winston Top Fuel champion and eight-time U.S. Nationals winner.

"I've always wanted to do it," Big Daddy said after the run. "Gosh, I would see all these guys doing it and I'm thinking I'm getting older and older. If I'm going to do it someday, when? I got to thinking about this anniversary for NHRA and this race, because it's special to me because I've won it eight times. It's like home to me. This is the racing capital of the world as far as I'm concerned. I thought I would come up here and see what I could do.

"I worked on it and I was going to bring my car. I had Swamp Rat XXXIV being prepared and we were all ready to bring it up here. I had assembled a crew and a transporter then right at the last minute NHRA faxed me 16 pages of new rule changes. NHRA has been changing the rules this year between rounds because these cars are so fast and they want to keep them safe. They had issued all these new upgrades. All of the upgrades could be done to my car, but not in five days.

"So at 11 o'clock on Wednesday (Aug. 22nd) morning I pulled the plug. I said 'It's over, we're not going boys.' I mean we had worked twenty-four, seven.

"Then at 1 o'clock the phone rang and it was Gary Clapshaw. I don't know Gary all that well. I had seen him race and I knew of him. We weren't personal friends. He said his car was entered in the race and that I was welcome to drive it. He said 'I know how bad you want to do this.' The next thing that happened, was the phone rang and it was Doug Davenport and he said we'll need money to do this because it's an expensive deal. He put together the Matco Tools deal and they made it possible for the Clapshaw-Garlits combination to happen.

"I got here and I was really excited about it. My back has been broke several times in these dragsters over the years and I have a bad lower back. I had a special cushion made and I brought it with me and put it in the car. It really took up too much room in the car on that first trial run when I was going to do the half-pass on Friday night. I didn't feel comfortable in the car. I just wasn't right for it. I made a couple of mistakes on the starting line. I lifted, but I didn't mean to lift and that really troubled me. If that car is moving so hard and I'm doing things in there that I don't know what I'm doing, then I shouldn't be in there.


Copyright 1999-2001, Drag Racing Online and Racing Net Source