Born on this day, Donald Glenn Garlits, “Big Daddy”, an American race car driver and automotive engineer

Thursday 14th January 1932

Born on this day, Donald Glenn Garlits, “Big Daddy”, an American race car driver and automotive engineer. He is considered the father of drag racing. He is known as “Big Daddy” to drag racing fans around the world. Always a pioneer in the field of drag racing, he perfected the rear-engine “top fuel dragster design”, an innovation motivated by the loss of part of his foot in a dragster accident. This design was notably safer, since it put most of the fuel processing and rotating parts of the dragster behind the driver. The driver was placed in “clear air,” in front of nearly all the mechanical components, thus protecting the driver and allowing him to activate a variety of safety equipment in the event of catastrophic mechanical failure or a fire. Garlits was an early promoter of the full-body, fire-resistant driver’s suit – complete with socks and gloves, often branded as Nomex.

Garlits was the first drag racer to officially surpass the 170, 180, 200, 240, 250, and 270 miles per hour marks in the quarter mile; he was also the first to top 200 in the 1/8 mile. (Note: All official NHRA speed and elapsed time records require a “back-up” run within 1 percent of the record during the course of the particular event where the record was set to verify the newer, higher level of performance). He has been inducted into several Halls of Fame and has won many awards during his career.

In May 2014 at age 82, Garlits set a 184 mph speed record in an EV dragster, a battery-powered electric vehicle that does not burn fuel.

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