Donald Glenn “Don” Garlits (born January 14, 1932, Tampa, FL) is considered the father of drag racing. He is known as “Big Daddy” to drag racing fans around the world.
Garlits was the first drag racer to officially surpass 170, 180, 200, 240, 250, 260, and 270 miles per hour in the quarter mile; and he was also the first to top 200 in the 1/8 mile. He has been inducted in numerous halls of fame and has won numerous awards during his career.
Garlits won three National Hot Rod Association world championships, the last at age 54. He won a total of 144 national events. On October 20, 1987, his Top Fuel dragster, Swamp Rat XXX, the sport’s only successful streamlined car, was enshrined in National Museum of American history, a branch of The Smithsonian museum in Washington, DC.
Along with T.C. Lemons, Garlits perfected the rear-engine “top fuel dragster design”. This design is notably safer as it puts most of the fuel processing and rotating or reciprocating parts of the dragster behind the driver. The driver is placed in “clear air” in front of nearly all mechanical components, thus remaining capable of activating a variety of safety equipment in the event of catastrophic mechanical failures or fire.