By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
“Big Daddy” Don Garlits, a drag racing legend and former drag racing broadcaster, recently took time to do a Q&A session with The Capital Sports Report at the NHRA Super Nationals. His interview is about his racing career.
TCSR: You started drag racing after World War II. What was it like racing during that time?
DG: “Well, we just started to race on the weekends, so we could work during the week. A lot of speed equipment became available around 1950, which helped this sport grow to what it is now.”
TCSR: You raced at an Air Field in Kansas in 1955. What was that like?
DG: “That’s all they had at that time. They were no drag strips at that time. We were racing at abandon air strips.”
TCSR: Besides the popularity of this sport and now racing on drag strips, how has the sport changed in the past 60-years?
DG: “Those air fields had bumps on them. We also had to deal with grass growing on those air strips. Some of those tracks were pretty good, though. But nothing can compare to what we have now around the country. It has changed so much since I started.”
TCSR: You were apart of the six-event First International Drag Festival in 1964, which was put together to showcase drag racing in the United Kingdom. What was that like?
DG: “It was really fun. They really came out to show their support. They also wanted to see what the American’s had been up to. They had small engines, and we had those Nitro fueled engines. It was a really good time over there.”
TCSR: You are a three-time NHRA Champion. What did those mean to you?
DG: “Well, it was different when I was racing. We didn’t have the 20 some races that they have now, and we didn’t have the big sponsors, like they do now. Not only did you have to race the National events, but you had to race in your region to get points. It was hard to do, because we had to travel across the country on a limited budget. It’s a different situation than it is now.”
TCSR: What do you think about the driver’s having these big sponsors?
DG: “Well, this sport has become very professional. Also, it has become safer, because when I was racing, you could get hurt really bad. The last time I raced full-time, we lost 6 drivers in these cars. We haven’t lost that many ever since.”
TCSR: You were very vocal about the NHRA’s decision to move to 1,000 feet. Why did you take an active role in supporting the switch?
DG: “The move to 1,000 feet gives the guys more shut off area. Some guys really needed that extra safety buffer to shut down their cars.”
TCSR: You have a car in the National Museum of American History, a branch of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. with Swamp Rat XXX. Could you talk about that honor?
DG: “Well, they came down to Florida and was very impressed with the car. It is the sport’s only streamlined car. Swamp Rat XXX is a state of the car, with a very long wheel base and small wheels in the front to maximize the aerodynamic drag. The engine is in the rear and a wing for down force.”
TCSR: You have retired multiple times from drag racing. Yet, you still have it in your blood by still coming back to events. Why do you keep coming back?
DG: “It is hard to stay away from racing.”
TCSR: You also spent time as a broadcaster for TNN (The Nashville Network), NBC, ESPN, and Speed TV. Why did you want to go into broadcasting?
DG: “NBC had asked me if I would be interested in doing some color commentary for the US Nationals in 1988. I said sure and they liked my work from the Nationals that they hired me full-time, before transferring to TNN. It was a lot of fun broadcasting drag racing – its different than driving a car, that’s for sure. I still do broadcasting for ESPN and Speed TV from time to time when they ask me to do some shows.”
Any Corrections?. You can contact Anthony Caruso III, Publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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